Getting around in Bonaire! Perfect destinations in the Caribbean if you love watersports. But getting around is one of the most disastrous things in Bonaire, there are no public buses on the island. Nearly all visitors to Bonaire rent a car to get around. For example, many people come for diving, don’t forget Bonaire is a diver’s paradise! As for non-diver, you can do many things, like hopping beaches, kitesurfing, land sailing, snorkeling, hiking, or sightseeing.
But don’t fret. Everything is possible! If you’re not confident about driving a car, there are other ways to get around, like going with a bicycle, scooter, golf cart, or taxi. However, if you prefer the car, I suggest booking your vehicle before arriving here. And if you are visiting Bonaire on a tight budget, you will find scooter and bike rentals in downtown Kralendijk. These would be the cheapest mode to get around, but be conscious the heat can be uncomfortable. Leave the taxi out of it because it’s expensive.
Tourist Tax on Bonaire island
Before you continue reading, you should know something about Bonaire. As of July 2022, all island visitors who arrive at Flamingo international airport should pay the tourist tax. Whether visiting Bonaire for one day or for a couple of weeks is mandatory to pay the tourist tax except for those arriving on a vessel. Cruise passengers visiting Bonaire will be lucky because the tax price is 75 USD for adults and 10 USD for children up to 12 years old. It is expensive for visitors to visit the island, not to mention everything already pricey in Bonaire.
Look for the correct tax website!
Ensure you’re on the right website because I was on the wrong page when I first filled out the form. I realized this afterward when they asked for 95 USD, while the correct amount is 75 dollars. Check HERE for the official website of Bonaire. You can fill out the form one week before or the day of your trip and pay online.
However, my payment didn’t get through during the process. But I heard many people have the same problem, so on the last pages, you will have to check the counter by means you pay at the airport—the only way to receive the QR code that you receive in your email, download the code and save it somewhere on your phone with easy access. The QR code will be the first thing they’ll check at the airport, and also they will see if you have paid online. If you still need to do it, they will point you to an office to settle the payment. Remember, you can only pay with a credit card.
The Currency in Bonaire
Bonaire is the only island in the Netherlands Antilles that uses US dollars, which is easy for American visitors. Unlike Aruba has Florin (AWG), and Curacao has its Antillean Guilder (ANG). Credit cards are widely accepted, except for lodgings. If you are staying in apartments, most owners will accept cash only. European visitors can exchange euros in banks, for which you need a passport and your plane ticket booking or ticket number. It sounds odd that banks require a plane ticket as proof. They’ll do this because of drug money on the island, as I heard from my hotel personnel.
Ensure to have these on hand if you change your cash—a reminder banks hold a commission. As for ATMs, you can pull out the limit of 500 USD, plus they charge 6.00 dollars for a withdrawal. If you can, take some dollar cash with you. I bought a USD in my bank, but not enough to pay for my apartment. What a pity euros are not accepted here; I carried some cash and exchanged it for dollars. Is Bonaire expensive? Compared to Curacao and Aruba, Bonaire is slightly cheaper, not to mention the costly tourist tax.
How do you get to Bonaire?
First and for all, there is no ferry service between Bonaire, Aruba, and Curacao. It could be convenient and cheaper if the ferry existed. I have been searching for information about the ferry but nothing to be found. The distance between the islands was pretty close, and flying was the only way. Two airlines have daily flights: EZ Air and Divi Divi Air – both are small regional service airlines with a capacity of 20 passengers onboard. There are several flights per day to the islands.
Maybe interested in Curacao? The best thing to see and do in colorful Curacao.
You will notice the flights aren’t so cheap, but the checked luggage up to a maximum of 18 kg is included in the ticket price. EZ Air doesn’t work for online booking. So I flew with Divi Divi Air. Remember, they will charge 5 USD for credit card transactions when booking the ticket on their website. Even though Bonaire is not as popular as Curacao and Aruba, there are flights from Europe, mainly departing from the Netherlands. The Flamingo airport is pretty small and not as crowded as Aruba and Curacao.
Renting a car in Bonaire
Different car companies are to be found in Bonaire, you maybe think it is such a small island, but car rentals offer abundantly. To avoid any pressure during your trip, reserve the vehicle before arriving on the island, especially if traveling during the high season that runs from November to April. In addition, July and August are also busy in connection with the summer holidays. Traveling at this time of the year, they could run out of cars. Whichever company you rent a vehicle ensure to buy all-inclusive insurance to avoid extra costs after the rental.
