Brazil / Places We Go

Macapa to Oiapoque on BR156… Or Macapa to Cayenne… Or how the hell do I get to French Guiana from Brazil?

This question presented no small amount of angst to the Italian and me while we were in South America. And there is absolutely no reliable information on this topic anywhere that I found.

So, how does one get from Macapa into French Guiana?

Even getting to Macapa is a tricky affair, but it can be done. We had to take four separate flights to get to Macapa and it took us a day, but it is doable. Once in Macapa, take a taxi to the bus station.

If you’re on a budget, you can sit around and wait a while for one of the decrepit buses to depart. When we were there, two buses a day headed north to Oiapoque and they left at 5:00 and 6:00 p.m. respectively. The buses are slow and so it is essentially an overnight drive to reach Oiapoque from Macapa.

Or you can hire one of the guys with a 4WD (usually a Toyota Hilux) that will be walking around offering their services as well. The advantage of hiring the guy with the Hilux is that you leave when you want (which was important to us because we arrived at the bus terminal a little after 5:00 in the morning and didn’t want to wait 12 hours for the bus to leave). Also, the Hilux is a lot faster than the bus – you can be in Oiapoque eight hours after departing the bus terminal in Macapa when taking the Hilux option. The Hilux can fit three people in the back and one passenger comfortably.

Unless you pay an astronomical sum, the driver will want to wait to leave until the vehicle is full, which in our case took about 45 minutes. We paid 150 reals each and if the driver or one of his representatives tries to hit you up for more, be sure to bargain with them a little. You can always tell them that you’ll just wait for the next driver and go with him. A guy that jumped into the truck with us at the last minute paid 120 reals, but he had the shitty spot in the middle of the back seat. So, I expect this may have impacted his bargaining position.

This is the Toyota Hilux we rode in. It was clean when we started, but the paved section of BR156 very quickly turns into a muddy, dirt road:

BR 156

Most of your trip will look like this:

BR 156

Our driver stopped a couple of times in small settlements for food or gasoline, but not for long:

BR 156

Bridge maintenance:

BR 156

Road maintenance:

BR 156

Once you arrive in Oiapoque, the driver will swing by the border control office in Brazil so you can have your papers stamped. You’ll then be driven down to the Oyapock River, which is the natural border between Brazil and French Guiana, where you hire one of these boats to take you over to French Guiana. I can’t remember exactly what we paid, but it was between 5-7 euros. The boat will simply run you from Oiapoque to Saint-Georges.

As an interesting “oh by the way” Oiapoque is a major center for the sale of gold illegally mined in French Guiana:

crossing the river into French Guiana from Brazil

This is a view of a bridge under construction that will supposedly cross the Oyapock River someday and link road traffic between Oiapoque, Brazil and Saint-Georges, French Guiana. However, completion of this bridge has been rumored for some time and has not happened yet:

crossing the river into French Guiana from Brazil

Here’s a video of a portion of our river crossing:

Upon arriving in Saint-Georges, French Guiana we paid 50 euros each for a ride into Cayenne and our driver was a very nice Brazilian woman named Blanche. 50 euros is the going rate and this is not negotiable, unlike in Brazil. If you need to (if you do not have an EU passport, for example) your driver will take you by the passport office to get your needed stamp. Once on the road, the drive took us about three hours to reach Cayenne (The roads in French Guiana are paved) and that includes time spent at two police checkpoints.

*****

Updated 06/26/2014

For a more detailed and more recent account of this journey, check out this post from Jonny Blair. There is not a lot of information out there on making this journey and he has done a good job of breaking down the process.

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22 thoughts on “Macapa to Oiapoque on BR156… Or Macapa to Cayenne… Or how the hell do I get to French Guiana from Brazil?

  1. The Macapà – French Guiana trip was atrocious. Your post will be very helpful for all those people like us that have to cross the border and don’t know who the hell to ask.

  2. Did you perhaps notice if there were large boats to take you across? Where you are able to take your own vehicle from French Guyana over to Brazil? Or the only boats are those in the photo? It seems difficult to believe this…. so if you have your own vehicle – how does one go across? Does anybody know? rs rs Or should I ask Indian Jones?

    • Hi there –

      No, I am afraid that I did not see any ferries around that would be capable of getting a vehicle across the Oiapoque River. Out of curiosity I asked if it were possible to move larger vehicles and equipment across the river and the operator of our canoe just laughed.

