/ 4; -56
|Republic of Suriname
Republiek Suriname (Dutch)
Motto: "Justitia – Pietas – Fides" (Latin)
"Justice – Piety – Trust"
Anthem: God zij met ons Suriname (Dutch)
God be with our Suriname
and largest city
/ 5.833; -55.167
|Recognized regional languages||
|Ethnic groups (2012)||
|Government||Unitary parliamentary republic|
• constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands
|15 December 1954|
• from the Kingdom of the Netherlands
|25 November 1975|
• Current constitution
|30 September 1987|
|163,821 km (63,252 sq mi) (92nd)|
• Water (%)
• July 2016 estimate
• 2012 census
|2.9/km (7.5/sq mi) (231st)|
|GDP (PPP)||2014 estimate|
• Per capita
|GDP (nominal)||2014 estimate|
• Per capita
|HDI (2014)|| 0.714
high · 103rd
|Currency||Surinamese dollar (SRD)|
|Time zone||SRT (UTC-3)|
|Drives on the||left|
|ISO 3166 code||SR|
Suriname (//, // or //, also spelled Surinam), officially known as the Republic of Suriname (Dutch: Republiek Suriname [ˌreːpyˈblik ˌsyːriˈnaːmə]), is a sovereign state on the northeastern Atlantic coast of South America. It is bordered by French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west and Brazil to the south. At just under 165,000 square kilometers (64,000 square miles), it is the smallest country in South America. Suriname has a population of approximately 566,000, most of whom live on the country's north coast, in and around the capital and largest city, Paramaribo.
Long inhabited by numerous cultures of indigenous tribes, Suriname was explored and contested by European powers before coming under Dutch rule in the late 17th century. In 1954, the country became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On 25 November 1975, the country of Suriname left the Kingdom of the Netherlands to become an independent state, nonetheless maintaining close economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties to its former colonizer. Its indigenous peoples have been increasingly active in claiming land rights and working to preserve their traditional lands and habitats.
Suriname is considered to be a culturally Caribbean country, and is a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). While Dutch is the official language of government, business, media, and education, Sranan, an English-based creole language, is a widely used lingua franca. Suriname is the only territory outside Europe where Dutch is spoken by a majority of the population. The people of Suriname are among the most diverse in the world, spanning a multitude of ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups.
This area was occupied by various cultures of indigenous peoples long before European contact, remnants of which can be found in petroglyph sites at Werehpai and other places in Suriname. The name Suriname may derive from a Taino (Arawak-speaking) indigenous people called Surinen, who inhabited the area at the time of European contact.
British settlers, who founded the first European colony at Marshall's Creek along the Suriname River, spelled the name as "Surinam".
When the territory was taken over by the Dutch, it became part of a group of colonies known as Dutch Guiana. The official spelling of the country's English name was changed from "Surinam" to "Suriname" in January 1978, but "Surinam" can still be found in English. A notable example is Suriname's national airline, Surinam Airways. The older English name is reflected in the English pronunciation, // or //. In Dutch, the official language of Suriname, the pronunciation is [ˌsyriˈnaːmə], with the main stress on the third syllable and a schwa terminal vowel.
Indigenous settlement of Suriname dates back to 3,000 BC. The largest tribes were the Arawak, a nomadic coastal tribe that lived from hunting and fishing. They were the first inhabitants in the area. The Carib also settled in the area and conquered the Arawak by using their superior sailing ships. They settled in Galibi (Kupali Yumï, meaning "tree of the forefathers") at the mouth of the Marowijne River. While the larger Arawak and Carib tribes lived along the coast and savanna, smaller groups of indigenous peoples lived in the inland rainforest, such as the Akurio, Trió, Warrau, and Wayana.
Beginning in the 16th century, French, Spanish, and English explorers visited the area. A century later, Dutch and English settlers established plantation colonies along the many rivers in the fertile Guiana plains. The earliest documented colony in Guiana was an English settlement named Marshall's Creek along the Suriname River.
