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Curaçao is one of the Netherlands Antilles and the capital is Willemstad. At the 10th of October 2010, the island of Curaçao became a separate state within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, just like Sint Maarten became and Aruba already was, and with its own government. The Netherlands Antilles were dissolved as a separate state and that state as such no longer exists.
The original inhabitants of Curaçao were Arawak Amerindians. The first Europeans to see the island were members of a Spanish expedition under the leadership of Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. The island was occupied by the Dutch in 1634. The Dutch West India Company founded the capital of Willemstad on the banks of an inlet called the 'Schottegat'. Dutch merchants brought slaves from Africa under a contract with Spain called Asiento. Under this agreement, large numbers of slaves were sold and shipped to various destinations in South America and the Caribbean. The slave trade made the island affluent, and led to the construction of impressive colonial buildings. Curaçao features architecture that blends Dutch and Spanish colonial styles. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the island changed hands among the British, the French, and the Dutch several times. Stable Dutch rule returned in 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic wars, when the island was incorporated into the colony of Curaçao and Dependencies. The Dutch abolished slavery in 1863.
In recent years, the island had attempted to capitalize on its peculiar history and heritage to expand its tourism industry. Due to an economic slump in recent years, emigration to the Netherlands has been high. Attempts by Dutch politicians to stem this flow of emigration have exacerbated already tense Dutch-Curaçao relations. In 2010, the islands stopped being part of the former Netherlands Antilles and became an independent island within the Dutch Kingdom.
Curaçao excists of two islands. The main island and Klein Curaçao, which lies about 24 kilometres to the southeast. The main island is about 59 kilometres long, and in the north and the south approximately 10 to 11 kilometres wide. In the middle of the island, near Grote Berg, the width is only 3.8 kilometres wide. The best beaches are in the south, and also conditions for swimming and diving are good. In the north the coast is rocky, and because of the strong currents, diving can only be done by experienced divers, and only when the conditions allow it. The Christoffelberg is Curaçao's highest hill with a height of 375 metres (1,230 feet). It can be found in the northwestern part of the island.
Willemstad is the capital of Curaçao and is by far the largest town on the island. The Historic Area of Willemstad, Inner City and Harbour is placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Here, the Dutch established a trading settlement at a natural harbour on Curaçao in 1634. Willemstad developed continuously over the following centuries and nowadays the modern town still has some fine historic districts whose architecture reflects European urban-planning concepts as well as styles from the Netherlands and even from the Spanish and Portuguese colonial towns with which Willemstad engaged in trade. Therefore, Willemstad makes for a great excursion if you want to get away from the beaches and diving which the islands are most famous for.
The island of Curaçao 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. July and August are high season and therefore the drier months of March to June are the best time for a visit.
Curaçao International Airport (IATA: CUR, ICAO: TNCC) has connections to neighbouring countries, nearby South American cities, North America and Europe. Airlines operating at this airport include American Airlines, Arkefly, Continental Airlines, Dutch Antilles Express, KLM, Lufthansa and Thomsonfly.
There has been talk of re-installing ferries between Curaçao and Bonaire, but up until now there aren't any.
See also: Money Matters
The Antillean Guilder (Naf) is the currency for the Curacao. 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 NaF. 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.
Many of the hotels on Curaçao are based in and around Willemstad. Especially to the south, at the Jan Thiel Baai and Piscadera Baai there are many hotels. Still, there are some luxurious hotels right in the center of Willemstad as well. In the north and west there are far less luxurious hotels but again much more smaller hotels and apartments for rent.
See also: Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Curacao. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Curacao) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Curacao. 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
See also International Telephone Calls
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