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Aruba Notes

Index

A quick fact sheet

Aruba Tourist Guides
Camera Film and X-Ray Machines
Dress Attire
Gay Bars
Government Structure
Prostitution
Resort Beaches
Restaurant Service Charge & Tipping
Snorkeling
Snorkeling Cruises
Sun Strength
Tanzanite Jewellery
Transportation
Toplessness
Water Temperature

Sunset at Manchebo Beach Resort

Aruba Tourist Guides
When you arrive at Aruba's airport, make sure to pick up the free Aruba tourism guides and coupon books at the desk down at Baggage Claim. These books are full of 2-for-1 meal specials, 40-70% discounts on jewellery and other goods, free t-shirt/glass of champagne with meals, free match play coupons for the casinos, free ferry transfer to De Palm Island, etc. It is well worth your time to sit out on your room balcony during your first evening in Aruba and go through these books to tear out all the coupons.
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Camera Film and X-Ray Machines
On Saturday, March 14, 1998 the Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning to airline travelers to the effect that newly installed x-ray equipment, that screens CHECKED baggage, will fog photographic film and advised all passengers to keep film, both exposed and unexposed, with them in their carry on luggage. The FAA has stated that this equipment is not at every airport and will not, for security reasons, state where it is installed. Airline Passenger Advocacy Groups are advising travelers to place their film in a clear plastic baggie, remove it from their carryon and request that it be manually inspected when going through the security station. Please be advised that as an airline passenger, you have the absolute right to have your bags manually inspected if they contain anything that could be damaged by x-ray equipment.

Many people say that going through the x-ray machine at an airport will not hurt film; I say why take any chances on having your beautiful photos ruined, especially if you have to change planes multiple times and go through numerous x-ray machines, when you can simply pass around your camera and film to be inspected by hand - it only takes a moment. If you really want to play it safe take along a film shield bag which should hold about 10 rolls of film.
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Dress Attire
You will find the full range of dress in Aruba. Some of the more expensive restaurants require dressier attire (dresses and dress pants & shirts), while most allow shorts. Swimwear is for the beach area only and is frowned upon in the downtown area. The casinos can be a bit chilly with the air-conditioning, so a light sweater might be a good idea. The most versatile outfit for a woman is a sleeveless collared top and shorts for beach/downtown, with a wrinkle-resistant polyester/nylon long skirt rolled up in your purse/beachbag. This is dressy enough for most restaurants, but cool and easily changeable into a shorts outfit. Guys will do fine with a pair of dress pants and one dress shirt and tie for expensive dining, and dockers/chinos, golf shirts and pleated shorts for casual dining. You will not need a jacket. Pack only half the clothes you are thinking about taking (you won't wear half the clothes you pack, trust me). Take a handful of mix-and-match items, but be sure to pack an extra swimsuit or two. Bring lots of tank tops and beach cover-ups.

If you're going to be doing a lot of snorkeling, wear a t-shirt into the water to avoid burning your back badly while floating around in the water.
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Gay Bars
Most frequented bars by residing and/or visiting gays/lesbians are: The Cellar/The Penthouse (aka The Attic), Jimmy's and Whiskey.
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Government Structure
On January 1, 1986 Aruba became a separate entity within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Prior to that date, Aruba was a member of the Netherlands Antilles, which comprised the group of Six Dutch Caribbean islands. With Aruba's new status, the Kingdom of the Netherlands has three separate components of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba. The government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands is responsible for the defense and foreign affairs of the Kingdom. Other government tasks are carried out by each country itself. The Kingdom of the Newtherlands is a hereditary constitutional monarchy. The system of government of Aruba is predicated on western democratic principles, its system of laws and traditions.

The structure of Aruba's government is now as follows: Aruba has a Governor appointed by the Queen of the Kingdom for a term of office consisting of six years who acts as the representative of the sovereign on the island. The Legislature consists of a parliament which comprises 21 members who are elected by universal suffrage for terms of office not exceeding four years. The Council of Ministers forms the executive power, and is presided over by a Prime Minister. Jurisdiction in Aruba lies with a Common Court of Justice of Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles and a Supreme Court of Justice in the Netherlands. (Government info by Pat Haueter)
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Prostitution
Prostitution is legal in Aruba and is treated as a respected profession that must adhere to regulations and health standards. The majority of the brothels are in San Nicolas. There are no massage parlors. The island has done a good job of keeping prostitution away from family vacationers at the resort hotels, so unless you read about this somewhere you'd never notice it at all.
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Resort Beaches
All beaches, including ones in front of the resorts, are free to the public (with the exception of Sonesta Island). However, the resorts' beach huts, lounge chairs, and pool areas are often off-limits to all non-guests (some resorts are more visitor-friendly than others). The resorts can tell guests from non-guests according to the beach towel a person has with them. Each resort has its own color-coded towels, roughly the size of large bath towels. Each resort usually offers 1 or 2 towels per person at their towel hut or guest desk to be returned there at the end of the day (these towels are separate from room towels, which are replaced by housekeeping). If you plan to lay out on the sand and sunbathe, you will probably want larger towels and therefore may want to bring your own.

