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French Guiana is the ideal holiday destination for adventure, culture and nature aficionados. Vast tracks of virgin rainforest, diverse animal species and tribes of people existing as they have done for hundreds of years await intrepid travellers. Throw in the exhilarating fusion of French and Caribbean culture, dining in Cayenne and the opportunity of visiting Devil's Island, immortalised in Papillon, and a visit here becomes even more alluring.
Primary routes in the country have good surfaces and emergency phone boxes. The coastal N1-N2 route linking Cayenne to the Surinamese and Brazilian borders is in great condition. Signs and road markings are not up to the same standards as in the UK. Once off the main highways, a large proportion of roads are little more than dirt tracks.
Driving licences: UK driving licences with photograph are accepted here, but an International Driving Permit is also recommended.
Which side of the road does French Guiana drive on: the right.
Motorways: 69mph (110kph)
Rural areas: 56mph (90kph)
Built-up areas: 31mph (50kph)
Alcohol limits: at 0.05 per cent, the alcohol limit is lower than in the UK where it is 0.08 per cent. Drunk drivers face severe penalties if involved in an accident.
Driving age: 18 years; higher for car hire.
Seatbelts: drivers and all passengers are required to wear seatbelts while the vehicle is in motion. There are no laws governing child safety seats, but most car rental companies can supply them.
Mobile phones and GPS: use of a mobile phone while behind the wheel is against the law here. Mobiles with hands-free attachments are permitted, as are GPS navigation systems.
Cost of fuel in French Guiana: roughly half what it costs in the UK.
Car hire and fuel payment: credit cards are widely accepted at petrol stations and car hire depots. Card holders should tell their card issuer they plan to use their card abroad.
Insurance: car hire include third-party insurance, but collision damage waiver and maximum excess are recommended.
Traffic and parking: parking in the cities of Cayenne and Kourou is straightforward, while most of the national parks and tourist sites have dedicated car parks. Traffic is only a problem in urban areas during commuter hours.
Taxis are available in the main towns and at airports. Fares are relatively inexpensive when compared to Europe. Nine-seater minibuses double as shared taxis and are a quick means of travelling between Cayenne, Kourou and St Laurent du Moroni, as well as some inland locations.
There are no international buses into the country as there are no bridges across the rivers demarcating French Guiana’s borders with Suriname and Brazil. From Paramaribo (Suriname), it is possible to travel by minibus to Albina and then take a ferry across the Maroni River to St Laurent du Moroni. From Macapa (Brazil), it is possible to reach Cayenne by minibus and ferry combination. Within French Guiana minibuses run between major destinations a few times a day. The fare from St Laurent to Cayenne is around £28.
As well as international ferries from Suriname (around £4 per person) and Brazil (a 15-minutes ride), there are ferries to Guiana Amazonian Park and Tumucumaque National Park, with departure ports at Saul and Maripasoula.
UK travellers will arrive at Cayenne – Felix Eboue Airport, but must connect through Paris (Orly), Miami or another French Caribbean destination first as there are no direct flights from the UK. The airport is located less than 10 miles from Cayenne.
Cayenne is close to the country’s main international airport and is therefore most visitors’ first taste of local culture. A majestic cathedral, the remains of Fort Ceperou and great eateries are among the city’s draws.
Kourou is a little way along the coast and is the location of the country’s space centre and museum. The town is the boarding point for trips to the infamous Devil's Island and its neighbours in the Iles du Salut archipelago.
The commune of Awala-Yalimapo abuts the Maroni River-Atlantic Ocean corner of the country. Amerindian villages and the chance to spot giant leatherback turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs on beaches have placed the commune firmly on the country’s tourism map.
The country is not noted for the quality of its beaches, yet Montjoly and Gosselin, a few miles east of Cayenne, are clean enough for swimming and sunbathing.
Inland, Kaw is the easiest gateway to the ancient petroglyphs at Fawara Mountain and swamplands where activities such as wildlife watching, trekking and kayaking can be enjoyed.
French Guiana is close to the equator and has a hot, tropical climate. Average temperatures are between 22°C and 31°C for much of the year, although occasionally hit the upper 30s (°C). The wet season stretches from December through July so it is better to visit outside these months, as the rain can limit outdoor activities and flood roads.