Curacao is a lively and colorful island – the tropical climate makes it a perfect holiday destination. If you plan a trip you’re in the right place. This article will give you an insight into how to get around and some details about the island. So stay on this page! But where is Curacao? Ah, this beautiful island in the Caribbean is still an unknown destination for some people. In fairness, I’d never heard of Curacao before; I only discovered the island when I searched for sunny places to visit in the winter.
When you hear the name Curacao, you think of the beaches, but there’s more to do than splashing in the blue sea. A trip to Curacao is a combination of relaxation and sightseeing. It is, in fact, a destination for all types of travelers. And because the sights disperse over the island, some of these aren’t reachable by public transport, the easy way is to rent a car.
The ABC islands
Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao are islands that belong to the kingdom of the Netherlands, and they should be on your bucket list of to-do. Each of these islands has its disposition; the only downside when planning a trip to this paradise, you are trapped with queries about – how you get around. It wasn’t as simple as I thought because I had no intention of driving. Read my articles on Bonaire and Aruba – it will give you some ideas about the island and what to see and do.
Things to know before you fly to Curacao
Thus, you booked a ticket to Curacao? Good for you! Booking in advance is the best way to do it. Don’t wait until the last minute because the ticket price will increase.
The money in Curacao
Although the islands belong to the Netherlands, each island utilized different currencies: Curacao is Guilders, and Florint in Aruba, only Bonaire uses US dollars, which is easy for American travelers and disappointing for the Europeans. You can pay in US dollars in Curacao and Aruba and get a change back in dollars. That is if you ask for it. How about Euros? It sounds like prejudice that you can’t pay with euros. The good thing is credit cards are widely accepted even in small establishments. For the taxi, you will need USD cash.
As for European travelers bringing some dollars will be sensible because if you have booked an apartment during your stay in Curacao and Aruba, the owners prefer the payment in USD cash. There are ATMs in the city center if you like to withdraw cash but keep in mind a 6.00 dollar charge for international cards. The maximum you can take out is 500 dollars. And I think it’s logical to withdraw the upper limit as it will save you the charges at one-time.
Changing money at the bank you need an airline ticket.
Has it happened to you before? Well, it’s my first-time experience at the bank to show an airline ticket when exchanging money. From what I heard, this prevents drug money on the island. So visitors must have proof of a passport and air tickets. At first, I didn’t believe it, but once I stood at the counter, the clerk asks my airline ticket or booking reference, and I was lucky to have my digital booking on my cellphone.
Exchange offices didn’t exist on the island, changing your money can only be done at any local bank. The black market is nonexistent, where mostly a better place for currency exchange as you get higher rates. Some Chinese shops will change your currency, but I have never done it. At the bank, you lose a little bit. I went to Maduro & Curiel’s Bank to change my euros they took 4% off. Some banks detain more, as I hear from other travelers. To consider these: if you think using ATMs, go for it. I’m not sure how much other banks charges for withdrawals. With RBC bank, it is 6.00 dollars cost.
Do you need a visa to visit Curacao?
It is like traveling to the Netherlands – most Nationalities can visit Curacao without a prior tourist visa. If you have any doubts, check the list of visa waivers HERE. The only thing you need before flying to Curacao is to fill in the ED card online (Embarkation and Disembarkation card) one week before or the day you travel. It’s completely free!
What to pack for Curacao
Curacao is a tropical destination, and you mainly need light summer clothing. I’m traveling with a carry-on, a savings of 51 euros for a ticket. When flying with Dutch airline KLM you are allowed a12 kilograms of hand luggage onboard. Additionally, you can take an extra handbag or a small backpack to put your document or for the laptop. So these I have in my carry-on suitcase: 4-dresses, 5-tops, 2-short pants, 1-skirt, 2-swimsuit, 5-lace underwear, 2-bras, 2-quick dry towels, 2-pairs of Havaianas slippers – one with a strap that I wear for swimming. Long pants, long sleeves, and rubber shoes, the ones I wear during the trip. Do my laundry every two days in a sink.
Hats, sunglasses, camera, GoPro, selfie stick for solo travelers, cellphone (unlock) if you want a local sim card, electrical plug Type A -the same as in America. So all of these are in my carry-on suitcase. Personal items like shampoo, soap, toothpaste, and sunscreen are available in supermarkets.
How do you get to Curacao?
As a Dutch territory, you can fly from anywhere in the world. Europe travelers can fly from any airport with connecting flight to Amsterdam. A direct flight to Curacao with Dutch Airline KLM is approximately 10 hours. You could fly for less than five hundred euros by booking months prior. I was flexible with my schedule and only paid 450 euros for a return ticket without checked luggage travel with just a carry-on. Sometimes you find a package deal to Curacao, such as fly and drive. But I was planning to visit the other islands on the ABC, so booking a return ticket is cheaper than the package.
Arriving at Hato airport and public transport
If your flight arrives in the evening, you don’t have any other possibility than to take a taxi and swallow the price of 40 dollars. If you are on a holiday package, you don’t have to worry about it, as everything organizes by your travel agency. First and foremost, the buses were not consistent. I landed at 7.00 pm, and the buses were nowhere to find. There’s no visitor information at the airport, don’t even bother to ask the airport staff because they don’t know either, and you get incorrect information. I just asked where I could take a taxi they pointed me in the wrong way. I might have missed the signs, as I didn’t see them anymore.
No taxi counter inside the airport – you have to go straight outside. Unlike in so many places, you don’t see taxis queueing. Cabs in Curacao are limited, that’s why you often hear that the easy way is renting a car. The official taxis on the island have their license plate number starting with TX followed by a number.
Sharing a taxi is not possible.
