Curaçao is a fascinating island with rich natural and cultural history, offering plenty to do topside as well as awesome shore and boat diving. The island is located near Bonaire and Aruba, just off the coast of Venezuela, with a mix of European, African and American influences. Most people on the island speak English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento, the local language of the Netherlands Antilles. The island's principal industries include tourism, international banking, and oil refining. Curaçao is on Atlantic Standard time, the same as Eastern Daylight and one hour ahead of Easter Standard Time.
U.S. citizens are now required to have a passport to re-enter the USA, so you'll need a valid passport to travel.
Citizens of most other countries generally don’t need a visa, just a valid passport. For additional information please see http://www.curacao-travelguide.com/vacation/entry_requirements.html
Please be sure that you are carrying the correct documentation or you will be denied entry!
Airlines sometimes make changes to flight itineraries, and it is VERY IMPORTANT that you call your airline 72 and 24 hours prior to departure in each direction to reconfirm your flight times. International flights require check-in at the main airline ticket counter (NOT the gate!) at least 2 hours prior to departure. If you are flying to Curaçao on Air Jamaica and making a connection in Montego Bay, you won’t need to clear Jamaican customs or immigration (you’ll just change planes in Jamaica - visit the cheap duty-free stores downstairs if you have a few minutes) so you don't need to complete the Jamaica immigration paperwork. If you miss a flight, immediately contact the airline to arrange another flight!
CUSTOMS AND IMMIGRATION:
When you check in for your flight, or on the plane, you’ll be given the appropriate immigrations forms. Complete both the right and left side before you land. When you clear immigration, you’ll give this form and your proof of citizenship to the agent. After he or she signs and stamps your immigration form, they'll keep one part and give you the other. Keep this in a safe place; you’ll need it to leave the country. If you lose your exit paperwork, get to the airport several hours before departure, and ask airline or immigration personnel what to do. Carrying any contraband, like guns or drugs, is a very bad idea (Curaçao's drug laws are NOT lenient, as in the Netherlands... it's a Dutch island but don't make the mistake of thinking the island is as permissive as Amsterdam! Visitors over age 18 are allowed to bring one fifth of liquor and 200 cigarettes for personal use. Remember there's a $32/person cash departure tax that you pay when you leave the island.
Re-entering the USA, US citizens who have been out of the country for 48 hours or longer and who have not used their duty-free allowance in the past 30 days are entitled to a $600 duty-free tax exemption. Families traveling together may pool their exemptions, meaning that a couple with 2 children may bring home $2400 in duty-free articles. Alcohol: the duty-free allowance for adults age 21 and over is one quart, which is included as part of the $600 exemption. Cuban cigars are sold in Curaçao, but it's illegal to import them into the USA.
Getting to your hotel: transportation from the airport to your hotel is normally included in your package (we’ll go over this with you at the time of booking).
Taxis and rental cars are common on the island. IMPORTANT - if you rent a car, check the vehicle from top to bottom in the presence of the rental agent before you drive away, and note any existing damage, scratches, missing equipment, etc. on the rental form: you will be held responsible for any additional damages when you return it (including flat tires!) We recommend buying the local insurance offered with your rental. If an accident occurs you’ll be glad you didn’t try to save a few bucks. Driving in Curaçao is not especially challenging (though maps and street names are sometimes incomplete). Your hotel will normally offer regular shuttle service to towntown, but may not be able to bring you back home late in the evening due to local transportation restrictions. If that's the case, you'll have to take a regular taxi if you come home late (to Habitat about $50, more to Sunset Waters and Kura Hulanda) - ask first at your hotel. Driving back to your hotel in a rental car can be challenging at night, since roads are not well marked - and of course, never drink and drive - especially in a foreign country (good reason for using the hotel shuttle and taxis!)
Average temperature is 80-82 degrees. Annual rainfall is about 20î Curaçao is a dry, windy island. Cactus and parrots are a common site. Water temperature is around 80-84 degrees. Curaçao, like Bonaire is south of the Hurricane belt and is therefore a good destination for late summer/Fall travel.