Disputes arose between the Dutch and the English for control of this territory. In 1667, during negotiations leading to the Treaty of Breda, the Dutch decided to keep the nascent plantation colony of Suriname they had gained from the English. The English got to keep New Amsterdam, the main city of the former colony of New Netherland in North America on the mid-Atlantic coast. Already a cultural and economic hub in those days, they renamed it after the Duke of York: New York.
In 1683, the Society of Suriname was founded by the city of Amsterdam, the Van Aerssen van Sommelsdijck family, and the Dutch West India Company. The society was chartered to manage and defend the colony. The planters of the colony relied heavily on African slaves to cultivate, harvest and process the commodity crops of coffee, cocoa, sugar cane and cotton plantations along the rivers. Planters' treatment of the slaves was notoriously bad, and many slaves escaped the plantations.
With the help of the native South Americans living in the adjoining rain forests, these runaway slaves established a new and unique culture in the interior that was highly successful in its own right. They were known collectively in English as Maroons, in French as Nèg'Marrons (literally meaning "brown negroes", that is "pale-skinned negroes"), and in Dutch as Marrons. The Maroons gradually developed several independent tribes through a process of ethnogenesis, as they were made up of slaves from different African ethnicities. These tribes include the Saramaka, Paramaka, Ndyuka or Aukan, Kwinti, Aluku or Boni, and Matawai.
The Maroons often raided plantations to recruit new members from the slaves and capture women, as well as to acquire weapons, food and supplies. They sometimes killed planters and their families in the raids; colonists built defenses, which were so important they were shown on 18th-century maps, but these were not sufficient.
The colonists also mounted armed campaigns against the Maroons, who generally escaped through the rain forest, which they knew much better than did the colonists. To end hostilities, in the 18th century the European colonial authorities signed several peace treaties with different tribes. They granted the Maroons sovereign status and trade rights in their inland territories, giving them autonomy.
In 1861-63, with the American Civil War underway and slaves escaping to Union lines in the South, President Abraham Lincoln of the United States and his administration looked abroad for places to relocate freed slaves who wanted to leave the United States. It opened negotiations with the Dutch government regarding African-American emigration to and colonization of the Dutch colony of Suriname in South America. Nothing came of the idea, and after 1864 the idea was dropped.
The Netherlands abolished slavery in Suriname in 1863, under a gradual process that required slaves to work on plantations for 10 transition years for minimal pay, which was considered as partial compensation for their masters. After 1873, most freedmen largely abandoned the plantations where they had worked for several generations in favor of the capital city, Paramaribo.
As a plantation colony, Suriname had an economy dependent on labor-intensive commodity crops. To make up for a shortage of labor, the Dutch recruited and transported contract or indentured laborers from the Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia) and India (the latter through an arrangement with the British, who then ruled the area). In addition, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, small numbers of laborers, mostly men, were recruited from China and the Middle East.
Although Suriname's population remains relatively small, because of this complex colonization and exploitation, it is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse countries in the world.
During World War II, on 23 November 1941, under an agreement with the Netherlands government-in-exile, the United States occupied Suriname to protect the bauxite mines to support the Allies war effort. In 1942, the Dutch government-in-exile began to review the relations between the Netherlands and its colonies in terms of the post-war period.
In 1954, Suriname became one of the constituent countries of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, along with the Netherlands Antilles and the Netherlands. In this construction, the Netherlands retained control of its defense and foreign affairs. In 1974, the local government, led by the National Party of Suriname (NPS) (which membership was largely Creole, meaning ethnically African or mixed African-European) started negotiations with the Dutch government leading towards full independence, which was granted on 25 November 1975. A large part of Suriname's economy for the first decade following independence was fueled by foreign aid provided by the Dutch government.
The first President of the country was Johan Ferrier, the former governor, with Henck Arron (the then leader of the NPS) as Prime Minister. In the years leading up to independence, nearly one-third of the population of Suriname emigrated to the Netherlands, amidst concern that the new country would fare worse under independence than it had as a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Indeed, Surinamese politics soon degenerated into ethnic polarization and corruption, with the NPS using Dutch aid money for partisan purposes. Its leaders were accused of fraud in the 1977 elections, in which Arron won a further term, and the discontent was such that a large chunk of the population fled to the Netherlands, joining the already significant Surinamese community there.
