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Formerly part of the Netherlands Antilles, Aruba lies just north of Venezuela amongst a splash of Caribbean waters. Since its gold and oil industries have both come to a halt, Arubans have turned to tourism with a seemingly undying faith in the power of beaches, turqoise waters and the bright Caribbean sun to draw visitors. So far, their faith has been rewarded with large tourist numbers. Aruba's beaches are reportedly the best in the Netherlands Antilles; unfortunately, this translates into packed sands, making a private holiday experience in Aruba something of a fib. But for many travellers, the large numbers of tourists have actually been an added bonus, granting the island an energetic party vibe. For them, the chance to get down and dance to Caribbean music is enough to make this a destination they will come back to year after year.
The first inhabitants of Aruba were indians of the Arawak tribe that were fleeing from the mainland of what we call now Venezuela. Parts of Indian settlements were dated to around 1000 AD. In 1499 Alonso de Ojeda discovered the island, together with the neigbouring islands of Bonaire and Curaçao, and in 1508 the first Spaniards came to Aruba. In 1636 the Dutch took over, and with brief interruptions from 1799 to 1802 and 1805 until 1816 the Dutch stayed in control of the Island. During the second world war Aruba become an important producer for the oil and petrol needed for the allied troops. At the beginning of the war, the islands was a protectorate of the United Kingdom, but in 1942 the United States took over this role.
In 1986 Aruba left the Netherlands Antilles, and became an independent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Aruba is part of the chain of Leeward Islands that lie just to the north of the mainland of Venezuela. Aruba lies 28 kilometres north of the Paraguaná Peninsula and 76 kilometres northwest of Curaçao. From top till toe the island is 30.8 kilometres long, and apart from the northern and the southern tip, around 6 to 8 kilometres wide. The landscape is pretty flat, the highest point on the island is Mount Jamanota and is 188 metres high. The north and the eastside of the island is rocky, and battered by the Caribbean Sea. The more sheltered west and south have the better beaches, this is also where you find the towns and cities.
Of course Aruba is famous for its beaches and there is a wide choice for everyone. From very crowded touristy beaches to some more secluded beaches which are best reached with your own wheels. Some examples include Malmok Beach, Hadikurari Beach, Palm Beach, Eagle Beach, San Nicolaas Beach and Baby Beach. Eagle Beach is particulary beautiful while Palm Beach, althoug busier, is nice as well.
Aruba is also a prime spot to go diving and apart from the beautiful creatures you will see, there are also some ship wrecks to explore. Boca Catalina is one of the most visited spots and the Antilla Shipwreck location is another one for those keen on shipwrekcs. Of course snorkelling is possible as well in most cases but you don't come close to everything of course. The Antillla Shipwreck is the remains of a scuttled 400-feet German cargo ship that was anchored off of Aruba during WWII.
The name Aruba originally comes from the red gold (oro ruba) that has been discovered in the centre of the island from the early 19th century onwards. As a result, the following gold rush saw the development of mines at Bushiribana on Aruba's northern coast and another one at the gold mill in Balashi on the southwestern shore. Both can still be visited nowadays, either on a tour or with your own car.
King's Day on the 27th of April means cultural events, sports activities, picnics and music. Don't forget to wear something Orange to blend in.
The biggest event of the year features several weeks of celebrations in high season starting in February. Oranjestad is the place to be to experience the best of it, with street fests, local music, competitions and games. The Grand Parade on the last day is particularly impressive, when an effigy of King Momo is set alight.
Expect lots of flag-waving, nationalistic pride, and traditional shows on March 18. This date harks back to 1948 when the former leader presented a petition for independence to the Dutch masters and it took almost 40 years to achieve the autonomy. A variety of events on this day will appeal to tourists, adults, and children alike.
Big name music acts from around the world grace the Soul Beach Music Festival over two days and nights in late May. Artists at the Oranjestad-based event have included the likes of Wyclef Jean, the Gap Band, Alicia Keys, Anthony Hamilton, Jamie Fox, Toni Braxton, and MJ Blidge.
This world-class windsurfing competition is one of the most hotly anticipated of its type. Top windsurfers from around the world descend on Aruba in June/July to catch the renowned trade winds that skirt the islands. There are heats for women and juniors, as well as the main male events, along with kite boarding and kite surfing. The event is held at Hadicurari Beach, next to Palm Beach.
Also known as the Aruba Music Festival, the Caribbean Sea Jazz Festival is the biggest music festival of the year on this funky island in the sun. The event takes its cue from the North Sea Jazz Festival of the Netherlands and runs for two days over Columbus Day weekend in early October. Acts from around the world partake.
This annual international catamaran regatta sees impressive yachts from North and South America and Europe race the calm waters off Palm Beach. The mid-November event takes place as a welcoming to high season in Aruba and culminates in a party on the island’s favorite beach.
Music and Caribbean dancing are a hallmark of this weekly event, which takes place in the capital city rain or shine. It is held in Fort Zoutman every Tuesday evening from 6:30pm to 8:30pm and also features arts and crafts and local foods. The fort itself is a major Oranjestad landmark and ensures whenever you visit a healthy dose of Aruban culture.