I was glad to find someone at the arrival to share the ride and split the cost of 40 dollars to Punda, but not able to do so unless we stayed at the same address or hotel. If your lodging is in Jan Thiel, the taxi price is 60 dollars. You could ask your hotel if they have a shuttle, but don’t count on it if they do it for free, but maybe it’s cheaper than the taxi.
Buses in Curacao
Let me explain how the buses at Hato international airport, as I took a bus the second time I landed, coming on a flight from Bonaire. I arrive in the afternoon, so I take my chances getting on the bus. It’s cheap and quite a saving than taking a taxi. All you need is patience! Listen to music, or watch your Netflix because you will be waiting for a long time. I was the only person sitting on a bench at the bus station. I wasn’t afraid because it was only 2 pm. So I have all the time before it gets dark, lol.
The convoy bus
I have no idea why is called the convoy. It is just a large bus that runs on schedule. It cost 2.00 Antillean Guilder (1 euro). You pay an exact amount to the driver once you board the bus. Travel time takes almost one hour to the center of Willemstad. Going to Punda, you need the bus 2A – 2B or 2C. Look for the bus number shown on the front side. If you are heading to Otrobanda, take the 4B.
The schedule on their website is no longer accurate; this is an up-to-date time I got from my hotel. Buses number: 2A and 2B starts from Punta to Hato airport at 05:45 in the morning from Monday to Saturday and from 07:15 on Sunday. The last bus departs from Hato airport to Willemstad at 7:00 pm on Sunday.
And from Monday to Saturday, it runs till 9:30 pm, but don’t rely on it. The schedule can change anytime. Make sure you are already in the waiting area when the bus arrives because they don’t stand for so long. The bus station in Punda is at Waaigatplein near the market, a short walk from the historic town of Willemstad. As for Otrobanda, the terminal is at Sebastopolstraat, a 10 minutes walk to Punda crossing the Ponton bridge.
Make sure to have the exact amount of 2 guilders because not all drivers are sincere. When I got on the bus driver demanded 2.00 dollars. I said to her it is only 2 Guilders. She seemed surprised it didn’t work what she asked, instead of being fair to visitors on the island to get a good reputation. No, they’re trying to rip you off for a small sum.
The Minibus or Van
The minibus cost 2.00 dollars (3.50 guilders). They are flexible, and you don’t know when they are coming. You will be lucky if you catch them somewhere. They drove around to pick up and drop off passengers. However, they don’t always go to Punda – instead, they’ll drop you off in Otrobanda.
Curacao: How to Get Around the Island-the Easy Way
The easiest way to get around the island is by renting a car. I’ll be honest here, renting a car during my trip isn’t my way of doing it. I’m comfortable taking public transport, but I’m someone who loves to explore places, and after reading reviews from other travelers about buses in Curacao that aren’t reliable; I booked a vehicle a couple of weeks before my trip.
Read more; Beautiful Bonaire: How to get around the island
And I’m glad I did book a car because there were so many things to see and do. The blend of nature and beaches in Curacao is one of a kind and something you wouldn’t miss during your trip. Similarly to Bonaire and Aruba, you can’t get to some places without your transport. Going on a trip is to enjoy not being stressed about how to get around. It’s a pity that public transport on these islands is so tricky.
Read more: Bonaire: The Best Great Tips Activities for Non-diver
What is the price of a rental car in Curacao?
Prices of cars in Curacao depend on the vehicle type. The smallest car is adequate for driving around and it only cost 39 dollars per day, the big ones tend to be more expensive. In fact, a lot of smaller vehicles cross around the island than bigger ones. It’s also sensible to reserve a car before flying to Curacao, and with so many car rentals online, it wasn’t easy to pick the right one. I have rented vehicles during my trips booked with different companies, this time I used Sunnycars. For the five days rentals cost 294 euros inclusive of all necessary insurance.
What it’s like driving in Curacao
Driving is similar in most European and North American countries. Curacao drives on the right side. Whew, what a relief. Because of my previous trip to Cyprus island, I struggled for a little while maneuvering on the left side of the road. You would have no trouble driving because there are no highways on Curacao, only a ring road in Willemstad, and most other roads have one lane in each direction – the only thing you should be aware of is the potholes and speed bumps.
Parking in Curacao
Parkings are usually free, but there are certain places in the center of Willemstad where you have to pay. You can recognize a paying parking space by the number painted on the street next to the parking space. When you use a paid parking space, you will find a blue solar-powered pillar nearby, where you can pay the parking fee in advance, a standard rate of 1 guilder per hour. If you stay at the center in Punda or Otrobanda, make sure your hotel has free parking because finding room for your car can sometimes be difficult.
Navigation in Curacao
Afraid of getting lost? Roads and streets are easy to interpret. If you can read in Dutch, then you’re good to go. Do you familiar with the App Maps.me – download the map of ABC island. It’s perfect navigation without the use of mobile data. However, if you aren’t satisfied with the maps, you can rent a navigation system, but that would not be necessary. Don’t spend your money on GPS – buy a local sim card instead, and have mobile internet. Google maps are my favorite. Also, download the offline version.
Local sim card in Curacao
Sim cards in Curacao are pretty expensive. You can get the sim cards in the supermarkets, or even in smaller shops where you see a sign outside. But the best place to go is the phone shops if you’d like more explanations. There were different providers, but for the best coverage, Digicel and Chippie were popular. I opted for Digicel, which costs 50 USD for a 14-day prepaid package with 15 GB plus a 5 GB bonus with unlimited WhatsApp and texting but limited calls. And while I was in Aruba and Bonaire, I used the roaming. The coverage was still pretty good everywhere on the neighboring islands. In general, free wifi is available in your accommodations.