As a side note, some of the beaches are narrowing (some Palm Beach areas) while some are widening (Manchebo Beach), still others narrow and widen with the ocean currents (Divi Divi, Tamarijn).

Beaches down beyond Manchebo tend to be a little rocky; Palm Beach has very few, if any, rocks.
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Restaurant Service Charge & Tipping
Many of the restaurants in Aruba will automatically add a 15% service charge to your bill. Some waitstaff will also try to get you to leave a tip besides this. People are often confused as to whether or not to leave a tip. Here's how one Hotel Food & Beverage Director explained it: the 15% service charge goes to the 'trunk' which is split among the front waiters/back waiters to their paychecks. If you decide to leave something extra cash AFTER you already paid, then that is what the server is allowed to keep to her/himself. So straight to her/his pocket not to the 'trunk'. You decide. The Aruba Marriot does not have this system.

Many restaurant menus have in fine print at the bottom a statement that a portion of the 15% gratuity goes towards insurance and breakage. Since the whole 15% does not go to the "trunk" the servers receive less, therefore if you feel you have received excellent service an additional gratuity is always appreciated. There are also a few restaurants that do not add the 15% and say so in fine print, leaving the whole tip thing up to the patron.
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Sun Strength
A word of caution: the sun is very intense as you'll be only 800 miles from the equator. Because of the constant cooling tradewinds, however, the sun doesn't feel as hot as it really is and you will not feel yourself burning until it's too late. Don't chance spending your once-in-a-lifetime vacation in agony for a little extra color. Remember - a tan is something your skin generates in an attempt to protect itself from more radiation after it has already been damaged. The more you tan, the more irreversible damage you have done to your skin. I don't mean to be preachy but skin cancer is one of the fastest growing cancers out there. If you lay out in the sun, be sure to bring with you and use a very high SPF waterproof sunscreen (higher than SPF 30 for light-coloured skin). Use sunscreen everywhere - I've heard of people badly burning the tops of their ears, tops and soles of their feet, bald spots, etc. (don't forget a little under the swimsuit edges as swimsuits tend to shift around). Reapply often and cover up with some colorful caribbean beachwear.
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Tanzanite Jewellery
As Aruba imports most of its items, there are not many items that are associated with Aruba. Tanzanite jewellery, however, is becoming the favorite item to bring home as an Aruban keepsake. You will see large displays of it in every jewellery store you visit. Tanzanites (name coined by Tiffany's) were discovered in the 1960's, and are more rare than emeralds, rubies, etc. Tanzanites are plentiful in the Caribbean, but you won't usually see them in your local stores.

Tanzanite comes from only one location - Tanzania - and only one mountain - divided into four quadrants - 'produces' the gemstone. Tanzanite prices have increased from last year due to a mine collapse in April 1998 that killed 78 miners, resulting in the temporary closure of the mine. Political instability in Tanzania has also contributed to the fluctuations of tanzanite prices over 1998.

You'll find tanzanite of all qualities in Aruba - aim for stones of a strong blue-violet colour - and avoid those usually smaller stones that are a light purple. Colour, good strong colour is the primary feature of selecting good tanzanites. The deeper the blue color and larger the stone, the more valuable it is. For instance, a lighter purplish/blue smaller gem (under 3 carats) may cost only about $100-$200 per carat. Likewise, a deeper blue 3-10 carat stone may cost between $300- $500 per carat and a deep blue/violet stone over 10 carats will probably be $750 per carat.

Tanzanite somewhat softer than other gems hence should be used in jewelry where physical contact is minimal, i.e. earrings and pendants as opposed to rings. If used in rings it should be recessed. Also, NEVER use an ultrasonic cleaner on Tanzanite as it might be ruined and/or cracked. Simply clean tanzanite with a baby toothbrush and liquid handsoap.

In addition to Sean/Noble jewellers, check out Gemani (on Main Street) and Diamonds International (in Seaport Mall) for high quality stones. In the Aruba welcome books you can pick up at the airport you will find coupons for almost every store in Aruba. People will also hand out discount coupons on the streets. Take every coupon you get, pick out the highest discount, and have that and a few other coupons in hand when you go into the jewellery store. Employees will usually beat the coupon price. I started out with a 60% coupon and left the store with a 75% discount on my ring. I ended up paying $100 on a $400 ticketed ring (although it's a lower-quality purplish hue - I'm not an expensive-jewellery buyer, just wanted a souvenir). Just a note - the "Heart of the Ocean" necklace in the Titanic movie was made out of tanzanite for the movie.
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Toplessness
Toplessness is illegal in Aruba, but is tolerated in most beach areas. Sonesta Island has an official "adult" topless beach along with a family beach; Manchebo beach area has highest percentage of topless, as well as some highrise areas. Toplessness is not tolerated around pool areas. The Holiday Inn also has an abundance of topless from the South American and European guests. Walking topless along the beach is not permitted. The Playa Linda does not allow any topless on the beach.
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Transportation
There are many car rental outlets both at the airport and in the hotels. There is also a very good public bus system that runs between the resorts, the downtown area and the airport, and I believe down to San Nicolas. One-way fares are currently $1.25 US. Using the bus saves you the hassle of parking downtown or worrying about car theft or damage. Many people opt to rent a car or jeep for a day for island touring and use the bus the rest of the time.