On 25 February 1980, a military coup overthrew Arron's government. It was initiated by a group of sixteen sergeants, led by Dési Bouterse. Opponents of the military regime attempted counter-coups in April 1980, August 1980, 15 March 1981, and again on 12 March 1982. The first counter attempt was led by Fred Ormskerk, the second by Marxist-Leninists, the third by Wilfred Hawker, and the fourth by Surendre Rambocus.
Hawker escaped from prison during the fourth counter-coup attempt, but he was captured and summarily executed. Between 2 am and 5 am on 7 December 1982, the military, under the leadership of Dési Bouterse, rounded up 13 prominent citizens who had criticized the military dictatorship and held them at Fort Zeelandia in Paramaribo. The dictatorship had all these men executed over the next three days, along with Rambocus and Jiwansingh Sheombar (who was also involved in the fourth counter-coup attempt).
National elections were held in 1987. The National Assembly adopted a new constitution that allowed Bouterse to remain in charge of the army. Dissatisfied with the government, Bouterse summarily dismissed the ministers in 1990, by telephone. This event became popularly known as the "Telephone Coup". His power began to wane after the 1991 elections.
The brutal civil war between the Suriname army and Maroons loyal to rebel leader Ronnie Brunswijk, begun in 1986, continued and its effects further weakened Bouterse's position during the 1990s. In 1999, the Netherlands tried Bouterse in absentia on drug smuggling charges. He was convicted and sentenced to prison but remained in Suriname.
On 19 July 2010, the former dictator Dési Bouterse returned to power when he was elected as the new President of Suriname. He was reelected on 14 July 2015. Before his election in 2010, he, along with 24 others, had been charged with the murders of 15 prominent dissidents in the December murders. However, in 2012, two months before the verdict in the trial, the National Assembly extended its amnesty law and provided Bouterse and the others with amnesty of these charges.
The Republic of Suriname is a parliamentary representative democratic republic, based on the Constitution of 1987. The legislative branch of government consists of a 51-member unicameral National Assembly, simultaneously and popularly elected for a five-year term.
In the most recent elections, held on Tuesday, 25 May 2010, the Megacombinatie won 23 of the National Assembly seats followed by Nationale Front with 20 seats. A much smaller number, important for coalition-building, went to the "A‑combinatie" and to the Volksalliantie. The parties held negotiations to form coalitions.
The President of Suriname is elected for a five-year term by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly. If at least two-thirds of the National Assembly cannot agree to vote for one presidential candidate, a People's Assembly is formed from all National Assembly delegates and regional and municipal representatives who were elected by popular vote in the most recent national election. The president may be elected by a majority of the People's Assembly called for the special election.
As head of government, the president appoints a sixteen-minister cabinet. A vice president, is normally elected for a five-year term at the same time as the president, by a simple majority in the National Assembly or People's Assembly. There is no constitutional provision for removal or replacement of the president, except in the case of resignation.
The judiciary is headed by the Court of Justice (Supreme Court). This court supervises the magistrate courts. Members are appointed for life by the president in consultation with the National Assembly, the State Advisory Council, and the National Order of Private Attorneys. In April 2005, the regional Caribbean Court of Justice, based in Trinidad, was inaugurated. As the final court of appeal, it was intended to replace the London-based Privy Council.
President Dési Bouterse was convicted and sentenced in the Netherlands to 11 years of imprisonment for drug trafficking. He is the main suspect in the court case concerning the 'December murders,' the 1982 assassination of opponents of military rule in Fort Zeelandia, Paramaribo. These two cases still strain relations between the Netherlands and Suriname.
Due to Suriname's Dutch colonial history, Suriname had a long-standing special relationship with the Netherlands. The Dutch government has stated that it will only maintain limited contact with the president.
Bouterse was elected as president of Suriname in 2010. The Netherlands in July 2014 dropped Suriname as a member of its development program.
Since 1991, the United States has maintained positive relations with Suriname. The two countries work together through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Suriname also receives military funding from the U.S. Department of Defense.
