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Guyana 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Western Hemisphere > Guyana

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Georgetown does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED Georgetown AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Guyana-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Guyana is a developing nation of 750,000 with a history of sustained high emigration primarily to other Caribbean countries, the U.S., UK, and Canada. Although the country markets a few eco-resorts in its rugged interior, the vast majority of annual visitors are of Guyanese descent, and few hotels exist outside Georgetown. Large swaths of the interior can only be reached by plane or boat and are characterized by a general lack of credible law enforcement.

Crime Threats

The general crime rate in Guyana is above the U.S. national average. Criminal activity continues to be a major issue.

Serious crimes (murder, armed robbery) are common. The most recent information from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime lists Guyana’s 2013 homicide rate as 20.4 per 100,000 people -- the third highest murder rate in South America behind Colombia and Brazil. Guyana’s murder rate is five times higher than that of the U.S. In 2016, local media reports indicated decreased levels of criminal activity throughout Guyana. In addition, 2016 statistics were well below the levels for 2013.

Criminals regularly use weapons, despite a rigorous licensing requirement for the average person to own firearms. Handguns, knives, machetes, or cutlasses tend to be the weapons of choice. Criminals may act brazenly, and police officers have been both victims and perpetrators of assaults and shootings. Criminals are increasingly willing to resort to violence while committing all types of crimes. If confronted by an armed criminal, do not argue or attempt to confront him/her. Quickly relinquish your valuables and do not resist, unless you believe your life in in imminent danger.

Armed robberies occur regularly, especially in businesses and shopping districts. Armed robberies of business/patron establishments do occur in Georgetown. The local media reported 155 armed robbery incidents in 2016. It is likely that many went unreported.

Criminals are often organized, travel in groups of two or more, and conduct surveillance on their victims. Criminals generally will not hesitate to show multiple weapons as an intimidation tactic during a robbery. Periodically, there are reports of robberies/attacks on American citizens and in areas frequented by expatriates. Foreigners in general are viewed as targets of opportunity, but Americans are not specifically targeted. Foreigners are very visible in public and should take precautions when visiting downtown areas. Most violent crimes against foreigners have occurred in the capital. However, there have been incidents of violent crimes committed in other parts of the country as well.

Hotel room break-ins were reported to the U.S. Embassy by American citizens, so travelers should use caution when opening their hotel room doors and should safeguard valuables left in hotel rooms. There have been reports of criminal incidents in the vicinities of the major hotels used by tourists and U.S. government employees. Walking alone outside after dark, even in the immediate vicinity of these hotels, is not recommended.

Residential burglaries are less common when homes have guards who pose a deterrent.

Visitors are advised to change currency only at legitimate exchanges at hotels or airports. Visitors are strongly discouraged from exchanging currency on the street, as this is a dangerous practice.

Vehicle thefts do occur.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime is not a major concern. Use of computers by the local population is low, and the level of sophistication with computers is also low. However, users should always exercise caution, as cybercrime is an international concern.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions and road safety standards are below U.S standards. Roads are rarely maintained, and street lighting is sporadic. Vehicle accidents are very common, and accidents involving pedestrians are also very common. Traffic enforcement is rare to non-existent.

Traffic accidents are a major concern in Georgetown, with speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol contributing factors. Road and driving conditions are poor. Police sporadically enforce local traffic laws, and local drivers often drive recklessly. Stop signs and traffic signals are often ignored. Drivers should remain very cognizant of other cars, large commercial vehicles, mini-buses, horse-drawn carts, bicycles, mopeds, scooters, motorcycles, stray dogs, sleeping animals, free range livestock, and pedestrians, as they all share narrow, poorly maintained roads. Few roads have sidewalks. A combination of very aggressive and inexperienced, timid vehicle operators makes driving especially dangerous. Speeding, reckless driving, tailgating, cutting across lanes and stopping quickly without signaling, passing at intersections, and passing on crowded streets are commonplace. Driving at night poses additional concerns due to poor street lighting and road conditions, drivers not lowering high beam lights, livestock, and pedestrians congregating by the roadside. U.S. citizens are encouraged to maintain a high level of vigilance, consider security issues when planning activities throughout Guyana, and avoid traveling at night, when possible. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”

The law requires persons involved in a traffic accident to remain at the scene until the police arrive to take a report. U.S. citizens should consider their safety in deciding whether to remain at an accident scene or to proceed to a police station if they perceive an imminent threat. Guyana does not have trained medical personnel who routinely respond to accidents, and ambulances generally do not have medical personnel or equipment on board to provide adequate medical care; ambulances are only for transportation. People injured in accidents are often transported by taxi.

Public Transportation Conditions

The use of public transportation (mini-buses) by visitors unfamiliar with the country is highly discouraged. The use of reputable taxis (those offered through the major hotels and tourist agencies) is preferable, as they are usually safer, more reliable, and affordable.

