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Saint Laurent du Maroni, Border Town - French Guiana

3guianas travel blog by Mark Berman - April 2015   » View Photoset (43 Photos)

Mark Berman, South America backpacker for 10yrs!
From Kourou I hitched a ride west to Saint Laurent du Maroni on the western border of French Guiana, 2hrs to travel 200kms at high speed. Saint Laurent is the 2nd
3guianas Photo - Paroisse Saint Laurent a parish, an historical yellow wooden building, Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
Paroisse Saint Laurent a parish, an historical yellow wooden building, Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
most populated city in French Guiana but it didn't seem like it, there were very few people around town. Where were the 40,000+ inhabitants?

Hotels

There are a couple of flash hotels in the town center, the first was too expensive for me so I stayed at the 2nd most expensive hotel instead. It was still expensive by backpacker standards but that about sums up French Guiana - expensive. Unless you want to sleep in a hammock which I didn't.

Around Town

I found a Chinese restaurant on a side street off
3guianas Photo - The Town Hall with clock face in Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana.
The Town Hall with clock face in Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana.
of the main drag and had a cheap meal, $6euros. There was a few hours of daylight remaining so I headed out with my camera to have a good look around. Saint Laurent is kind of interesting and has an interesting past but it is not an overly safe place though. There are many dodgy and strange people all around the place, especially at night!

Prisoners Were Brought Here

The town was founded in 1858 as the arrival point for prisoners coming to the holding point - Camp de la Transportation before they would be moved to other prisons around the country.

History Around the Church

The first church was also set up in 1858, another church was built between 1868 and 1872 - made of wood but was eaten by termites. They built another in 1885, this time made of metal and brick! This is the church you see at the end of the main street. Next to this is Paroisse Saint Laurent, a
3guianas Photo - Mural of a snakes head on an old building-side in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
Mural of a snakes head on an old building-side in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
parish, an historical yellow wooden building with a couple of palm trees standing in front of it. I walked around the area of the church where other historical buildings are located including the Banque de la Guyane (the bank) - an impressive red-brick building with stone entrance, stairs, balcony and window frames. The next building I came to looked like a train station from the outside with its clock face and pillars but it's actually the Town Hall. There is a VIP lounge called the Salon d'honneur Claudine Bertrand. Claudine Bertrand is an educator and poet. Nearby the next building on this street is the Sous Prefecture. This is
3guianas Photo - Outside the stone walls of Le Camp de la Transportation, prison in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
Outside the stone walls of Le Camp de la Transportation, prison in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
possibly the most important building here, it is the court. It is the 3rd court built in Saint Laurent du Maroni, it was planned in 1897 but I believe it took decades to complete the inside fitting due to a lack of wood. The outside has a neoclassical edifice with a columned porch. The first 2 courts were used for judging civilians in one and in the other the crimes and offences committed by the convicts.

River Beach and Island Boat

The river beach is very close, nearby there's a monument commemorating the Glorious Revolution (1688). At the waters edge there are ruins of an old dock, possibly it was the arrival point of the convicts, there is not much left of it now. A cannon stands beside just incase any of them tried to run or swim away. The coolest and most spectacular sight from the beach is the shipwreck with a forest growing out of
3guianas Photo - Photo of a convict outside the museum at Le Camp de la Transportation in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
Photo of a convict outside the museum at Le Camp de la Transportation in Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana.
it in the water near the shore. It is the wreck of the Edith Cavell. A commercial ship of a British merchant which ran aground on the 19th December 1925. It is known as The Island Boat (Le Bateau Ile). There is also another smaller shipwreck half on the sand and half in the water. The grassy park behind has a bronzework of a prisoner with a chained foot and his head in his hands.

See The Prison

The prison is a must-see and is called 'Le Camp de la Transportation', tours are available but I just had a self-guided look through. There were 3 classes of convict: new convicts automatically were 3rd class for 2yrs and had the hardest labour, 2nd class received lighter labour and were in charge of city maintenance, 1st class had the pick of jobs, better living conditions and more chances to escape! Saint Laurent was built by these
3guianas Photo - Historic wooden buildings on the main street of Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana.
Historic wooden buildings on the main street of Saint Laurent du Maroni in French Guiana.
convicts between 1890 and 1930. The most famous prison escape was that of Henri Charriere, his story is told in his autobiography and a film called Papillon. Le Camp de la Transportation was officially closed in 1946 (see Albert Londres) and declared an historical monument in 1994.