European Union relations and cooperation with Suriname are carried out both on a bilateral and a regional basis. There are ongoing EU-Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and EU-CARIFORUM dialogues. Suriname is party to the Cotonou Agreement, the partnership agreement among the members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Union.
On 17 February 2005, the leaders of Barbados and Suriname signed the "Agreement for the deepening of bilateral cooperation between the Government of Barbados and the Government of the Republic of Suriname." On 23–24 April 2009, both nations formed a Joint Commission in Paramaribo, Suriname, to improve relations and to expand into various areas of cooperation. They held a second meeting toward this goal on 3–4 March 2011, in Dover, Barbados. Their representatives reviewed issues of agriculture, trade, investment, as well as international transport.
In the late 2000s, Suriname intensified development cooperation with other developing countries. China's South-South cooperation with Suriname has included a number of large-scale infrastructure projects, including port rehabilitation and road construction. Brazil signed agreements to cooperate with Suriname in education, health, agriculture, and energy production.
The Armed Forces of Suriname have three branches: the Army, the Air Force, and the Navy. The President of the Republic, Dési Bouterse, is the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces (Opperbevelhebber van de Strijdkrachten). The President is assisted by the Minister of Defence. Beneath the President and Minister of Defence is the Commander of the Armed Forces (Bevelhebber van de Strijdkrachten). The Military Branches and regional Military Commands report to the Commander.
After the creation of the Statute of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Royal Netherlands Army was entrusted with the defence of Suriname, while the defence of the Netherlands Antilles was the responsibility of the Royal Netherlands Navy. The army set up a separate Troepenmacht in Suriname (Forces in Suriname, TRIS). Upon independence in 1975, this force was turned into the Surinaamse Krijgsmacht (SKM):, Surinamese Armed Forces. On 25 February 1980, a group of 15 non-commissioned officers and one junior SKM officer, under the leadership of sergeant major Dési Bouterse, overthrew the Government. Subsequently, the SKM was rebranded as Nationaal Leger (NL), National Army.
The country is divided into ten administrative districts, each headed by a district commissioner appointed by the president, who also has the power of dismissal. Suriname is further subdivided into 62 resorts (ressorten).
|District||Capital||Area (km²)||Area (%)||Population
|Population (%)||Pop. dens. (inh/km²)|
Suriname is the smallest independent country in South America. Situated on the Guiana Shield, it lies mostly between latitudes 1° and 6°N, and longitudes 54° and 58°W. The country can be divided into two main geographic regions. The northern, lowland coastal area (roughly above the line Albina-Paranam-Wageningen) has been cultivated, and most of the population lives here. The southern part consists of tropical rainforest and sparsely inhabited savanna along the border with Brazil, covering about 80% of Suriname's land surface.
The two main mountain ranges are the Bakhuys Mountains and the Van Asch Van Wijck Mountains. Julianatop is the highest mountain in the country at 1,286 metres (4,219 ft) above sea level. Other mountains include Tafelberg at 1,026 metres (3,366 ft), Mount Kasikasima at 718 metres (2,356 ft), Goliathberg at 358 metres (1,175 ft) and Voltzberg at 240 metres (790 ft).
Suriname is situated between French Guiana to the east and Guyana to the west. The southern border is shared with Brazil and the northern border is the Atlantic coast. The southernmost borders with French Guiana and Guyana are disputed by these countries along the Marowijne and Corantijn rivers, respectively, while a part of the disputed maritime boundary with Guyana was arbitrated by a tribunal convened under the rules set out in Annex VII of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on 20 September 2007.
Lying 2 to 5 degrees north of the equator, Suriname has a very hot and wet tropical climate, and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year. Average relative humidity is between 80% and 90%. Its average temperature ranges from 29 to 34 degrees Celsius (84 to 93 degrees Fahrenheit). Due to the high humidity, actual temperatures are distorted and may therefore feel up to 6 degrees Celsius (11 degrees Fahrenheit) hotter than the recorded temperature. The year has two wet seasons, from April to August and from November to February. It also has two dry seasons, from August to November and February to April.
