Aruba Travel Tips

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Important

Save plenty of time for relaxing on the beach. Some people have been known to arrive in Aruba with all kinds of plans for activity & end up just hanging out on the beach. When you see the beautiful white sand & the turquoise water... Believe me when I tell you that this is THE place to be a beach bum! BE CAREFUL--Apply sunscreen as often as possible. Don't forget to apply it on the top of your feet & top of your ears. Aruba is REAL close to the equator. Our days consist of getting to the beach about 9:30-10 am, maybe some lunch mid afternoon & finally leaving the beach 5:30 pm - 6 pm. Back to the room, shower, watch the sunset, hangout or go have a drink & then onto dinner at 8:00 pm It is tough but someone has to do it.

Money

The US $ is accepted everywhere! No need to exchange to Florins & prices are always posted in US $'s & sometimes both. Current exchange rates are Afl. 1.77 to the US Dollar. Travelers checks are widely accepted, as well as credit cards. For cash use denominations of $20's. Some some establishments will not accept 50 or 100 US dollars. Do carry some cash in small denominations for taxis & tips. ATM's will allow you a choice of USD's or Fls.

Resort & Flight

Something I learned a long time ago in Aruba...If you are not happy with your room, do not unpack; speak to the front desk & if they have a room available, 9 times out of 10 will switch your room. It also does not hurt to ask for a free upgrade. Again it will depend on where you are staying & the time of year, but we have gotten 4 unbelievable room upgrades in Aruba & that was without asking. I have always believed that if they have a room available, you will get it. It doesn't cost the hotel more for one room to be empty over another. They would rather see you be happy so you will return again & again- & we do.
If you fly with us, my husband would tell you to make sure you bring along a snack for the flight. It is a long ride & the airline food is always not so reliable. Be aware though that you cannot bring any food out of Aruba. US Customs will not allow it.
When it is time to go home, you are requested to be at the airport 3 hours in advance. There will be lines, especially weekends & holidays. The extra time is needed to afford US citizens the ability to go through US Customs & US Immigration while still in Aruba. When you arrive back in the states and voila, just stroll right off the plane as if you had never been out of the country.

Clothing

As my friend Suzi says, "Pack your suitcase & then take out half of the clothing that you packed." Sounds funny but it works! While in Aruba, dress code: for her in the evening: shorts, sundress or skirt, for him: twill shorts with a polo shirt or a long pair of pants for a place such as Chez Mathilde or LeDome. A light cotton sweater for her, as the air conditioning in the restaurants & casinos can be frosty. Men do not need jackets anywhere. Avoid material that wrinkles.
During the day you'll need bathing suits & cover-ups, & a few of pairs of shorts & tops for shopping & sightseeing. Any kind of footwear is acceptable. I invariably still end up bringing 3 pairs of shoes: sneakers, beach sandals & dress shoes for at night. We bring a few bathing suits so there is always a dry one to wear.
Make sure to pack an extra set of underwear, bathing suit & other necessities in your carry on. Your checked luggage always has a chance of being lost.
When you step off the plane in Aruba it will be hot, hot, hot! Dress in layers. You will be glad you did while riding from the airport to your resort. No elegant hairdos (too much wind), no hosiery (too hot), or no makeup (in my case live it up!) in Aruba!

Sightseeing Highlights

As far as I am concerned, if you are only there for a week, take a 1/2 day guided island tour & catch all the highlights. Aruba is a desert, so except for natural & manmade landmarks, on a 20-mile island there isn't much to see except goats & some beautiful beaches.
To explore on your own, rent a 4 x 4. We choose air conditioned to avoid sunburn & gritty dust. Only some 4 X 4 tours visit the Natural Pool. It took us many visits to Aruba before we visited the pool & did not feel deprived. Rent a 4 x 4 for one day & just get in & drive. Remember if you get lost- all of the Divi Divi trees blow in the same direction as the wind. What direction does the wind blow from at your hotel?
We did a lot of driving around the island on our first trip to Aruba & were lost about 80% of the time. Aruba is a foreign country thus has international road signs. Check them out before you drive. All in all, like I said, you do not have to rent a car in Aruba unless you plan on doing A LOT of touring. If you do rent make sure you take the insurance. For us, getting around Aruba in taxis is cheaper than a rental car. FYI, the taxis charge is by the car, not per person. There are no meters; the government sets flat rates. Even cheaper is the bus.

