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Aruba

Photo by Lynne Morgan Sullivan

Aruba Itineraries

Aruba for families, where kids never ask ‘Are we there yet?’

Aruba resorts that leave you wanting more … nights

Aruba rum shacks and fusion dishes worth the flight

Family fun, romance, bar hopping, fine dining and endless adventure

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Aruba is known for excellent beaches, chic resorts, and a lively nightlife. The capital, Oranjestad, is packed with shops and restaurants, and the town throws a weekly party in the courtyard of historical Fort Zoutman. Vacationers enjoy hiking and biking through rugged Arikok National Park and exploring limestone caves, blowholes, and natural pools along the island’s untamed east coast.


Aruba has easy arrival and departure procedures

All visitors must have a passport, but American, Canadian, and EU citizens are not required to have a visa. (Neither do citizens of most South American countries.) For even easier travel, go online to fill in your Embarkation-Disembarkation Card up to 48 hours before leaving home. This is the form you’ve most likely filled out on a plane and misplaced by the time you reached the customs desk.


Aruba is family friendly

There are great beaches on the famous hotel-strip and the more remote Baby Beach. The latter is particularly popular with families because of its shallow water and sand shaded by palm-topped shelters. At Arikok National Park kids explore caves with native drawings, sand dunes, and hiking trails. The whole family can also climb the bizarre Ayo and Casibari rock formations, spot birds at the Bubali Bird Sanctuary, and visit the Ostrich Farm and a Butterfly Garden.


Aruba’s nightlife is energetic and diverse

Casinos and entertainment venues are located at most large hotels, and adults enjoy themed dinners, shows featuring international entertainers, and dance clubs with live music. The island also has plenty of piano bars, cocktail lounges, and sports bars. Try the popular Bar Hopping Tour on the Kukoo Kunuku Party Bus.


Aruba is romantic

Aruba and its resorts offer excellent package deals for tying the knot and honeymooning. Or just get away for some just-us just-because time. Watch the sun set from a secret beach or onboard a sail boat. Schedule a waterfront couple’s massage, or arrange for a private barefoot dinner served on the sand after sunset. Or, take chilled champagne to the top of a boulder to stargaze. Or park at the California Lighthouse for distant view of Palm Beach. The possibilities are endless.


 Aruba is one adventure after another

Learn or practice all types of water sports year-round: windsurfing, kiteboarding, scuba diving, sailing, or deep sea fishing. There are good schools for beginners and ideal locations for experts. Tennis players can arrange for day or weeklong passes at the Aruba Racquet Club, while golfers may spend the day with wild parakeets and lizards on the 18-hole Tierra del Sol golf course. Hikers and nature lovers head to the wild side to explore the national park on foot, by jeep, or on horseback.


Aruba Itineraries:

Aruba resorts that leave you wanting more … nights … The ultimate guide to choosing the best hotel
Aruba for families, where kids never ask ‘Are we there yet?’ … From ostrich and butterfly farms to water sports and a surprising national park
Aruba rum shacks and fusion dishes worth the flight … Taste the island’s rich heritage


When To Go

Aruba is a year-round destination, but the best time for budget travelers to visit is from April to August. This is when you’ll find lower prices and fewer crowds.

Temperatures can reach the high 80s during the summer, but the island is cooled by constant trade winds, and the humidity is usually low. In addition, since the island is located just off the northern coast of South America, it is outside the hurricane belt, so there’s little chance of a tropical storm.

Many travelers prefer to visit between January and March, and the weather is excellent during those months, but accommodations are more expensive then, and you’ll find fewer discounts on everything from tours to airfare. Be aware that the island is particularly busy during Carnival, which takes place sometime in January or February.

How Much Time To Spend

Even if you’re not a fan of the beach and the thought of an island vacation makes you yawn with boredom, you can easily spend a week in Aruba exploring the island’s wild side, browsing the shops for duty-free treasures, sampling the cuisine, catching some live nighttime entertainment, and reading a best-seller in the shade of a palm tree while sipping an icy tropical drink.

High and Low Season

Fall is an excellent time to visit. The famous Aruba trade winds die down a bit, snowbirds haven’t arrived yet, and you can still pick up a good deal on a hotel room. The Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival takes place in October.

