5 Things To Know When Visiting Curacao
I am a firm believer in being prepared for as much as possible when it comes to travel. Between currency exchange rates and immigration requirements, I always research as much as possible about the country we are visiting to be sure there are no surprises.
When we traveled to the Southern Caribbean island of Curacao, our homework was done, and we knew what to expect, for the most part. We did have a few surprises, such as driving and navigating the island initially, but once we got our bearings, our time there was fantastic.
Here are 5 key things that you should know when planning a trip to the island.
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Along with a passport, the Embarkation-Disembarkation (ED) Card is a card that every non-resident visitor to Curaçao needs to fill out before going through immigration. In the past, this card was handed out before landing on the island. Nowadays, it is done via the internet, hence the online ED Card.
The ED card information can be completed up to 30 days before arrival in Curacao, so it is one less thing to worry about when you get there. Once we completed our form online, we saved the files to our computer and printed it before our trip. This enabled us to zip right through the lines at immigration and right to the rental car counter in a matter of 15 minutes.
You can fill out your ED Card on edcardcuracao.com.
While the Dutch Gilder is the official currency of Curacao, the American dollar and the Euro are widely accepted within the major areas, such as Willemstad’s capital city. Smaller outlying towns may not be as accepting since converting back to the Gilder may be more difficult for them. As always, if you’re plans include staying off the beaten path, always check.
Most stores on the island, including grocery stores, accept major credit cards such as Visa and Mastercard, but we did not notice many that accepted Discover or Amex. If you plan on traveling with a Discover or Amex card, I recommend checking to ensure it is accepted where you intend to use it or plan on using good old cash or traveler’s checks instead.
We did find that even in some of the towns outside of the capital, such as Boca Sami, the restaurants accepted Visa, as did the charter we took to Klein Curacao.
You will need cash if you plan on renting a vehicle for your trip since the fuel stations on the island do not accept credit or debit cards at all.
3. Getting Around
While there are no ride-sharing services such as Uber or Lyft on the island, there is a bus service. Of course, you would need to know the routes, schedules, etc., to take full advantage of the service.
If you’re staying at a resort, you could always check with the front desk and find out if they offer a shuttle service to attractions or perhaps the capital city. Either way, you’re at the whim of someone else’s schedule, so going on adventures on your own may be a bit more limited.
We opted to rent a car for our trip since we knew we would be doing quite a bit of diving and sightseeing. When renting a vehicle, I recommend you consider all the activities you may be doing while on the island when deciding the car’s size. Many of the cars are compact or sub-compact in size, making it challenging to travel with tanks and gear.
Another option to consider when renting a car is whether you want an automatic or manual transmission. There are many hills on the island, along with what seems like endless traffic circles, and unless you’re willing to be shifting gears constantly, an automatic transmission can be a blessing.
While your personal auto insurance may cover a rental car at home, they typically do not cover rentals in foreign countries. Purchasing optional vehicle insurance when renting the car is always a good idea. Nothing can ruin a great trip faster than a costly expense due to an auto accident.
4. Finding Your Way
When we arrived on the island, for some strange reason, I thought my Google Maps would work since I had paid extra for international data through my cell phone company. I was very wrong, and we nearly didn’t make it from the airport to our home for the week.
Fortunately, we had our diving map with us, which was just enough to find our accommodations for the week.
After arriving at our home for the week, our lovely hostess told us of an app called Maps.me and what a savior that was for our trip.
The Maps.me app is an offline map system in which you download a map of your area, similar to Google Maps. We used the service the entire time we were on the island, and it was 100% accurate down to the unit of measurement for driving kilometers.
The app also has options for sightseeing, shopping, restaurants, and many other activities, along with route guides.
The app works worldwide, so regardless of where you are traveling, you can always access a map for your destination and never be lost again.
We don’t tend to spend a lot of money on food when we travel. Even when we stay at resorts, we keep our food budget low to have more of our travel budget to spend on excursions and adventures.
Besides the many restaurants on the island, there are also a few different grocery stores to choose from. Some are similar to what we have here in the U.S., and others are like a convenience store you would typically see as part of a gas station.
Although groceries cost a bit more expensive, we expected that since we were on an island. Regardless of the cost difference, we still found that we saved a considerable amount of money on food since we prepared our own meals for most of our stay.
There are 2 main grocery store chains on the island, Centrum and California Supermarkets. They are similar to a North American grocery store with their selections, and we recognized many brands that we have here in the U.S.
We found that the Centrum supermarket was perfect for our needs and we were able to find everything we wanted with little difficulty. The biggest struggle we had was with reading labels on packaged meat since they were in Dutch. Fortunately, the store has a fresh meat counter to buy chicken, fish, and even hot dogs easily.
The one thing we did notice is that some perishable items do not last as long as we expected them to. Some items didn’t last, but a few days in the fridge after we purchased them, so we had to replenish a few times throughout the week which got a bit costly.
Whether you’re headed to Curacao as a cruise ship stop or for a week, knowing what to expect can make the trip all that easier. Hopefully, these tips will help you with your travel adventure to Curacao.
For even more information on the lovely island of Curacao, I recommend visiting the Curacao visitor’s website.