Located in the upper Coppename River watershed, the Central Suriname Nature Reserve has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its unspoiled forests and biodiversity. There are many national parks in the country: Galibi National Reserve, Coppename Manding National Park, and Wia Wia National Reserve along the coast; Brownsberg Nature Park, Raleighvallen/Voltzeberg Natural Reserve, Tafelberg Nature Reserve, and Eilerts de Haan Nature Park in central Suriname; and the Sipaliwani Nature Reserve on the Brazilian border. In all, 16% of the country's land area is national parks and lakes, according to the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
Suriname's democracy gained some strength after the turbulent 1990s, and its economy became more diversified and less dependent on Dutch financial assistance. Bauxite (aluminium ore) mining continues to be a strong revenue source, and the discovery and exploitation of oil and gold has added substantially to Suriname's economic independence. Agriculture, especially rice and bananas, remains a strong component of the economy, and ecotourism is providing new economic opportunities. More than 80% of Suriname's land-mass consists of unspoiled rain forest; with the establishment of the Central Suriname Nature Reserve in 1998, Suriname signalled its commitment to conservation of this precious resource. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve became a World Heritage Site in 2000.
The economy of Suriname is dominated by the bauxite industry, which accounts for more than 15% of GDP and 70% of export earnings. Other main export products include rice, bananas and shrimp. Suriname has recently started exploiting some of its sizeable oil and gold reserves. About a quarter of the people work in the agricultural sector. The Surinamese economy is very dependent on commerce, its main trade partners being the Netherlands, the United States, Canada, and Caribbean countries, mainly Trinidad and Tobago and the islands of the former Netherlands Antilles.
After assuming power in the fall of 1996, the Wijdenbosch government ended the structural adjustment program of the previous government, claiming it was unfair to the poorer elements of society. Tax revenues fell as old taxes lapsed and the government failed to implement new tax alternatives. By the end of 1997, the allocation of new Dutch development funds was frozen as Surinamese Government relations with the Netherlands deteriorated. Economic growth slowed in 1998, with decline in the mining, construction, and utility sectors. Rampant government expenditures, poor tax collection, a bloated civil service, and reduced foreign aid in 1999 contributed to the fiscal deficit, estimated at 11% of GDP. The government sought to cover this deficit through monetary expansion, which led to a dramatic increase in inflation. It takes longer on average to register a new business in Suriname than virtually any other country in the world (694 days or about 99 weeks).
According to the 2012 census, Suriname had a population of 541,638 inhabitants. The Surinamese populace is characterized by its high level of diversity, wherein no particular demographic group constitutes a majority. This is a legacy of centuries of Dutch rule, which entailed successive periods of forced, contracted, or voluntary migration by various nationalities and ethnic groups from around the world.
The largest ethnic group are the East Indians, who form 27 percent of the population. They are descendants of 19th-century contract workers from India, hailing mostly from the modern Indian states of Bihar and Eastern Uttar Pradesh along the Nepali border. Surinamese Maroons, whose ancestors are mostly runaway slaves that fled to the interior, comprise the next largest group at 21.7 percent; they are divided into five main groups: Ndyuka (Aucans), Kwinti, Matawai, Saramaccans and Paramaccans. Surinamese Creoles, mixed people descending from African slaves and mostly Dutch Europeans, form 15.7 percent of the population. Javanese make up 14 percent of the population, and like the East Indians, descend largely from workers contracted from the island of Java in the former Dutch East Indies (modern Indonesia). 13.4 percent of the population is of mixed ethnic heritage.
Other sizeable groups include the Chinese, originating from 19th-century contract workers and some recent migration, who number over 40,000 as of 2011; Levantines, primarily Maronites from Lebanon, and Jews of Sephardic and Ashkenazi origin, whose center of population was the community of Jodensavanne; and Brazilians, many of them laborers mining for gold.
A small but influential number of Europeans remain in the country, comprising about 1 percent of the population. They are descended mostly from Dutch 19th-century immigrant farmers, known as "Boeroes" (derived from boer, the Dutch word for "farmer"), and to a lesser degree other European groups, such as Portuguese from Madeira. Most Boeroes left after independence in 1975.