More History

As I walked towards the center of town I passed the Palais de Justice, one of the original courts. Next I passed the school built between 1903 and 1912. In 1904 it had 95 pupils.

Boat to Albina - Suriname

I enjoyed what I saw in Saint Laurent du Maroni a lot, it's small and only took an hour and a half. In the morning I walked to the port area where customs is also located and headed across the river to Albina - Suriname, 10 minutes.

     

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Distances & times (if available) from Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana (3 Guianas) to:


Map location: Saint Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana, 3 Guianas. The film Papillon was based on a story from this border town, it's an interesting place to have a look around!
 A : Cayenne to Kourou to Saint Laurent - French Guiana 153 kms 153 kms straight distance | 2hrs 26mins 2hrs 26mins by car (184 kms) | 2hrs 55mins 2hrs 55mins by bus (184 kms) (184 kms)
 B : Cayenne, French Guiana 198 kms 198 kms straight distance | 3hrs 17mins 3hrs 17mins by car (255 kms) | 3hrs 56mins 3hrs 56mins by bus (255 kms) (255 kms)
 C : St Georges / Oiapoque Border - French Guiana / Brazil 301 kms 301 kms straight distance | 5hrs 33mins 5hrs 33mins by car (429 kms) | 6hrs 39mins 6hrs 39mins by bus (429 kms) (429 kms)
 D : Oiapoque - Brazil 302 kms 302 kms straight distance | 6hrs 17mins 6hrs 17mins by car (436 kms) | 7hrs 32mins 7hrs 32mins by bus (436 kms) (436 kms)
 E : Macapa to Oiapoque - Brazil 560 kms 560 kms straight distance | 11hrs 26mins 11hrs 26mins by car (797 kms) | 13hrs 43mins 13hrs 43mins by bus (797 kms) (797 kms)
 F : Macapa - Brazil 666 kms 666 kms straight distance | 15hrs 9mins 15hrs 9mins by car (1061 kms) | 18hrs 10mins 18hrs 10mins by bus (1061 kms) (1061 kms)
 G : Saint Laurent / Albina Border - French Guiana/Suriname 8 kms 8 kms straight distance
 H : Paramaribo, Suriname 142 kms 142 kms straight distance
 I : Nickerie & the Journey from Paramaribo - Suriname 334 kms 334 kms straight distance
 J : South Drain / Moleson Creek Border - Suriname / Guyana 353 kms 353 kms straight distance
 K : Georgetown, Guyana 481 kms 481 kms straight distance
 L : Santa Elena / Brazil Border - Venezuela 795 kms 795 kms straight distance
 M : Pacaraima to Boa Vista - Brazil 806 kms 806 kms straight distance
 N : Santarem to Belem (Amazon River) - Brazil 815 kms 815 kms straight distance
 O : Santarem - Brazil 886 kms 886 kms straight distance
Driving times are accurate but approximate and are listed in the order of driving distance! Drive times are always affected by weather conditions, the terrain, time of day, altitude, dinner and bathroom stops, animals on the road, protests, a fast or slow bus driver, police checkpoints, border and river crossings, dropping off and picking up passengers etc. These drive times are obtained from Google Maps and are meant as a guide. Note however, times quoted in the main text of this page are exactly as the author experienced it.


My Hostel & Hotel Reviews for Saint Laurent du Maroni, Border Town - French Guiana, 3guianas:

Hotel Star, St Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana - Large Photo
Hotel Star, St Laurent du Maroni, French Guiana (April 2015 - 1 night) - Hotel Star is the 2nd most expensive hotel in St Laurent du Maroni, it was $68 euros per night, the other nearby was $100 euros. I'm sure there would be cheaper places in town but this is a dodgy town and I didn't want to be in a bad area so I stayed here. French Guiana is expensive, full-stop! It's a very nice hotel though. I had a private room with tv, aircon, wifi and bathroom with hot water. Breakfast cost extra but I didn't try it, something like $8 euros. Hotel Star is pretty flash, I don't see why one would need to spend more to stay at the other hotel. Recommended.

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