Other Travel Conditions

Travel to the interior requires planning and caution; travelers are advised to make use of well-established tour companies for safer experiences. Medical and law enforcement resources in many interior locations are significantly less than what is available in the capital. There have been reports of tourists and foreigners being robbed while traveling in the countryside, and there are occasional reports of bandits on rural roads and piracy on the local rivers. There are a number of tour organizations that arrange travel throughout the country, with varying degrees of service. None are deemed off-limits for U.S. government personnel.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED GEORGETOWN AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There are no known indigenous terrorist organizations, and Guyana is not a known base of support/sympathy for terrorists. While Guyana has experienced no terrorist incidents in the last decade, all visitors should be familiar with the contents of the Department of State’s periodic worldwide cautionary statement. This statement expresses the Department’s concern about continued threat of attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against American citizens and American interests abroad.

There is no specific threat information concerning the presence of local, regional, and/or international terrorist groups in the country. Likewise, there is no specific threat information concerning U.S. private sector organizations in Guyana.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED GEORTGETOWN AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Although Guyana has ongoing border disputes with its neighbors (Venezuela, Suriname), Guyana is not engaged in any armed hostilities. The U.S. Embassy does not anticipate violence resulting from existing territorial or political controversies with neighboring countries. Guyana is pursuing a diplomatic resolution to its border controversies.

In May 2015, Guyana held peaceful national elections, and local elections in March 2016 were peaceful. Minor protests and demonstrations have sometimes followed announcement of the election results. Since 1992, elections have been deemed generally free and fair by domestic and international observer groups. U.S. companies and individuals have not been singled out as targets of politically-motivated violence.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Guyana is a multi-cultural country. Ethnic groups, consisting mainly of people of East Indian and African descent and Amerindian groups, coexist peacefully. While incidents of violent crime appear not to be racially-motivated, political differences tend to run along racial divisions. Racially charged statements made by prominent figures, particularly around elections, have been publicly rejected by broad based civil and religious groups. Ethnic and religious diversity have not been directly linked to incidents of violence in recent years.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

There are two main rainy seasons (December-January and May-July). However, even at other times of the year, heavy rains are possible, and flash flooding can occur. The coastal plain floods occasionally. There has also been isolated flooding on the east coast in each of the past several years.

Critical Infrastructure

Guyana has adopted a low carbon development strategy. There are few large-scale industrial activities other than the state-controlled rice and sugar production. There has been increased activity in the mining and petroleum sectors.

Economic Concerns

There is an abundance of pirated merchandise for sale, readily available from street vendors.

Privacy Concerns

There are privacy laws that govern the release of personal information but are not regularly enforced.

Personal Identity Concerns

Hate-related crimes rarely occur, though some U.S. citizens have reported being the target of comments or actions because of their nationality or race.

Violence against women, particularly in a domestic context, is a pervasive problem, and there have been isolated incidents of violence that appear to be associated with sexual preference/identity.

Drug-related Crimes

Drug trafficking is a serious concern and poses the biggest challenge to law enforcement in Guyana. Airport security and customs officials frequently detain and arrest individuals attempting to smuggle drugs out of Guyana. Apprehensions of drug mules, often U.S. citizens due to the perceived ease to which a U.S. passport holder can travel, have increased.

  • In August 2014, a 62-foot Self-Propelled Semi-Submersible (SPSS) vessel was discovered in the sparsely populated northwestern corner of Guyana near the Venezuelan boarder. The discovery of the SPSS and its construction location further underscores the extent of narcotics organizations’ activities in Guyana. 


Police Response

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) has resource and manpower limitations that inhibit its ability to deter or respond to criminal activity. Even on the occasions when the GPF responds to a crime scene, victims are asked to go to the nearest police station to file a report and complete other investigative formalities. Confidence in the GPF is low due to the public’s perception of heavy handedness, ineffectiveness, and corruption.

Corruption is widely perceived to be commonplace within many government agencies. Police officers often are reportedly paid off by criminal elements and are alleged to work with criminals by either assisting or protecting them. The judicial system is strained by limited resources and often influenced by threats/bribes. Defendants linked to drug organization often use attorneys who are effective in getting cases dismissed or postponed; as a result, criminals go free on a regular basis.

Crime Victim Assistance

There is an emergency telephone number (911) for police, fire, and rescue. The fire department generally provides a timely response, while police response, especially during the night, is less dependable. The police response to emergency calls is often slow (15+ minutes) or not at all.

Americans who become victims of crime are advised to contact American Citizen Services (ACS) at 592-225-4900 x4222, or the U.S. Embassy Duty Officer after hours at 592-623-1992. Non-emergency email contact is: acsgeorge@state.gov.

Medical Emergencies

Medical care is not equal to U.S. standards. Care is available for minor medical conditions, although quality of care is inconsistent. Emergency care and hospitalizations for major medical illnesses or surgery are very limited, due to the lack of appropriately trained specialists, below standard in-hospital care, and poor sanitation.

Visitors are advised to bring prescription medicine sufficient for their length of stay and should be aware that Guyana's humid climate may affect some medicines. Some prescription medicines (mainly generic) are available. For more information, please refer to OSAC’s Report, “Traveling with Medications.”

