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Aruba

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Travel Guide Caribbean Aruba

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Introduction

On Vacation

On Vacation

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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.

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Brief History

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.

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Geography

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.

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Regions

  • The Southeastern Coast is home to pristine white sand beaches and warm turquoise seas.
  • The Northern Coast is exposed to the Atlantic and has a rocky coastline holding off the rough seas.

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Towns

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Sights and Activities

Beaches

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.

Diving

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.

Historic Gold Mills

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.

Other sights and activities

  • Natural Bridges - unfortunately the most famous one collapsed several years ago after hundreds of years. Still, there are 6 more. The natural bridge collapsed on September 2, 2005. The site is still a major stop for all the island tours though. At the same site there is a baby natural bridge as the locals like to say.
  • California Lighthouse is named after the ship California that sank off the cost of Aruba. The lighthouse was open to the public and closed after a suicide was committed there.
  • Butterfly Farm
  • Aruba Numismatic Museum
  • Haystack Mountain
  • Arikok National Park - almost a fifth of the total surface of Aruba, check Arikok Park for more information.
  • Guadirkiri Caves
  • Aruba Ostrich Farm
  • Our Lady of Alto Visto Chapel
  • Casibari Rock & Ayo Rock Formations
  • Bubali Bird Sanctuary
  • Natural Pool (Conchi) - on the northside, accessible by 4wd only.

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Events and Festivals

In 2010 Aruba staged its first international film festival, which should become an anual event.

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Weather

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.

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Getting there

By Plane

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.

By Boat

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.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Apart from some helicopter services, there are no options of getting around the island through the air.

By Car

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.

By Bus

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.

By Boat

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.

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Red Tape

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.

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Money

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.

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Work

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.

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Language

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.

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Eat

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.

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Health

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.

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Safety

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.

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Keep Connected

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Aruba is: 297
To make an international call from Aruba, the code is: 00

Quick Facts

Aruba flag

Map of Aruba

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Capital
Oranjestad
Population
120,000
Government
Parliamentary Democracy
Religions
Christianity (mostly Catholic, Protestant, Jew)
Languages
Dutch, Papiamento, English, Spanish
Calling Code
+297
Nationality
Aruban

Contributors

as well as Peter (13%), Herr Bert (11%), cintampat (5%), Sam I Am (3%), yyzdxb (3%), nigelpeaco (2%), JSD BTDT (1%), arubaclair (1%), Hien (1%), Sander (1%), dr.pepper (1%)

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This is version 41. Last edited at 16:23 on May 14, 13 by Sander. 33 articles link to this page.

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