Aruba Travel Tips
Keep in Mind...
- Beware the high winds Aruba's trade winds can make it seem cooler than it really is (or like the sun isn't that strong), and make it easier to burn. Keep applying sunscreen regularly, and pack a hat -- it'll help keep the blowing sand out of your eyes.
- Beware "the bends" Decompression sickness, or "the bends," can occur when you're scuba diving and you ascend to the surface too quickly. Symptoms include joint pain, itchy skin, confusion and loss of balance. To avoid, make sure you swim slowly and take breaks when ascending from deeper dives.
Believe it or not, the Spanish colonists who settled in Aruba and her sister islands of Bonaire and Curaçao in 1513 nicknamed them the "Islas Inútiles," or Useless Islands. They couldn’t have been further from the truth. Centuries later, this southern Caribbean cluster is using an arid climate and minimal rainfall in their favor; Aruba in particular lures tourists with its blindingly white beaches and craggy limestone landscape. And with its extensive underwater visibility, this island is a preferred getaway for divers looking to explore buried shipwrecks or to study some magnificent coral reefs up close.
Inflated room rates and airfares (some of the most expensive in all of the Caribbean) have nurtured Aruba's reputation for exclusivity, but just take one look around Palm Beach and you'll see that's not the case. College kids, honeymooners, young families and baby boomers are all jockeying for their own piece of shade under the nearest divi-divi tree. Those colonists be damned: Aruba is indeed being put to good use.
How To Save Money in Aruba
- Travel in summer This island is one of the few in the Caribbean that's outside the hurricane belt, and the price is just right at that time of year.
- Shop at the airport Aruba is known for its Dutch cheese and divi-divi trees, but not for its duty-free deals. The only place where there is duty-free shopping, in fact, is the airport. Load up on your souvenirs while you wait on your plane.
- See it in a day Several affordable cruise lines stop by this island for the day, and for many, that's plenty of time to experience this side of paradise.
Aruba Culture & Customs
Aruba's motto is "One Happy Island," and by all accounts, the residents prove this is so. Arubans are unanimously described as friendly and helpful. Dutch and Papiamento (a patois of Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and African languages) are the official languages, but most everyone can also speak English.
Like the residents of other tropical islands, Arubans dress casually much of the time. The finest establishments have an "elegant casual" dress code, which means long pants for men and sundresses for women. Call ahead to find out if your restaurant enforces a dress code, and also inquire about the service charge -- some restaurants include a 10- to 15-percent charge on the bill that's distributed among the staff. To specially tip your waiter, leave the money on the table. Ten percent is considered acceptable.
Aruba's official currency is the Aruban guilder. However, the U.S. dollar is widely accepted, and most items and services are priced in both currencies. Traveler's checks and major credit cards are also widely accepted.
Aruba is renowned for both the quantity and the quality of its restaurants. Stick to the high-rise area (around Palm Beach) for Caribbean, French, Argentinean, Japanese, Italian, Mexican or even Indian cuisine, or head south to Oranjestad for dining with more Dutch influence. According to most, the excellence of Aruba's restaurants is largely due to competition; restaurant owners are always looking for ways to lure new clientele, whether it's putting a different spin on a traditional recipe, bringing in live entertainment or taking the time to converse and thank diners for their visit. Don't leave the island without sampling some of its local favorites, such as giambo, a thick gumbo chock full of fresh seafood and flavorful meats, or kesio, a rich caramel custard.