Usually sunny, balmy and breezy all year. Normal high temperatures in the summer (April-November) are about 85F, and in winter (December-March) about 80F. Nighttime lows are usually about 10 degrees less. The wind is easterly more than 95% of the time, with an average wind speed of 15-20 mph. Curaçao is a desert island, with average annual rainfall of 22 inches (about half of that falling between October through January). Important: the sun is very strong and sunburn can happen in minutes – you will need sunscreen!
Important - airlines may charge you for checking bags! AIrline policies differ and change frequently - if you are unsure about your airline's baggage charges check the airline's website, or we'll be happy to assist. Most airlines enforce a 3 bag limit, including one carry-on that must fit in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. Checked bags are usually limited to 50 pounds each. Dress on the island is generally casual and informal. Beach wear is not appropriate downtown - and topless or nude sunbathing is not widely practice, though there is a private "au natural" section of beach at Sunset Waters. Some items to remember: several swimming suits, shorts and tropical-casual wear, comfortable shoes, flip flops, sunscreen, sunglasses, hat, windbreaker or light jacket. As a safety precaution, don’t pack your valuables in checked luggage (or just leave non-essential valuables safely at home!) Airline security regulations prohibit using locks on your checked baggage – instead, use tie-wraps to secure them.
We always recommend spending a little more and buying travel insurance to protect you against financial loss in case of emergency or unplanned circumstances. Things happen: you or a family member gets sick and you're unable to travel at the last minute (and hotel/dive packages are almost never refundable once paid for). Weather prevents you getting to the airport and you miss your flight, and you have to buy another ticket. You miss a connection and arrive two days later than planned. An airline cancels your flight, and you incur unplanned hotel expenses. An emergency back home forces you to cut your trip short. Your luggage is lost and you have to buy new clothes to wear. You get sick and have to go the hospital, and your home insurance doesn't cover all your expenses. All these and more happen every single day, and travel insurance would cover these circumstances. Check what the policy covers before buying, of course - travel insurance isn't perfect, but the more expensive and the more complex the trip, the more important it becomes. Travel packages can cost thousands of dollars, and route deviations can get very expensive. Please protect yourself in case of emergency!
Most people spend US $75-100/day, allowing for eating out, cocktails, and shopping, but you might bring extra. Credit cards are accepted in most stores and restaurants. There are ATMs on the island. If you use traveler’s checks, keep a record of their serial numbers in a safe and separate place. The local currency on the island is the Netherlands Antilles Florin (often referred to as the "Guilder" but abbreviated as NaFl) which is fixed at 1.77 guilders to the US dollar; US dollars and euros are also accepted everywhere. Hint: be careful not to overpay! Remember that local prices are usually in guilders, not in dollars – so if your restaurant bill says "85" that’s 85 guilders (about 48 dollars) and not 85 dollars! A good rule of thumb: 20 US dollars = 35 guilders.
Much as in the USA (and of course, tipping depends entirely on the quality of service you receive). Dive boat personnel: $5-10 for a two-tank dive; a few $$ for a one-tank dive boat (usually paid to the divemaster, who will split the tips with the rest of the crew.) Some people prefer to tip daily, since boat crews and divemasters may change from day to day. Many people in the tourism industry depend almost entirely on your tips to earn a living... if you’re pleased with the service, consider tipping a bit extra. Some restaurants on the island automatically add a 10-15% service charge; check your bill and ask if you are unsure.
You’re completely safe at your resort and also walking around downtown, but use caution late at night downtown and avoid dark alleyways, etc. Still, take sensible precautions... as you would anywhere. Don’t leave valuables lying around, don’t flash large amounts of cash in public, and lock your hotel room doors. Your hotel has a safe-deposit service for your valuables - take advantage of this service, for your own peace of mind, even if they charge you a few bucks a day. Avoid leaving valuables in an aunattended rental car, and always lock the doors.