Beginning in December, you’ll pay top dollar for accommodations, tours, and airfare. If you plan to visit during the winter, make reservations well in advance to take advantage of any early-booking deals.

Between April and August, hotels offer lower room rates, and the island hosts a variety of events, including the Soul Beach Music Festival in May and the Aruba Wine, Food & Art Festival in June.

Holidays and Carnival (January-February) are the island’s busiest times. Aruba is outside the Caribbean hurricane belt, so you can consider visiting from June through October without the worry of a severe storm.

Weather and Climate

If there’s a change in weather on Aruba, it’s in the amount of rain, which is always low, and the strength of the wind, which is often quite brisk. You can rely on the year-round weather forecast reading dry with an air temperature of  82°F/27.8°C and a sea temperature of 80°F/26.7°C..  Much of the year, the island enjoys steady trade winds at 15-20 mph from the east.

Count on dry weather from February to August. In October, November and December, the rainfall can be three to four inches per month. Winds are less strong from September to  December.

Events and Holidays

New Year’s Day:  January 1st
Betico Croes Day: January 25th
Carnival Monday February (varies yearly)
National Anthem & Flag Day: March 18th
Good Friday:  March/April (varies yearly)
Easter Monday:  March/April (varies yearly)
King’s Day:  April 27th
Labor Day: May 1st
Ascension Day: May (varies yearly)
Christmas Day: December 25th
Boxing Day: December 26th

Click here for a current Aruba Events Calendar.

Time Zone

Aruba is on  Atlantic Standard Time, four hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time: GMT-4. The island does not observe Daylight Saving Time.

Click here for the current time in Aruba.

What To Pack and Wear

Think smart casual when you pack for a trip to Aruba.

Daytime temperatures will average 82 F, so bring lightweight clothes, such as shorts, t-shirts, swimsuits with a sarong or cover-up.

Nights may be cool, so women will want to bring a light sweater or wrap; men will need a lightweight windbreaker or sweater.

It is illegal to wear combat-type clothing or fabric with a military print.

Be sure to bring comfortable shoes: one lightweight walking shoe, sandals or flip flops, and a pair of casual dress shoes for evenings out.

Evening wear for women includes sundresses and slacks. Men will need long pants and a collared shirt for restaurants and clubs.

It’s handy to have a small backpack or beach bag, a refillable water bottle, and an electrical adapter if your devices are not geared for 120V.

What it Costs

Hotel costs during high season run about $90-$100 per night for a standard room for two people. Resorts and all-inclusive properties will likely average between $200-$600 per night for two people. Be sure to budget for taxes and additional fees, which may not be included in the hotel’s quoted price.

Food may be one of your highest expenses, and Aruba has many tempting restaurants. If you’re on a budget, plan to have your main meal at noon, when restaurant prices tend to be lower.

The official currency of Aruba is the Aruban florin (Afl). Each florin is equal to 100 cents, and you will see coins in 5, 10 and 50 cents, as well as one florin coins.

American dollars are readily accepted everywhere on the island. However, some merchants may not accept US $50 and $100 because of international counterfeiting of these bills.

Personal checks are not accepted on the island.

Before you leave home, contact your credit card provider and bank to let them know your travel plans.

Both the RBC Royal Bank and the Caribbean Mercantile Bank are located at the airport, and each has an ATM.

More than 50 banks are scattered throughout the islands with business hours from 8 am – 4 pm Monday through Friday. A few branch offices may be open later on Fridays and open again on Saturday mornings.

Abstract Pricing at a Glance

Prices often fluctuate dynamically depending on capacity, seasonality and deals. We don’t want to lead you astray by quoting exact prices that quickly become wrong. To give you a rough idea for budgetary planning purposes, though, we have indicated general price ranges for all points of interest.

Price ranges are quoted in $US.

