Clearing customs and immigration on both sides of Corentyne is chaotic

Dear Editor,

For the benefit of others planning the trip, I wish to share my unpleasant experience travelling to Suriname last week via road from Georgetown.

We left Georgetown by private car at 4:00am in order to catch the Moleson Creek ferry to Suriname scheduled to leave 10am. We left so early because the Berbice Bridge opened at 6.30am and closed at 8.30am on that particular Sunday morning. It takes approximately three hours from the Berbice Bridge to the stelling in Moleson Creek to board the ferry to Suriname.

Check-in at Moleson Creek closes off at 9:00am. The ferry showed up 45 minutes late, and after waiting for other passengers to disembark and the customs officers to finally arrive we boarded the ferry at approximately, 11:30 am.

Disembarking in Suriname is the most chaotic experience. Travellers, who are clued-in on how it works, sprint from the ferry to the immigration door. There are two lines, one for residents and one for non-residents for approximately 200 passengers.

Car drivers exiting the ferry join the residents line which moves faster than the non-residents. A passenger can literally expect to spend at least two hours before leaving immigration. Luckily I only spent an hour because someone I was travelling with had sprinted to the front of the line and the officer called for all other persons travelling with them. There is no consideration for pregnant women, elderly or persons with small children.

The road to Suriname is smooth thereafter, but the journey to return is another disappointment. After arriving in Guyana, the sprint to customs is once again set in motion. This time however, drivers are not as fortunate to be given a separate line. This meant that even if you were travelling with a driver and cleared first, you could be forced to wait for at least an hour before your driver is cleared since he/she has to join the back of the line. As I waited furiously 20 minutes for my driver to be released, a young woman approached a customs officer demanding that her driver be expedited to the front of the line because she apparently worked for the Office of the President and needed to be in town by 12 noon.

No official ID was asked for as evidence by the customs officer so I protested against such favourable treatment. Possibly this was the lone reason both drivers were directed to an immigration officer for clearance.

It is distasteful that both countries are promoting a wonderful experience on various websites but a simple customs and immigration task cannot be effectively co-ordinated. There needs to be better communication and organization between the Guyanese and Surinamese authorities. Moreover with a little coordination, the opening of the Berbice Bridge could better harmonize with the Moleson ferry’s schedule.

As a Guyanese citizen, I must say I am really dissatisfied. It is an experience I hope no one else has to suffer.

Yours faithfully,

Teshanna Cox

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