120 volt, 50 cycle: that’s a bit different than in the US, though you won’t need a plug adapter. Most US appliances (hairdryers and radios, for example) will work fine, though they may run a bit hotter. Voltage spikes can cause problems with more sensitive equipment, especially older laptop computers and battery chargers that don’t have built-in adapters that can moderate variations in electric current (check the voltage input specifications on your equipment - if you see something like "Input: 100-240V ~ 50/60Hz" you're generally safe to use your charger).
MEDICAL & CHAMBER FACILITIES:
Curaçao has hospital facilities and full medical and dental care are available. There is a hyperbaric chamber on the island.
EATING & DRINKING:
The water’s distilled from sea water, and perfectly safe to drink. The food on the island is excellent and not necessarily expensive, though island prices may be a little higher than what you’re used to at home. You’ll find food of every kind on the island, from seafood, burgers, Mexican, Italian, Chinese, and almost anything else you can think of. Fresh seafood is abundant, naturally; fresh vegetables and salads less so. Local specialties are a wonderful mix of European, Caribbean and Latin American cuisine. You’ll find a variety of restaurants and watering holes located at the island’s resorts and in the downtown area. Enjoy!
Curaçao's shopping district is downtown, with lots of shopping opportunities. Some hotels offer kitchenette facilities, and having groceries and drinks on hand can be fun & very convenient (and can save you quite a bit on restaurants!) Stores may close entirely or just open for a couple of hours on Sundays, so plan accordingly!
There are over 10 casinos on the island. Many are located downtown near the cruise ship pier, with others located in hotels such as the Marriot and Hilton, a cople of miles from downtown. Casinos are generally open from late morning to well into the night.
Staff at the hotels and dive shop will be able to help you resolve almost any problem that comes up. If you’re unhappy with your hotel room for any reason, tell the front desk or manager and ask them to resolve the situation (they can’t help if they don’t know you’re unhappy about something!) For serious situations, emergencies, or assistance with problems you can’t resolve locally, call us at Bay Adventures (Miami) at +1-305-892-4280 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. IMPORTANT: if you believe you are being charged unfairly for something, get a receipt and the name of the person who insists on payment – otherwise there is no recourse for getting your money back!
Hotels offer cable TV, with several channels in English including CNN, ESPN, Disney, and others. Internet service at a nominal charge is available at most hotels. Telephone service is good on the island, and direct dialing is possible from most resorts (though calls from your hotel room can be expensive – several dollars a minute, depending on where you’re calling). Your US or Canadian cell phone may work on the island (to dial the US, dial 011 plus the area code and number).
THINGS TO DO:
When not eating, drinking, sunning, napping, diving, or telling "big fish" stories… Curaçao is not only a diving and snorkeling pParadise! There are many other adventures available, including cycling and mountain biking, cave and cavern exploration, the Sea Aquarium, exploring nature at Cristoffel park, art galleries and museums, and exploring the structures of the island's colonial and maritime past, and shopping and parting downtown. For any and all activities, just ask the friendly staff at your hotel or dive center and they’ll point you in the right direction. Also pick up the island's activities guide ("Nights") - available at the airport and you'll probably be given without asking - which contains tons of useful information and maps, etc.
AND A FEW MORE SUGGESTIONS -
- Be at the airport at least 2 hours before departure time.
- Remember to reconfirm flights by calling your airline before departure.
- Have your proof of citizenship documents handy.
- Know where your money is at all times.
- Essential medicines and irreplaceable items are best kept with you in carry-on bags.
- Don’t pack nonessential valuables in carry-on luggage (consider leaving them at home!)
- An easygoing attitude and a smile are the most important things you can bring with you on vacation!
- Your vacation begins the moment you walk out your front door. Relax and enjoy yourself!
Use our advice as a starting point for your own exploration, and you’ll find that friendly people, great sunsets, exhilarating diving, and the beautiful waters of the Caribbean are only the beginnings of a great vacation.
Have a great trip!