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  • Writer's pictureSailing The Dream

Check in Cayenne, French Guiana - a wild goose chase

After surprising our French friends with our arrival that morning, we went for a walk to the commercial harbour after lunch to stretch our legs and try to locate the authority's offices for check-in.

There was conflicting information on Noforeignland and from our French friends about the office's location. Our friends from Tourterelles picked us up on their dinghy on the way to the fishing harbour, where we would leave the dinghy tied to the dock.

At the fishing harbour, we were amazed to discover most fishermen were actually Brazilians working in French Guianan boats.

Given all the Brazilian VHF chatter offshore recently, it wasn't that surprising.

We had to walk the commercial harbour perimeter to reach the entrance road, lined with different businesses and shipping agents - not the authorities we sought.

Noticing a busy side road by the fence, possibly leading to administrative offices, we wandered over, but the potholed road was a mess of haphazardly parked buses and trucks.

potholed road was a mess of haphazardly parked buses and trucks

Walking the potholed road, I noticed some office buildings with signs. One caught my eye - the Customs service we sought!

Approaching, I confirmed it was the Aduane (Customs).

Aduane/Duones Cayenne -signage

Inside the building, we followed signs upstairs to a balcony-style corridor overlooking the warehouse, passing empty offices. A strange layout, but eventually, we found an occupied office with the relevant paperwork displayed on the windows. A friendly officer appeared, happy I spoke French. He confirmed we were in the right place and pulled out check-in forms. That was when we realized - we had brought no documents!

Blame our sleep-deprived minds.

He laughed and said we could return the following day, no worries.

Our friends had more foresight, bringing their documents to complete check-in.

Meanwhile, I asked the other officer about Immigration offices. He explained the harbour no longer housed them onsite, as most ships use agents now. He suggested an address halfway to the airport might have them. Nothing to lose checking, just one catch - getting there. According to the officers, public transportation from the distant harbour was unreliable.

Uber or taxis were not options either...

Anyway, we would find a solution.

Once our friends completed their paperwork, we headed back to our boats but scheduled with the officer to return first thing in the morning the following day to do our paperwork, to which he replied: see you tomorrow at 7.30am.

We were surprised by the early hours but glad to get it done first thing in the morning.

As we returned to our boats, we passed by our French friend's boat to share with them our challenges. They laughed - being French, they didn't need to visit immigration here, nor did I with my EU passport. But John and the others required stamping.

Our French friends told us they had found out they had relatives living in Cayenne who had lent them a van for the duration of their stay. The following morning, they would drive us to immigration and then to the supermarket after John and I did our Customs paperwork.

The next morning, we arrived bright and early at the commercial harbour. Indeed, the officer was already waiting for us, swiftly completing our check-in within 15 minutes. We head back to the Fishing Harbour car park to meet our friends who would drive us into town to the immigration offices.

The town was indeed at a good distance from the harbour, so we were relieved our French friends generously chauffeured us into a distant downtown for our wild goose chase.

The address from Customs sounded simple at first when Eric claimed to know the exact road - we just needed the building number, but it turned out the number did not even exist!

After driving up and down the road several times and even entering a hotel compound seeking the elusive number, we concluded trying the airport made more sense.

This was our first time attempting to stamp our passports at the airport after arriving in the country by boat, so we weren't sure what to expect.

Eric dropped us off right at the entrance, where I immediately spotted an officer ahead, his back to us but wearing the Police Aux Frontieres emblem (Border Patrol) - exactly who we needed!

I waited for his call to end before approaching, and his reply was welcoming - happy we were visiting and eager to help immediately.

We followed him to the office, where within 5 minutes, passports were expedited in a friendly manner.

We returned to Eric, waiting in the van, and all the paperwork was complete.

***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COM website sailors community.



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