See & Do
N/A => Not applicable
Free
$ => Tickets less than $25 per person
$$ => Tickets $25-50 per person
$$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person

Sleep
$ => Rooms less than $100 for a double
$$ => Rooms $100-250 for a double
$$$ => Rooms $250 for a double

Eat
$ => $1-15 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$ => $15-30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)
$$$ => $30 per person for a meal (without alcohol, tax, tip)

Shop
N/A => Not applicable

Tours
$ => Tickets less than $50 per person
$$ => Tickets $50-100 per person

Currency Converter

1 Aruban Florin equals 0.56 US Dollar.

Airfare and Car Rental Prices

Fly the Friendly Skies
Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh. But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites. That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts. So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

Direct flights from US gateways are available on:
American Airlines
Southwest Airlines
Delta Air Lines
jetBlue
United
Spirit Airlines

Airlines flying to Oranjestad from Europe and South America include:
Copa
Avianca
LAN Airlines
Air Canada
KLM
Sunwing Airlines
Insel Air
Surinam Airways

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping. There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill. There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

Money Saving Tip: Costco, because of its behemoth size and price negotiating power, offers great low prices for most major car rental companies. Yes, you need to purchase an annual Costco membership first, but it more than pays for itself with what you”ll save with a typical week”s car rental (i.e. searches turn up a mid-size car through Costco for $225 and a comparable car through another aggregator for $325.)

Did You Know: Budget Car Rental offers drivers residing at the same address (i.e. unmarried partners or BFFs) complimentary extra driver coverage. Other car rental companies charge upwards of $10/day.

Insurance

Hopefully, your trip to (or within) the U.S. goes without a glitch. But what if an unexpected situation arises? Will you lose the money you invested in the trip? Will you need quick cash to cover sudden costs?

Travel insurance policies are meant to cover these unexpected costs and assist you when problems arise. The fee is typically based on the cost of the trip and the age of the traveler. Most travel insurance providers offer comprehensive coverage that usually includes protection for the following common events:

Trip Cancellation — About 40 percent of all claims fall in this category.

Medical — Health services in the U.S. are expensive for the uninsured. This is a major reason to consider purchasing insurance. Whether you break a leg or need a blood transfusion, you will likely incur costs far higher than you might pay in other nations. And what if you have an accident that requires transport to a major medical center? Air ambulances alone could set you back $15,000 to $30,000.

Trip Interruption — For example, if you become ill during your trip or if someone at home gets sick, and you have to get off the cruise ship or abandon a tour. The insurer will often pay up to 150% of the cost of your trip to get you home.

Travel Delay — Insurance usually covers incidentals like meals and overnight lodging while you wait to travel home.

Baggage — Insurance will typically cover lost and mishandled baggage.

Some insurance companies allow you to purchase a policy that allows you to cancel for any reason. This may cost more (often 10% or more), but it is worthwhile for certain travelers.

Do I need travel insurance?

If your trip costs $4,000 to $6,000 (or more), it’s probably a good idea. Your age and health are important factors. So is your destination. If you’re traveling to a hurricane-prone area during hurricane season, for example, you’ll probably want some coverage “just in case” … no matter what.

Your English language skills are also an important factor. Insurance policies often include concierge services with 24-hour hotlines that can connect you quickly with someone who speaks your language.

How do I choose an insurance provider?

Do your homework — check around.

The largest insurers in the U.S. include Travel Guard, Allianz and CSA Travel Protection. Smaller reputable companies include Berkley, Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection, Travel Insured International and Travelex. You may also find deals through aggregates like Squaremouth and InsureMyTrip. Many airlines and travel companies also offer travel insurance when you book your flight (often contracted with the above major players).

If you have pre-existing health conditions — Many policies have exclusion policies if you have a pre-existing medical condition. But companies also offer waivers that overwrite the exclusion if you purchase the policy within a certain time frame of paying for your trip (e.g., within 24 hours of buying your cruise package). Again, it’s best to check the fine print.

Credit card insurance — If you buy your airfare or trip with a credit card, you may be partially covered by the credit card’s issuing bank. Check directly with the company to find out exactly what’s covered, as many have “stripped down” coverage
and restrictions.

The travel insurance business is expanding and evolving rapidly. As “shared space” lodging options like VRBO, Airbnb and Homeaway become more popular in the travel and leisure market, so does the need for insurance for both property owners
and travelers.

For more information, visit the US Travel Insurance Association.

Exchange Rates and Currency

The official currency of Aruba is the Aruban florin (Afl). Each florin is equal to 100 cents, and you will see coins in 5, 10 and 50 cents, as well as one florin coins. American dollars are readily accepted everywhere on the island.