Aruba has a very pleasant and constant climate. This means warm and humid weather yearround but with almost constant sea breezes cooling things of a bit. Temperatures average around 30 °C during the day, cooling of somewhat to 23 °C at night. Most rain falls between October and February but compared to the islands more north in the Caribbean it doesn't rain that much. Aruba doesn't get more than 450 mm of rain yearly. July and August are high season regarding crowds. Therefore the drier months of March to June are the best time for a visit. The winds blow from the northeast to the southwest, resulting with the Divi Divi Trees all shaped in that direction.
Flights arrive and depart at Queen Beatrix International Airport (AUA). Aruban based Tiara Air has flights from Aruba to Curacao, Bonaire and Punto Fijo in Venezuela. Many other airlines serve Aruba from several countries in both North America and Europe. Martinair and KLM have direct flights from the Netherlands, while Condor flies there directly from Frankfurt. Air Canada has flights to and from Toronto, while a number of United States based airlines have flights to cities like Miami and New York. Aruba is well connected with neighbouring islands and countries like Suriname, Dominican Republic and Colombia.
Apart from flying, your only options are to get there by boat. Unfortunately there are no (more) ferry services between Aruba and any other island in the Netherlands Antilles, nor is there any connection with other countries like Venezuela, although there used to be services to both. Yacht and cruise (and maybe cargo) ships are your only option really.
Apart from some helicopter services, there are no options of getting around the island through the air.
Aruba is a perfect island to explore on your own by car. Roads are generally in good condition and there are a dozen or so of international and local car rental agencies located in the airport, Oranjestad or one of the biggers hotels. Your national driver's licence is valid on Aruba, but you have to be 21 years of age (sometimes even 25, and there is a maximum age of 65 to 70) to rent a car. Driving is on the right side of the road.
Arubus is a local busline company which has inexpensive, comfortable and reliable transport to some parts of the island, except the most northern parts and the interior, where you really need your own wheels. The main route runs from San Nicolas to Oranjestad and the major hotels along the beach on the north-west coast. Prices start at around $2 return tickets and make sure you have the right change before you board. The buses run each half hour from Monday to Saturday 6 am until 6 pm. They also run on Sunday running each hour.
For other destinations, you can arrange a taxi which has fixed rates (Aruba has taxi zones, so you can calculate your price). Some drivers double as guides if you like.
The only regular passenger services are ferries departing daily to De Palm Island from the mainland. Crossings run every half hour between 9am and 6pm.
Nationals from the following countries are allowed to stay in Aruba for maximum stay up to three months without visa:
Australia, Canada, Chile, Bahamas, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Norway, United States and all nationals of EU countries.
Nationals of the countries listed below need a visa to enter Aruba:
Afghanistan, Iran, Nigeria, Armenia, Iraq, China, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Syria, Cambodia, North Korea, Tajikistan, Cuba, Libya, Turkmenistan, Dominican Republic, Mauretania, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Ghana, Mongolia, Vietnam, Haiti and Myanmar.
See also Money Matters
The Aruban Guilder is the currency for the Netherlands Antilles. It is also known as the Florin or gulden and is subdivided into 100 cents. Note denominations are 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, and 250. Coin denominations are 5, 2.5, 1, 0.5, 0.25, 0.1, 0.05, and 0.01 cents.
The Guilder is fixed to the US dollar at an exchange rate of 1.79:1.
The U.S. dollar is so widely accepted that there is no need to change your money.
To control immigration from other caribbean islands and South America, Aruba has recenlty introduced a law to allow workers to stay on 3-year work permits.
The official language of Aruba is Dutch, English is taught at schools besides Dutch. Papiamento is widely spoken in Aruba. It's a mix of Portuguese, Dutch, English and African languages. The closeness to South America, makes Spanish widely spoken by Arubans and even taught at schools.
There are dozens of restaurants on Aruba. You will have no trouble finding places to eat in the capital city or in any of the hotel areas. Specialties are many types of seafood. Prices can be high but many restaurants have early bird specials. It is harder to find good places away from the southern and western coasts. On a 45-minute drive across the island, there are only a handful of restaurants.
There are an array of resorts located all over the island. Aruba offers many options for sleeping arrangements. There are both hotels in downtown with the majority of them located on or near the beach. Some of the Hotels include; a Holiday Inn, Marriot, among others, as well as some smaller boutique hotels, such as Bucuti & Tara Beach Resorts and local places.
By the glass, sixpack or case, imported Dutch beers are relatively good buys. Balashi Beer - Aruba's National Beer, a must-drink beverage, perfect after spending all day at the beach. Don't, however, confuse it with a "Balashi Cocktail", which is a local term for the equally enjoyable Aruban water. Founded in 1996, the name Balashi is derived from the words Bala Bala and Balana and means "near the sea." It is the only beer brewed on the island of Aruba. Daily tours of the brewery are available with an open-aired bar and restaurant on the premises.
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Aruba. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Aruba) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Aruba. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Aruba is extremely safe place however that was put to test after the disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway from her hotel back in 2005. Those kind of incidents are not particularly related to Aruba though and can happen everywhere.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Aruba is: 297
To make an international call from Aruba, the code is: 00
Ask JSD BTDT a question about Aruba
I am an expat living in aruba for the last 13 years. I work in the hospitality industry.
Ask tplunk a question about Aruba
I have vacationed their three times and rented two condos and a private home. I have driven the entire island numerous times and visited many restaurants.
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