10 things to know before going to Curaçao

Written by Alina Doodnath – August 6, 2019

Photos: Alina Doodnath
Photos: Alina Doodnath

With the launch of twice-weekly flights to Curaçao via Caribbean Airlines, Trinis are eager to explore the colourful scenery, shopping, food and beautiful beaches of Curaçao.

Settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, the island now has a decidedly European influence with Dutch being one of the main languages spoken on the island alongside Spanish, Papiamento and English.

There are a few cultural differences between Trinidad and Tobago and Curaçao, so stay prepared by following these simple tips before and during your vacation:

(Photo: Alina Doodnath)

1. Let your bank know you’re travelling

If you intend to use your credit card, notify your bank ahead of time of the dates you’ll be travelling and where you’ll be going. With the rise of credit card fraud, many banks may freeze your card if they see unusual activity. Once you’ve notified your bank, you’ll be free to shop and dine hassle-free during your trip.

(Photo: Alina Doodnath)

2. Top up your data package

Cliff-jumping off Kenepa Beach? Share your Insta-worthy clip using a seven-day Digicel Caribbean Roaming Passport package which includes free calls to home*, free data browsing* to DigiRoam Territories and other perks.

*Conditions apply.

3. Stock up on Gulden (or USD)

Curaçao’s main currency is the Netherlands Antilles guilder (Florin) however they also accept USD. When shopping, most items will list the price in Florins and in USD. The exchange rate is approximately US$1 to ANG$1.79.

(Photo: Alina Doodnath)

4. Don’t forget your adapter

Power outlets in Curaçao are European featuring round pronged outlets as opposed to the outlets in T&T which use flat parallel pins.  Don’t forget to take an adapter with you which will allow you to charge your electrical devices. Alternatively, you can check that your hotel can lend you one during your stay.

(Photo: Alina Doodnath)

5. Renting a car? Stay on the right

Drivers in Curaçao follow the Dutch system and most cars are right-hand drive and drivers stay on the right side of the road (as opposed to the left in T&T).

Please follow motor vehicle rules carefully; the speed limit is on average 40 kilometres per hour in built-up areas and 60-80 kilometres per hour outside of built-up areas, except where otherwise posted.

Don’t forget roundabouts, they’re counter-clockwise instead of clockwise.

Brush up on your Curaçao road safety rules here: https://bit.ly/2ThcfJW 

6. Tipping accepted 

Similar to the US, restaurants servers, porters, taxis and other businesses accept tips. According to Curacao.com, service charge is normally around 10 percent in restaurants and 12 percent in hotels (services charges are included in the bill).

“Tipping is left to your own discretion at all times and shows your appreciation for hospitality and services. Taxi drivers are usually tipped 10% of the fare, porters 1 ANG per bag, and waiters can be tipped between 5 percent and 10 percent of your bill,”the website said.

(Photo: The shops at Mambo Beach, Curacao. Photo: Alina Doodnath)

7. Prep for hot weather

Trinis may say they’re accustomed to hot weather but recent temperatures in Curaçao have soared to around 34 degrees Celsius (with a heat index of around 36 degrees Celsius).

Sun protection is essential, as is soothing gels and creams for after-sun treatments. Luckily, Curaçaoans trust the healing properties of the aloe vera plant, and there are many aloe vera lotions available for sale at supermarkets.

8. Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish or English?

Most Curaçaoans speak at least two languages and can speak or understand English. However, when shopping, most items will be listed in Dutch. Best to have your Google Translate app handy to scan labels and translate if needed.

(Photo: Curaçao’s Parliament or Parlamento di Kòrsou in Papiamento. Photo: Alina Doodnath)

Try learning some of these handy Papiamento phrases to show them how ‘dushi’ you are: https://bit.ly/2MGMqBC

9. Recycling

Many hotels, restaurants and other businesses in Curaçao focus on sustainability. Supermarkets usually do not offer plastic bags for grocery items, so take along a reusable bag with you. Hotels also offer paper straws and many places sort items for recycling – please don’t put your trash in the wrong bin.

(Photo: Alina Doodnath)

10. Getting around

Curaçao’s beaches are located mostly on the island’s west end, while the country’s capital, Willemstad, is toward the island’s east end. Most visitors choose to rent a car as taxi fares can be expensive.

Alternatively, travellers heading in and out of Willemstad can take the bus – bus fare averages around US$1. You can find a bus schedule online here: https://bit.ly/2MJNzIO 

Here’s hoping your Curaçao trip is dushi, bon vuelo!