      There is a bridge under construction across the Oiapoque River, but this bridge has been “under construction” for decades. If you’re patient, I’m sure it will eventually be completed, but you may be in for a long wait.

      Good luck.

    • there is a ferry that will take you across, we paid in sept 200 euros. you have to arrange with him because he is right now helping these people with the bridge building. i dont remember his name but i am sure when you ask around in oyapock you should be able to find him . we are return in nov 2010 god speed

  3. There is a ferry serice from Oiapoque to St. George and vise verse – it’s expensive, if there is oly one car you pay €240 if its two sharing its €120 and if it’s 3 sharing you devide by three. It takes about two (2) hours, and it has to be requested. Any of the boat people there are friendly enoughm and they will help you for a nominal amount (R$20) or €10 to go and call the ferry operator on the Brasilian side of the border. So people, it would be nice for the correct information to be placed on the net. The road from Oiapoque to Macapa is good enough with the exception of about 185klm that is totally “IDIANA JONES” style, forget it at night, and forget it if it’s raining unless you have a 4 x 4. other than that it’s OK, and anybody with half a brain can do it with not much of a fuss. It’s not europe… but then again I think everybody knows that….. I did it with a Peugeot 407 diesel, which is supper low ( a problem) but hey!… I am here to tell the tale….. it’s not that bad. People simply like to inflate and tell stories….. So, from French Guiana to Macapa – it’s OK….. with a car and there is a ferry service!…..

    • Thanks for the information. I am planning to make this trip from Paramaribo to Fortaleza, through French Guyana and Macapa. I was told that the availability of gasoline on the route Oiapoque-Macapa is a problem. Could you confirm that?
      I imagine there must be present several gas stations on the road, or not?

      Regards.

      Lloyd Kotzebue

      • Hi Lloyd –

        No, there is no gasoline along the Macapa to Oiapoque route except at the very beginning and the very end. You’ll have several hours in between with little to no human presence at all, so make sure you start out with a full tank of fuel.

        Good luck.

      • Hi Lloyd,

        My name is sunil and I live in Suriname. This year I have plan to make a trip from Suriname, Franc Guyana, Macapa, Venezuele, Guayana, Paramaribo, Or other route is also ok with me. I would be very pleased to get some more information regarding such a trip or to get in contact with people who already made this trip or planned to make it this year.

        Manny thanks,

        Sunil
        sungutter@hotmail.com
        8109837

  4. Thank you Justin,
    Looks like I really will need to review my plans for the trip. Thanks anyway.
    Do you have any experience with the ferry service between Belem and Macapa? Name of the company, price of the voyage. I read stories like a 24 hours till 36 hours during journey. I would like to receive detailed information about this. Hope you can give me some indication.

  5. hi,
    several times ,I ‘ve driven with my own car peugot partner 1.9D from paramaribo to cayenne, st. george and have been to oya pock , by boat.the raod in surinam is from the lowest quality, while the raod in fr. guyane is oke.I wish to go to maccapa when the bridge is constructed.
    few days ago I ‘ve been to georgetown, I whished to to brazil but the in guyana is also from the lowest quality, so i could not reach brazil.
    in the future i wish to have a drive to argintina

    have a nice day greetings to you all.
    girelco2@hotmail.com

  6. This is fantastic information, I’ll be doing the reverse trip in a few weeks, Paramaribo -> Cayenne -> Macapa -> Belem. I plan on writing about the experience as well, hopefully people will find my description as useful as I found yours. Thanks very much!

  7. Thanks very much. I am in Santos, Brazil and may have to reach Cayenne (the closer EU country) and the reading helped me a lot. Anyone has an idea of whether it is easy to find a room in a family home for some time????? Thanks…

  8. Very interesting trip . Do you know if the bridge has been built since you were last there .thanks , Keith

  9. Planning a month-long stay in French Guiana with my wife and toddler son. This has been some of the more helpful information that I’ve found on the web. Do Americans really not travel to this destination? Should I be reconsidering?

    • I suspect American’s don’t generally travel to this destination because it’s inconvenient to get to, and doesn’t hold the same majestic destinations that much of the rest of S. America does. There’s nothing especially wrong with it, and it’s not without it’s pleasures. Definitely take in a rocket launch while you’re there, that’s something not many other countries can offer on a regular basis. :) I found the country absolutely worthwhile to see, if for no other reason that it produced by far the best adventure stories of my 3 months in S. America. :)

  10. Pingback: World Borders: How to get from Brazil to French Guyana (Macapa to Oiapoque to St. Georges de L'oyapock)

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