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Piscadera Bay, Curaçao ©Miguelpalm
Curaçao is an attractive, arid, and largely flat island about 40 miles (64km) in length. The southern coastline is scattered with spectacular bays, beaches, and secluded coves and is more inhabited than the rugged northern shore where the weather-beaten terrain takes the brunt of the wind, and cliffs are pounded by the rough surf. The best beaches are scattered along the southwest coast where the calm, crystal clear water creates a tropical paradise for divers, snorkellers, and swimmers; towards the east are the largest bays, where the main port and historic capital city, Willemstad, is situated.
Curaçao is an ideal holiday destination for underwater lovers, as the excellent visibility, warm water, active reef conservation, and variety of diving and snorkelling sites rank the island among the most popular dive locations in the Caribbean. On land there are also several interesting sites to visit. There are the 'living' Hato Caves where centuries-old stalagmites and stalactites are still being formed; the protected wildlife reserves of Christoffel Park, encompassing Mount Christoffel, the highest point on the island, with fantastic views over the island from among the park's exotic flowers, bent trees, and blue iguanas; and the dramatic caverns carved out of the limestone cliffs by the crashing waves within Shete Boka National Park.
The capital city, Willemstad, has been a major international trading centre for centuries, its society a mixture of different nationalities, races, and cultures and its shops filled with goods from around the world. Old Willemstad dates from the 18th and 19th centuries and is one of the most remarkable historic areas in the Caribbean with charming alleys and superb Dutch colonial architecture housing restaurants, museums, shops, and hotels. Many of the beautiful Dutch buildings have been adapted to life in a hot and breezy climate and sport Caribbean-style shutters, porches, and verandas, lending further charm to the cheerfully painted historic structures.
Whether the days are spent in sun-soaked relaxation or by taking advantage of the endless activities on offer, on land or in the water, when the sun begins to set the trend is to slip into one of the bars, where happy hour is just the beginning of the night to come.
The international dialling code for Curaçao is +599. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0027 for South Africa). All local telephone numbers begin with 9 and are typically seven digits. Telephone cards for use at public phones can be purchased at post offices, roadside snack bars and petrol stations. The island is covered by a GSM 900/1800 network. Internet cafes are available.
911 (Police); 912 (Ambulance).
Dutch is the official language, but English and Spanish are widely spoken. The majority of islanders speak Papiamentu, a Creole language.
Travellers to Curaçao may import 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; two litres of alcohol; perfume; and gifts valued up to 100 florin without paying customs duty.
Electrical current is 127 volts, 50Hz. Two-pronged flat plugs are used.
The climate of Curaçao is idyllic, with plenty of sunny weather and high temperatures all year round. The heat is moderated by pleasant and almost constant trade winds blowing in from the east. The average annual temperature is 81°F (27°C). Curacao lies outside of the hurricane belt, but its tropical location does lay it open to suffering occasional violent storms. These can occur at any time of year. Generally rainfall can be expected between October and February, but it is light and usually falls at night.
The most popular time to visit Curacao is between December and April but this is mainly because people want to escape the colder weather in the northern hemisphere and there are school holidays at this time. The tourist low season, between May and November, is actually just as pleasant a time to visit Curacao with the beaches less crowded and accommodation generally cheaper.
On arrival, all visitors must demonstrate sufficient means of support while in Curaçao. Travellers are required to have a return or onward ticket to another destination, and all the documentation required for that journey. Visa extensions are possible. As part of the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI), all travellers going between the United States and Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean region, are required to present a passport or other valid travel document to enter or re-enter the United States. It is highly recommended that your passport has at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
United States citizens must hold a valid passport. No visa is required for stays of up to 180 days.
UK passport holders, irrespective of the endorsement regarding their national status, must hold a passport valid for the duration of intended stay in Curaçao. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
Canadian nationals must have a passport valid for the duration of intended stay in Curaçao. Passport exemptions are made for holders of a birth certificate issued to nationals of Canada, when accompanied by a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver's licence); and holders of a Certificate of Proof of Canadian Citizenship or Certificate of Naturalisation. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
Australian citizens must have a passport valid for the duration of intended stay in Curaçao. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
South African citizens must have a passport valid for the duration of intended stay in Curaçao, and must obtain a visa prior to entry. Passengers do not need a visa if they have a multiple-entry "C" visa issued by a Schengen Member State. This lasts for 90 days.
Irish nationals must have a passport valid for the duration of intended stay in Curaçao. No visa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
New Zealand nationals must have a passport valid for the duration of intended stay in Curaçao. No visa is required for stays of up to 90 days.
Curaçao has no tropical diseases like malaria (although mosquitoes can be a problem), and no vaccinations are necessary, although a vaccination for hepatitis A should be considered. Proof of a yellow fever vaccination is necessary for those arriving from infected areas. Sunburn is common. Tap water is distilled from the sea and is safe to drink. There are a number of medical centres on the island and a modern and well-equipped hospital, but medical insurance is still recommended. All in all, Curaçao is a very safe place to visit from a health point of view - just stay well hydrated and protect yourself from the sun.
Most visits are trouble free, but petty crime is on the increase and although tourist areas are generally safe it is advisable to take sensible precautions like not taking valuables to the beach or wandering alone off the main roads at night. The islands are used to smuggle drugs from South America to Europe and North America and visitors should not leave bags unattended or agree to carry packages for anyone.
Emergency Phone Number
911 (Police); 912 (Ambulance).
* For current safety alerts, please visit Foreign travel advice - GOV.UK or Travel.State.Gov
The official currency is the Netherlands Antilles Guilder or Florin (ANG or NAFl), which is divided into 100 cents. US currency is accepted everywhere and the Guilder is tied to the US Dollar. Large notes in US Dollars and Guilders may be hard to cash or find change for. Most major credit cards are widely accepted. Banks and exchange bureaux will change foreign currency and ATMs are available.
Exchange RateNot available.
Embassies of Curacao
Netherlands Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 244 5300.
Netherlands Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7590 3200.
Netherlands Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 237 5031.
Netherlands Embassy, Canberra, Australia: +61 (0)2 6220 9400.
Netherlands Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 425 4500.
Netherlands Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 269 3444.
Netherlands Embassy, Wellington, New Zealand: +64 4 471 6390.
Foreign Embassies in Curacao
United States Consulate General, Curacao: +599 9 461 3066.
United Kingdom Embassy, Willemstad, Curacao: +599 9 736 3914.
Topless sunbathing and nudity is illegal on the island, and beachwear is inappropriate away from the beach. Curacao is a self-proclaimed 'gay friendly' destination.
Curacao is an important centre of business in the Caribbean. Business tends to be conducted formally; punctuality is important and dress is smart and conservative. Greetings are usually accompanied by a handshake and business cards are exchanged. Although Dutch is the official language, Spanish and English are also widely spoken. Business hours are usually 7.30am to 12pm and 1.30pm to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
A 10 percent service charge is usually added to restaurant bills, but a few extra guilders as change is appreciated. Most hotels add a 12 percent service charge, and porters are usually tipped one or two guilders. It is customary to tip taxi drivers about 10 percent.
Public Holidays in Curacao
Map of Curacao
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