Emergency medical services can be contacted by calling 913 for an ambulance from Georgetown Public Hospital, but this number is not always operational, and an ambulance may not be available. There are very few public ambulances.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For Minor Injuries/Illness:

Woodlands Hospital

110 Carmichael Street

Georgetown

Phone 226-2024/225 4050


Dr. Balwant Singh Hospital

314 East Street

South Cummingsburg

Phone: 226-5783, 226-4279


St. Joseph Mercy Hospital

130 Parade Street

Kingston, Georgetown

Phone: 227-2072/3 or A&E 226-1592

(Best for Pediatrician)


 

For Major Trauma Cases/Respiratory Emergencies:

Georgetown Public Hospital 

New Market Street, Georgetown

Office: 227-8217

A&E Department: Tel. 227-8232

Switch Board: Tel. 227-8204/7 ext. 117

 

For Routine Pediatrics:


Caribbean Surgery Inc.

27 Thomas Street, Georgetown

Walk-in: Mon-Fri 0900-1300


St Joseph Mercy Hospital

130 Parade Street, Kingston, Georgetown

Appointments: Tue, Wed, Thur. 1215-1500

Office: 225-7865

Emergency: 624-6161


 

For Pediatric Emergencies:

St Joseph Mercy Hospital

130 Parade Street, Kingston, Georgetown

Accident & Emergency Unit

Phone: 227-2072/3 or A&E 226-1592

 

For Emergency Transportation:

WOODLANDS HOSPITAL

110 Carmichael Street Carmichael St., Georgetown

Tel. 226-6000, 615-2000

A privately-operated ambulance service. Ambulance drivers/attendants are EMS trained. Full time ACLS trained nurse on board, fee of G$6000 within Georgetown. Outside of Georgetown cost depends on location.

 

MMC SECURITY SERVICE

95 Happy Acres, East Coast Demerara

Tel. 220-6866 or 220-6685 or 220-6841 or 220-5416

Private, 24 hour Service. Transport vehicle only, no EMT skills.

 

GEORGETOWN PUBLIC HOSPITAL

New Market Street, Georgetown

Ambulance: Tel. 226-9449 or 225-3361

In cases of serious emergencies, an ACLS trained nurse would accompany the ambulance driver otherwise, a transport vehicle. A fee is required if you are going to a private hospital but no cost if you are going to the Georgetown Public Hospital.

 

Available Air Ambulance Services

 

Fly Reva

1745 NW 51st Pl, Hanger 73, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309

POC: Brian Weisz, bweisz@flyreva.com, 954-730-9300 Ext. 201

24-hour response center: +1-800-752-4195 or +1-954-730-9300

Email: operations@flyreva.com

Web: flyreva.com

 

International SOS

Philadelphia Office: 3600 Horizon Blvd, Suite 300, Philadelphia, PA 19053

Tel: 1-215-942-8000 or 8226

Fax: 1-215-942-2338 or email: phlopsmed@internationalsos.com

 

Tricare Emergency (For Military Personnel)

Contact: 1-800-834-5514/ FAX: 215-354-2338

Call collect: 215-701-2800 or e-mail: tricarephl@internationalsos.com

Insurance Guidance

Serious illnesses/injuries often require travelers to be medically evacuated where adequate medical attention is available. Such medevac services are very expensive and are generally available only to travelers who either have travel insurance that covers medevac services or who are able to pay for the service in advance. The cost for medical evacuation may range from U.S.$40,000 to $200,000.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

Mosquito-borne viral infections (chikungunya, dengue fever, yellow fever, malaria, Zika) are a significant health risk. While chikungunya and dengue fever have become endemic, yellow fever and malaria are more prevalent in the interior. Personnel traveling to regions 1, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are advised to use malaria prophylaxis. All U.S. government personnel are advised to obtain yellow fever vaccination prior to travel. There are no prophylactic therapies for dengue and chikungunya. On January 15, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a Level 2 Travel Alert for countries affected by the Zika virus. The most prudent strategy is to prevent mosquito bites through repellants, treated bed nets, window screens, and air-conditioning.

Incidences of water-borne diseases increase during periods of flooding. Only bottled or purified water should be consumed, and special precautions should be taken when eating fruits and vegetables, especially during the rainy seasons.

Leptospirosis, while not common, is a viral infection spread via rodent droppings and waste. Given the limitations of the sanitation system, one should exercise caution including vigilant hand washing after outdoor contact and vaccination of pets that may contract the disease from food bowls and other exposed surfaces that rodents may traverse.

Special attention should be paid to HIV/AIDS. In addition to elevated infection rates among high-risk populations (commercial sex workers, men who have sex with men, mobile populations such as miners or loggers), data from the WHO shows that Guyana has among the highest prevalence rates in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Guyana.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Georgetown Country Council currently meets once during the year and has approximately three members. Please contact OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions or to join.  

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

100 Young and Duke Streets
Kingston, Georgetown

Embassy Contact Numbers

The American Citizen Services Section can be contacted at 011-592-225-4900 x4222.
The Regional Security Office number is 011-592-225-4900 ext: 4243. 
After regular business hours and on weekends the Embassy Duty Officer can be reached at 011-592-623-1992.
Website: https://gy.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

To register your stay in Guyana and ensure that you receive messages in an emergency, please register with the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

Additional Resources

Guyana Country Information Sheet