Money, ATMs, Credit Cards

ATMs

If you get money from an ATM machine, you may incur charges (often $2 or $3 per transaction). Check with your bank before you leave home to find out which, if any, U.S. banks will allow you to get cash without an extra charge. Many grocery stores, gas stations and major retail outlets let you get a limited amount of “cash back” when paying for your goods — this is an easy way to get cash while on the go.

Credit Cards

Credit and debit cards are accepted widely throughout the island. Don’t forget to call your debit and/or credit card company before you travel to inform them of your planned itinerary. This goes for U.S. residents traveling out of state or out of country. If you don’t do this in advance, you risk having your card denied/declined when you try to use it in a destination far from home. You should also call your company immediately to report loss or theft. The numbers to call are usually on the back of the card — which doesn’t make sense if they are lost or stolen. So make a note of them and store them where you’ll have easy access. Recently, companies have been issuing cards with embedded chips that prevent counterfeit fraud. Banks and merchants that don’t offer the chip-and-PIN technology are beginning to be held liable for fraud. Check with your bank and credit card company for details on your specific cards.

Tipping and Costs That Add Up

Tipping is a cost you must build into the budget for any U.S. travel experience, whether urban or rural. Tipping is most relevant to dining out and hotel stays, but other costs should also be taken in to consideration. General guidelines include:

Restaurants:

For excellent service, plan to tip 20% on the total bill, before taxes. For less-than- stellar service, 10-15% is customary, as an imperfect experience is often not solely the responsibility of the server. In many states, servers work for below minimum wage and live mostly on tips, so consider the ramifications of your tipping decisions. To complicate matters, many restaurants in the major metropolitan areas — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco — are moving to a no-tipping model in which service is included. The verdict isn’t yet in on whether this new model will stick, so be sure you understand the tipping policy at each restaurant you visit.

Oh, and one more complication: Sometimes a tip is automatically included. But at least it will be itemized in plain sight on the bill.

Hotels:

Most bell staff receive $1-$2 per bag they assist with; if someone carts all of your bags up to your room, expect to tip $5-$10. Tips for housekeeping are also good form. The rule of thumb is $2-$3 per day and about $5 per day in higher end properties. At properties with concierge services, consider tipping concierge staff who assist you in planning activities, making reservations or acquiring tickets, or simply orienting you with driving directions or public transportation info. Current etiquette calls for $10-$20 per person, per day for concierge help. Car valet staff expect $1-$2 for delivering you your car. Spa employees (massage therapists, aestheticians, etc.) usually see 20% tips on their services, whether performed at the spa or in your room.

Other costs:

Invariably, there are incidental costs associated with being on the road. Make sure to budget between $10 and $40 per day for batteries, lost phone chargers, bug repellent, headache medicine, sunburn relief and other personal items you might have forgotten. If you’re traveling with kids, consider the snack budget. Local grocery and drug stores will be cheaper than tourist shops for all of the above.

Transportation

Aruba is now a Caribbean transportation hub with the recently expanded state-of-the-art Queen Beatrix International Airport (Aeropuerto Internacional Reina Beatrix). Numerous international and regional airlines serve the island, and the locally-based Aruba Airlines has both regional and international service.

A  big plus for US-bound passengers is the ability to clear customs and immigration at a dedicated terminal before they leave Aruba and enter the US as a domestic passenger. Only a few Caribbean islands offer pre-clearance. Queen Beatrix Airport also offers digital embarkation and customs cards for incoming travelers, as well as complimentary WI-FI.

There is an airport departure tax for flights to the United States of US $37.50. All non-US flights have a tax of  US $34.25 and a transfer charge of US $3. For North American flights and most Latin American flights, the tax is added to the price of the airline ticket. Regional airlines collect the fee at the airport.

Getting There

Fly the Friendly Skies

Airfares are a fickle thing. When you need it to be low, it’s high. And when prices dip, what happens? You can’t get off work to travel. Sigh. But you can get notifications from companies like Kayak, which will email you when airfares drop. Type your destination and the dates you are watching and boom, when there’s a deal, you’ll hear about it immediately via your inbox.

Sites like Momondo also display prices for multiple airlines, so you can compare rates without visiting individual airline sites.

