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Bon Bini! Welcome to Aruba!
What could be better than sitting on a beautiful white sand beach, with beautiful blue waters, while sipping a refreshing drink under a palapa? If this sounds like a dream, visit Aruba!
WHY WE CHOSE ARUBA
We plan a “big” trip every fall. You can read about our prior travels to Mahahual, Mexico and San Pedro, Belize. We chose Aruba for some of the same reasons that we chose Belize last year – accessible, affordable, with beautiful beaches. Since we travel during hurricane season, we looked for a location south of the hurricane path – and Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao topped the list. The more reviews we read about Aruba, the more surprised I was about the number of people who returned to Aruba trip after trip, year after year. As someone who likes to explore new places, I had to see for myself Aruba’s attraction.
These websites can get you started with your research:
Almost every airline flies to Aruba’s only international airport, Queen Beatrix International Airport, in Oranjestad. A roundtrip direct flight from Miami or Houston costs about $500. Flights arrive here from multiple US, Canadian, European and South American cities. You may be lucky enough to live in one of the cities that has a direct flight, although we had to connect through Charlotte and Miami on either trip.
From the comfort of your home, go online to fill out Aruba’s Embarkation and Disembarkation card (ED). This is that annoying form you have to fill out on international flights while sitting on the plane, trying to find a pen in the bottom of your bag or asking those around you if you can borrow theirs. Print it out before you leave home and there is one less headache to worry about!
How old is your passport? And is it from a country that has that a biometric or e-passport? You know, the one with the symbol that looks like a circle in a rectangle at the bottom center of your passport cover? If you do, you can proceed to the faster immigration lane where you stand in front of a camera that takes your photo while reading your passport information. Otherwise, you’ll wait in the longer lines manned by immigration officers.
But for all of the technology they use, you should beware that you will need a paper boarding pass to leave the country. You cannot use your telephone screen or other electronic pass. Almost every hotel lobby will allow you to print your boarding pass.
One of the airport terminals is dedicated to US flights. You will go through US immigrations and customs in Aruba (that’s a nice post!). This means that if you have Global Entry, you can proceed to one of the kiosks. Almost no one was using Global Entry! Since the TSA pre-check does not work here – so you will have to remove your bag with liquids, take out all electronics, and take off your shoes while going through security.
LANGUAGE AND MONEY
Preparation for travel is easy: most people speak English (or Spanish or Dutch or the local Papamiento). And while the local currency is the Aruban florin (on prices it will say “AWG” or “AFL”), prices are often marked in US dollars as well. I saw many registers that automatically converted from florins to dollars, depending on what currency the customer was using. Don’t waste your time ordering florins before you travel since we found no need to use anything but US dollars. As a result, if you’re coming from another country, consider ordering florins or US dollars ahead of your trip.
WHERE TO STAY
One of your first decisions in planning your vacation will be where to stay. What is your geographical preference? The island is fairly small, and can easily be gotten around by car, UTV, ATV, buses or cabs. At its longest point from northwest to southeast, there are about 20 miles and it is 6 miles at the widest point. The interior of the country itself is pretty dry – think desert land covered in cactus and aloe plants. But those beaches!
There are a few hotels in Oranjestad, the capital, but most tourists don’t stay there. Because cruise ships stop in Oranjestad, most of the immediate area attracts shoppers looking for good deals on expensive items. Oranjestad is a good area to stay if you want to go high end shopping – think David Yurman, Coach. And if you are staying in Oranjestad, the major hotel is the Renaissance Aruba Resort and Casino Hotel, divided into the Renaissance Marina Hotel and Renaissance Ocean Suites. You can easily walk to nearby shopping and restaurants.
Most people stay along the northwest coast in one of two areas – commonly known as the low rise and high rise districts. While we spent one night at the Renaissance Marina Hotel, the majority of our stay was at the Manchebo Beach Resort in the low rise district. You can read more about the two hotels here (coming soon!).
FOOD AND DRINK
Aruba has lots of fine dining options. If you’ve read some of my other food travel posts, you know that I dislike eating at fast food places like Wendy’s or KFC – I can get those at home! I prefer to try the local cuisine. Aruba has a mixture of cuisines. You can find just about anything you like – from hamburger stands on the side of the road to Indian curries to Chinese food. Food is expensive because neither produce nor livestock grow well in the arid landscape. Fresh seafood is abundant and delicious. But everything else is imported, making meals expensive.
One of the most surprising things to me was the high quality of cuisine. Several famous chefs have restaurants that have long waiting lists for reservations. If you would like a special meal, get on TripAdvisor early and make your reservations! You can read more about where we ate during our trip (coming soon!).
And don’t be afraid to drink the water! Aruba has the third best desalination plant in the world. Arubans are really proud of how delicious their water is and they have every right to be proud! That water is the basis of the local brewing process for Balashi beer.
WHAT TO BRING
If your flight arrives during common hours, resort staff will be handing out bags – take them! These make great beach and pool bags! Don’t forget to pack:
- Sunscreen! Lots of it!
- Beach towels
- Water shoes
- Sun protective clothing
- Bathing suit
- Camera – don’t miss out on memories!
Annick, The Common Traveler