If you'll be using the bus instead of a rental car to get around, you can save a little money and hassle by buying a package of 20 one-way tickets for $20.00 at the Post Office--these are valid for one week. A single roundtrip-fare is US $2.00 for same day commute. The bus run between Palm Beach and Oranjestad goes daily from 6 am through 12 midnight. Monday to Saturday - every half hour 6 am - 6 pm and every hour from 6 pm - 12 midnight. Sundays and Holidays - every hour from 6 am - 6 pm and every two hours from 6 pm - 12 midnight.

Renting mopeds/motorbikes/bicycles for driving is not recommended as the roads get very slippery from the hot sun and the wind blowing sand over the road, many streets are not well posted, and there are some wild drivers (local and tourist). When we visited, vehicles passed our bus on all sides, honked instead of signalling for right-of-way, and drove way past the speed limit. Some days driving was fine - some days it was scary. Leave the mopeds/bikes to the experienced.

Bus vs. Taxi from Airport

A cab is quicker, but about $16 or $18 to where your hotel is. The De Palm bus takes you to your hotel, but drops others off on the way and if yours is one of the furthest down, it may take about 45 minutes to get to your hotel...but your luggage? That may take several hours since they stack them outside the airport according to hotel, load them on a separate truck and wait for several charters to come in and THEN they deliver. Your hotel will send up your luggage once it arrives. Make sure to pack your swimsuit in your carry-on. The bus ride to the resorts gives you a quick peek at part of the resort, however, and if you visit during off-season, there may only be a handful of people on the bus and you'll get to the resorts pretty quick. Travelling during high-season or during national holidays? Definitely take a taxi.

Try checking out www.bonbini2aruba.com. This taxi company will set you up in advance via e-mail so that there will be a car waiting just for you and will not take any other jobs. They will have a sign with your name on it and will take you right to the resort. A sample ride to the Allegro costs $9.00 for them to wait for you and $16.00 for the ride. It may be more expensive, but you won't have to fight for a taxi.

Taxi Fares: There are three different entities, there is TASS, ATT and the individual drivers. The first two charge by what their association/company puts forth, which is a combination of the government's set fare plus additional dollar charges when it's after midnight, Sundays or holidays. The independent ones go by what the Transportation Department suggests to charge (government set fares). This explains why there may be a difference in the taxi fares.
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Water Temperature
The average water temperature in Aruba is 89 degrees F., with cooler temperatures reported in the early months of the year. The primary reason why the water is sometimes cold on Aruba in March is because of a cold stream that runs beneath the ocean through out the Caribbean in the months of March, April, May, and June. These are also the driest months on the island because clouds do not develop as much on seas where the water surface is cold. This, together with the strong upper level winds, prohibit some cloud formations.

The secondary reason why the water is cold at certain times in March is because of cold fronts that come of the East Coast of the US and extend all the way down towards the Caribbean, sometimes as far reaching as Aruba. As cold fronts can cause ocean turbulence and strong sea currents, Aruba sometimes experiences seaweed on shore, reduced water visibility, and jellyfish early in the year. The cold water and seaweed is not only to be encountered on Aruba, however. Many islands in the Caribbean are also facing similar problems with seaweed and cooler ocean temperatures during these months.

In contrast to this are the months of July towards December where the ocean streams of the Caribbean become warmer and the upper level winds are favourable for cloud formation. Consequently, these are the months for formation of hurricanes in the Caribbean or in the Atlantic Ocean, and also the Caribbean's rainy season starts kicking up.
(info from Eddy Ramou, of "Eddy's News" at Aruba BB website)
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This site went online 1999.
Photos by Patti MacK copyrighted 1999 and may not be used without permission.

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As information may not always be up-to-date, you are advised to use it as a guideline only. You will find e-mail and website addresses, as well as phone and fax #s included on this site - please use them to contact the particular resort/restaurant/business in person to confirm times, prices, and details. The webmaster, site owner, and Internet provider assume no responsibility for any damages or claims resulting in use of information contained in this site. If, in spite of every precaution, any copyrights have been infringed in this site or any borrowed photo uncredited, your notification with respect to photo credit or removal will be greatly appreciated.