That said, there is an advantage to visiting an individual airline’s site. Why? Because some of their really great deals don’t show up on the aggregator airfare sites. Most airlines share limited-time, super-specials via their Facebook pages or email blasts.

So it pays to be their ‘friend’ or subscribe to their e-mailings.

Getting Around

Have Car, Will Travel

Like airlines, car rental rates are all over the map. Companies like Expedia and Hotwire offer comparison price shopping. There are also name-your-own-price sites, like Priceline, where you tell ‘em what you want to pay and they hook you up with a car rental company who can fit the bill.

There are some great deals here, if you are not too picky about the make and model of your rental.

In addition to the major chains, Amigo Car Rental and Econo Car Rental have offices at the airport. Most rental agencies also will drop off a car to your hotel at no charge.

Transportation Hubs

All flights to Aruba arrive at Reina Beatrix International Airport.

Background

Aruba is just north of Venezuela, South America, in the Caribbean Sea.

It is about the size of Washington, DC; 69 square miles/180 square kilometers.

The capital is Oranjestad.

History

500 Years of History in a Flash

A branch of the indigenous Arawak tribe was living on Aruba when explorers claimed the island for Spain in 1499.

Europeans didn’t find gold, as they had hoped, and the island was too arid for plantations, so the slave trade never got off the ground.

Dutch colonizers took over in the early 1600s, and Aruba was ruled by The Netherlands and run by the Dutch West India Company until the British took control during the Napoleonic wars.

The Dutch got the island back in 1816, and Aruba voted to separate from the Netherlands Antilles in 1986.

Today, the island is an autonomous member of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Culture

Aruba is a melting pot of cultures and more than 90 nationalities live on the island. Many of the citizens proudly claim a mixed genealogy that includes native Amerindians, Europeans and Africans.

Etiquette

Use the same good manners you use at home.

Do greet Arubans with a hello or say  Bon Bini, the standard greeting in Papiamentu, the local language.

Don’t ask a question or ask for directions without first saying hello. Be respectful and friendly.

Don’t try an accent, and skip the street slang. You’ll just sound silly.

Do wear a cover-up over your swimsuit everywhere except on the beach or at a pool.

Don’t go topless or nude. Some islands have designated resorts or beaches for that sort of thing. Otherwise, it’s illegal.

Do put a towel down before you get into a taxi wearing a wet swimsuit.

Don’t snap a photo of anyone without asking permission. Ask someone on staff before taking a picture of merchandise in a shop or outdoor
stall.

Do tip appropriately, even generously. Most service providers count on tips as a major part of their salary.

Don’t complain about things that cannot be fixed: the weather, the price of food and other imported products, slow internet speed.

Don’t wear combat-type clothing or fabric with a military print.

Do accept “island time.”  Relax. Breathe. Forget schedules. Expect delays.

Cuisine

Foods to try:
funchi – cornmeal mush
tutu- funchi mixed with beans, bacon and brown sugar, and then fried
stoba -stew made with local vegetables and beans
pan bati – flour and cornmeal pancake served like bread
pastechi – small meat or cheese pie
bolita di keshi – fried cheese balls
bolo pretu – dark fruit cake served on special occasions

Several international food chains operate on the island, and locals have become quite devoted to burgers and international ethnic foods.

Religion

Most residents are Catholic, but the island has several churches of various denominations, a synagogue and Jewish Center, and a non-denominational Community Church. Services are held in Papiamento, Dutch and English.

Language

Papiamento and Dutch are the official languages of Aruba, and most residents also speak Spanish and English

Recommended Reading

Travel Adventures: Aruba
by Lynne Sullivan
published by Hunter Publishing

Music

Visit the See the Aruba Events Calendar for a current list of happenings taking place on the island during the year.

Websites and Maps

Get maps, up-to-date information and a list of current events from the Aruba Tourism kiosk located on the main street in Oranjestad at Plaza Daniel Leo.

Also, look for official Happy Information Officers strolling around the capital, the Palm Beach area and near the cruise ship terminal. They wear green t-shirts featuring the happy information slogan, and each officer is trained to help visitors and answer questions about Aruba.

The Aruba Tourism website has additional information and maps.

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