Travelling in Third World Countries

Posted by Jianne Carlo | 8:58 AM | 10 comments »

Travelling in Third World Countries

A business trip to Guyana in South America was my first trip to a third world country

About ten minutes before our plane landed, the pilot announced that the lights at the Guyana airport were malfunctioning and we would be returning to Trinidad.

I was on a pro bono trip to Guyana to teach senior members of the UNDP a weeklong course on computer literacy, and someone from that organization was supposed to pick me up at the airport. I silently offered the individual apologies for a futile journey, as it was around ten o’clock on a Sunday night.

Ten minutes before we were supposed to land at Piarco Airport in Trinidad, the pilot announced that the lights were now functioning in Guyana, and we would be returning there.

So, I land in Guyana three hours late. It’s near midnight.

Now bear in mind, Guyana has its own currency only available if you are in the country (ten thousand Guyanese dollars would not pay for one night’s hotel stay), and I had been advised not to travel with US dollars because of the crime. The UNDP assured me they would handle all of my expenses.

We land.

I stand in line for immigration, and watch all the locals head to the front of the line with a ten dollar US bill in their hands, which they give to the officer. He waves them on without glancing at their passports….interesting…

Surprisingly, I did not have a hard time clearing either immigration or customs, (I think the UNDP documents must have cleared the way), but most of the other passengers were not so fortunate.

Exiting customs was akin to entering a Freddie Kruger nightmare.

A narrow pathway was the only way out and crowds of enormous men surrounded the path, all yelling and screaming, “You need a taxi? I’ll take you into Georgetown.”

Only the pathway was lit, everything else was pitch black.

The person who was supposed to pick me up was nowhere in sight, and paging him resulted in nada.

Think about it, I have no money, I have to get to Georgetown, which is over an hour away, and I must pick one of these hulking men to drive me there….

Two fellow passengers approach me, obvious foreigners, a middle-aged, short, wiry Caucasian man wearing a slightly askew toupee, and his companion, a tall, black man about a decade younger. They ask me if we could ride together and I gladly agree.

Now, how to pick who will drive us there?

Through the hordes thronging the roped-off area, I spot a man my height with keys in his hand (I’m five foot nothing). I point to him and say. “You’ll take us into Georgetown.”

On the way to the taxi, my fellow passengers, Englishmen on an Eco-tourism adventure, question my choice. I explain by saying, if he jumped us or pulled a weapon, between the three of us, we could probably subdue him. The Limeys turn green.

Thirty minutes into the ride after chatting with the taxi driver, I realize he’s harmless and simply trying to make a living. I relax. Not so the Englishmen.

You know the song, ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head?’

Literally happened.

It started to pour, not a gentle rain but one of those soaking downpours. The car’s roof, which we couldn’t really check out in the pitch black, turned out to be more holes than roof. The taxi driver handed us a tarp to put over our heads….and this was only four hours into the trip.

Wait until I tell you about teaching a computer literary course when electricity runs for maybe 3 hours a day, and you don’t know which 3 hours it will be from day to day….continued next blog.


  1. Mona Risk // February 19, 2009 at 9:13 AM  

    Jianne you are very brave. All I know about Guyanna is that it was the place where culte leader Jones gathered and poisoned hundreds followers and let them rot in the heat and the sun. I wouldn't go there even in the most modern cruise ship.

  2. Beth Trissel // February 19, 2009 at 10:15 AM  

    Hi Jianne. You are indeed very brave to undertake this trip.

  3. Edie // February 19, 2009 at 10:57 AM  

    Jianne, how interesting. This was an adventure! I'm looking forward to the rest of your story.

  4. Mary Ricksen // February 19, 2009 at 2:04 PM  

    Next time take John with you. Doing that alone is just plain scary!

  5. Judy // February 19, 2009 at 2:08 PM  

    What fun to read your post! Can't wait until the next one...and I'm probably not going to Guyanna anytime soon!

  6. Arkansas Cyndi // February 19, 2009 at 4:20 PM  

    Fascinating. What is UNDP?

    I would have been scared of the taxi driver AND the two strange men!

    Once in Mexico, Hubs and I took a cab late a night. The driver went in the opposite direction from our hotel. There was another man in the front seat and they kept talking to each other. Then he turned down the pitch black alley. Hubs and I KNEW were going to be robbed. Uh, not so much! He was giving his buddy a ride home!

    Can wait to read the next installment

  7. Mary Marvella // February 19, 2009 at 7:27 PM  

    Fascinating! Can't wait to hear more. Why are we just hearing about this side of you?

  8. Barbara Monajem // February 19, 2009 at 9:05 PM  

    It sounds like your experience provided some material for writing stories! We are used to a very orderly way of doing things here, which makes visiting third world countries hectic but often very illuminating. It really helps if you go with someone who knows his or her way around... Like your taxi driver, most people anywhere in the world are just trying to make a living.

  9. Scarlet Pumpernickel // February 19, 2009 at 11:54 PM  

    Jianne what an excellant adventure! You are a very brave woman to have tackled this on your own. Definitely braver than me, I wouldn't have undertaken such an adventure. I much prefer my creature comforts. The hole in the floor instead of proper plumbing fixtures of Croatia were more than I could manage! Can't wait to read the rest of the story.


  10. Joanne // February 22, 2009 at 8:56 AM  

    Great post, Jianne. I'll be interested to read more.