Various indigenous peoples make up 3.7 percent of the population, with the main groups being the Akurio, Arawak, Kalina (Caribs), Tiriyó and Wayana. They live mainly in the districts of Paramaribo, Wanica, Para, Marowijne and Sipaliwini.
The vast majority of Suriname's inhabitants (about 90 percent) live in Paramaribo or on the coast.
The choice of becoming Surinamese or Dutch citizens in the years leading up to Suriname's independence in 1975 led to a mass migration to the Netherlands. This migration continued in the period immediately after independence and during military rule in the 1980s and for largely economic reasons extended throughout the 1990s. The Surinamese community in the Netherlands numbered 350,300 as of 2013; this is compared to approximately 566,000 Surinamese in Suriname itself.
As with ethnicity, Suriname's religious makeup is heterogenous and reflective of the country's multicultural character. According to the 2012 census, around half of the population (48.4 percent) adhered to Christianity, 21.6 percent of the population was Roman Catholic, 11.18 percent Pentecostal, 11.6 percent Moravian, and the remainder were of various other Protestant denominations.
Hindus formed the second-largest religious group in Suriname, comprising 22.3 percent of the population, the third largest proportion of any country in the Western Hemisphere after Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. Almost all practitioners of Hinduism are found among the Indo-Surinamese population. Muslims constitute 13.9 percent of the population, which is proportionally the largest in the Americas, and are found mostly among those of Javanese and to a lesser degree those of Indian descent.
Other religious groups include Winti, an Afro-American religion practiced mostly by those of Maroon ancestry; Javanism, a syncretic faith found among some Javanese Surinamese; and various indigenous folk traditions that are often incorporated into one of the larger religions (usually Christianity). A little over 10 percent of the population is irreligious or did not state a religion.
Dutch is the sole official language, and is the language of education, government, business, and the media. Over 60% of the population speaks Dutch as a mother tongue, and most of the rest of the population speaks it as a second language. In 2004 Suriname became an associate member of the Dutch Language Union. It is the only Dutch-speaking country in South America as well as the only independent nation in the Americas where Dutch is spoken by a majority of the population, and one of the two non-Romance-speaking countries on the continent, the other being English-speaking Guyana.
In Paramaribo, Dutch is the main home language in two-thirds of households. The recognition of "Surinaams-Nederlands" ("Surinamese Dutch") as a national dialect equal to "Nederlands-Nederlands" ("Dutch Dutch") and "Vlaams-Nederlands" ("Flemish Dutch") was expressed in 2009 by the publication of the Woordenboek Surinaams Nederlands (Surinamese–Dutch Dictionary). Only in the interior of Suriname is Dutch seldom spoken.
Sranan, a local creole language originally spoken by the creole population group, is the most widely used language in the streets and is often used interchangeably with Dutch depending on the formality of the setting.
Surinamese Hindi or Sarnami, a dialect of Bhojpuri, is the third-most used language, spoken by the descendants of South Asian contract workers from then British India. Javanese is used by the descendants of Javanese contract workers. The Maroon languages, somewhat intelligible with Sranan, include Saramaka, Paramakan, Ndyuka (also called Aukan), Kwinti and Matawai. Amerindian languages, spoken by Amerindians, include Carib and Arawak. Hakka and Cantonese are spoken by the descendants of the Chinese contract workers. Mandarin is spoken by some few recent Chinese immigrants. English and Portuguese are also used.
The public discourse about Suriname's languages is a part of an ongoing debate about the country's national identity. The use of the popular Sranan became associated with nationalist politics after its public use by former dictator Dési Bouterse in the 1980s, and groups descended from escaped slaves might resent it. Some propose to change the national language to English, so as to improve links to the Caribbean and North America, or to Spanish, as a nod to Suriname's location in South America, although it has no Spanish-speaking neighbours.
The national capital, Paramaribo, is by far the dominant urban area, accounting for nearly half of Suriname's population and most of its urban residents; indeed, its population is greater than the next nine largest cities combined. Most municipalities are located within the capital's metropolitan area, or along the densely populated coastline.
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