The Hot Bright Equatorial Sun

Aruba is just about 12 degrees north of the equator. The sun here is like nothing you have ever seen. If you have every received a bad sunburn in Florida, the equivalent in Aruba would be twice as worse. You do not want to ruin your vacation with sunburn & this is the place that you will get it! My first trip to the island, the tops of my ears peeled twice!
Bring plenty of sunscreen. Apply it as often as possible. Don't forget to apply lotion to the top of feet & ears. Remember the kids! For the kids, SPF 45, for you, use a sunscreen starting at SPF of 30, & work your way down. Bring double the amount lotion you think you would need. Reapply after swimming, wear t-shirts for snorkeling & reapply frequently. My Dad is a dark Portuguese & even he can burn in Aruba.
Bring, a hat with adjustable band so it will not fly off with the wind, lip balm with SPF protection, & sunglasses. If you have long hair, bring something to tie it back & no fancy hair-dos here. Depending on how much time you are planning on spending on the beach, you may want to tip the beach boy $20 at the start of the week to have him reserve a hut for you, they go quick. It may or may not work, sometimes better at certain resorts than others, you can always give it a shot.

Shopping

Shopping in Aruba for Americans is no bargain, especially if you have ever been to St. Thomas or St. Martin. Oranjestad is where the majority of the stores are located, but in recent years there have been a number of new malls popping up in the Palm Beach area all within walking distance of the highrise resorts. If shopping is a must there is Little Switzerland, Colombian Emeralds, Maggie's Perfume, jewelry galore, cosmetics & local crafts. There is anything Dutch for souvenirs: think chocolate & cheeses. No K-Mart here, but there are indoor and outdoor shopping malls. When you need a break from shopping, there are tons of restaurants, most of them excellent. If you miss home, McDonald's, Wendy's, Burger King, Taco Bell- the whole run of fast foods are all within easy reach. The Aruban's love American fast food too!
We usually just skip shopping & pick up t-shirts at the airport on the way home. Inevitably it comes down to how much time you want to miss from the beach.
Also not to be missed is Aruba Aloe. They have their own store with a large selection, in addition their products are also sold all over the island. We have found their products to be the cheapest at the grocery store, but again, for selection head to their factory store.

Dining

If you are picky about eating times or want to make sure you get a specific hour or table, definitely call ahead to make your reservations. Crowded or not we make reservations. We figure, better safe than sorry. We usually eat about the same time and it does not cost anything extra to make a reservation in advance. Many of the outdoor restaurants book up in advance. Surely make advance reservations for places such as Passions on the Beach at the Amsterdam Manor, Flying Fishbone, Madame Janette, Barefoot, Simply Fish, Azul, Mirandi & Old Man & the Sea. Online Menus & Reservations

Nightlife

Casinos are all over the tourist areas in Aruba. I've always thought the nicest was at the Hyatt, but the Radisson’s casino is a close second. There are some resorts that have theme nights & Caribbean nights with limbo & carnival etc. There are also a few places that offer Vegas type shows.
If you looking to go out drinking, there are quite a few bars in Oranjestad and on Palm Beach streetside across the street from the high rise resorts. Also check out the Tattoo Party Cruise or Kukoo Kunuku. Kukoo Kunuku is a hand painted, one of a kind Bus. You are picked up at your hotel for a bar hopping tour. The tour begins with a sunset champagne toast, dinner at a local restaurant & then hops bar to bar until midnight.
A nice bottle of wine on the beach after dinner, just the two of you, is always nice too! It all depends on what you like. Resorts have local women with references, available for hire as babysitters.

Documentation

You will need a passport. You will watch the plane takeoff for Aruba without you if you do not have the proper Documentation. Upon arrival in Aruba always keep the originals & other valuables in a in a safe deposit box. Photo copy your passport or birth certificate & driver's license & pack & keep those copies separate from the originals. Upon arrival in Aruba always keep the originals in a safe deposit box, except of course your driver's license if you are getting behind the wheel. Chances are it will not happen, but does makes things easier if you should you misplace or loose one of your documents.

Tidbits

Don't forget to always change the battery inside of your camera & video camera before you leave- I learned that lesson the expensive way while on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean. Replace batteries & bring double the amount of film you think you will need. Make sure that the battery in your dive watch is okay, & if you want to wear it diving, have it pressurized before your vacation. When was the last time that you had your dive regulator serviced? If you plan on snorkeling, pick up at least one disposable underwater camera.
Look for coupon handouts at various locations around the island starting with the exit at the airport terminal. Also look for them at your hotel, the car rental companies, Bon Bini festival, & other locations. You will find offers from many restaurants, timeshares, stores, casinos, etc.
Crime in Aruba is not a problem but it is present. Take the same precautions as you would at home. At night do not walk alone or in unlit areas. If you rent a vehicle lock your stuff in the trunk, don't leave anything within sight. Use the safe in your room. My Mom had her bag slashed while touring Italy & was thankful she had only ONE credit card & $5 cash; everything else from her wallet was back in the hotel in the safe. Her worst loss was her reading glasses! With one phone call to the credit card company her problem was taken care of.

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