I booked my car through Sunnycars with all insurance included. After my trip to Cyprus, I learned my lesson and avoided a repeat. The staff will tell you to leave the window open if you parked your car somewhere but lock the door. Why is that? I didn’t get it at first but realized it later on. It is to prevent a burglar from smashing the car window. Just don’t let valuable stuff be visible inside the car – place them in the trunk instead.
I spent four days in Bonaire and had the vehicle of my entire stay on the island, which didn’t cost me that much. In fact, cheaper than taking a taxi every time, and I can go anywhere, anytime when I want.
Maybe interesting to know when traveling to an island!
What do you need when renting a car in Bonaire? Your home driver’s license and credit card. I didn’t even have to pay a deposit, so my credit card was unnecessary. As I have all the necessary insurance included, the only additional cost is the petrol, driving off with a full tank, and fueling when returning the vehicle, which costs around 35 dollars. I drove the whole island and haven’t refueled in four days, so you see how small the distance is in between. If you have no idea what to do in Bonaire, see my article!
I got the car from AB Carrental – a car rental in Bonaire, with no hassles. When I picked up the car, I wanted to check the damage, and they just handed me the paper and said no need for that; you’re all set. Just make sure it is a full tank when returning the vehicle, and that’s it. I’m perplexed because it wasn’t like the company in Curacao where I rented the car; they were so strict. In addition, popular car rentals like Europe car, Thrifty, Avis, and others have offices outside Flamingo airport. Local companies, like AB Carrental, have their shuttle waiting for you upon arrival, and it is just a short drive within.
Driving around on the island
You can’t expect the road to be the same as in your home country. Before going on this trip, I watched videos about driving in the ABC islands and figured out what to expect. I have rented a car in Curacao and Aruba, and driving in Bonaire is much worst. I got a flat tire on the last day and thanked god for the road service. Therefore you need to call the office and they’ll send someone to fix the problem.
There are no traffic lights in Bonaire; the maximum speed outside the built-up areas is 60 km per hour, and within the built-in area is 40 km per hour. There are no speed cameras as we use in Europe, so it is possible to speed up on quiet roads. The worst thing you will encounter here is if you get caught in the rain while driving. When it rains, the roads can become slippery as the asphalt is not well maintained, and the potholes can appear out of nowhere.
Parkings in Bonaire
Compared to Curacao and Aruba, the good thing I like in Bonaire is that you can park everywhere for free except at the airport. In downtown Kralendijk, you’ll find a lot of parking space but beware of parking bays with signs NP (no parking) because there is a chance that your car will be towed away. It’s customary where you are staying that they provide guest parking. Public beaches for the most part, have parking. However, beaches that are located in the National park are not always easy to get to without going into bumpy rides, even pickups battling to get through. So driving in Bonaire is not for people who want to go in a car race.
Bonaire drives on the right-hand side.
Like most European countries and North America, getting around in Bonaire with a car is easy as they drive on the right-hand side, and the vehicles are automatic, which is easier to employ than what we used to in Europe; most European cars are with a gearbox. Many pickup trucks run around the island for people who dive they are comfortable with, as they need space for dive gear. You don’t need a pickup if you want to explore the island. A regular vehicle is suitable if you only do some sightseeing or beach hopping, and it is cheaper than pickups.
The navigation system on Bonaire island
If you have cellphone coverage, google maps work pretty well on the island. I bought a prepaid Sim Card in Curacao that works in Bonaire and Aruba. Otherwise, download Maps. me, it works without mobile data. I also download google offline maps for the ABC islands, but Google Maps works better if you have the internet. In many countries, holding a mobile phone while driving a vehicle is prohibited, and there’s no exception in Bonaire, so you must bring a phone holder in the car.
Bonaire is such a small island that you can drive from South to North in one day. The southern route takes you from Kralendijk to the slave houses, the salt pyramids, Pekelmeer, and the Willemstoren lighthouse towards Lac Bay. And the north takes you to the northern part of the island. From Kralendijk via the western coast past Santa Barbara towards Karpata, and if you continue driving until you reach the Bonaire Petroleum Corporation, you’re on the route to Lake Gotomeer.