Queen Beatrix International Airport is modern and well-organized. Most major carriers offer daily nonstop flights to and from the United States and other international destinations. Hotels cannot pick up arriving guests, but fixed-price taxi services are available upon arrival. Note that it can take a long time to clear Customs at the airport. Visas are not required for visitors from North America.
Traffic in Aruba’s towns can be maddening at rush hour, when it may seem that there are more cars on the roads than people on the island. Get away from the main thoroughfares, however, and you’ll feel like you have the entire island to yourself. If renting a car, be cautious of driving around when a cruise ship is in port; visitors often wander the streets without paying attention to traffic, which can be dangerous for all parties. A bicycle is a safer and more enjoyable way of exploring the island. Many hotels can arrange rentals for you.
Before the Spanish arrived in 1499, Aruba had been inhabited by Arawak peoples for centuries, the evidence of which can still be seen on cave walls. Ceded to the Dutch in 1636, Aruba remains a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Some 105,000 people from more than 90 different ethnic backgrounds now call Aruba home, and the festivals, cuisine, dress, and language (most of the locals you'll meet speak four or more languages) have been shaped by 500 years of colonial rule, trade, and tourism. Aruba is one of the friendliest and safest places in the Caribbean, and hosts nearly 100,000 guests at any one time.
Aruba’s festivals and events run the gamut from the raucous Aruba Carnival, one of the largest annual celebrations in the Caribbean, to sailing regattas, fishing tournaments, and art festivals. There is a variety of national holidays and traditional celebrations, including National Anthem & Flag Day (March 18); Dera Gai, or the “Burying of the Rooster” (June 24); and, of course, Carnival, which begins each year at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. Enjoy lavish parades, wild street dances, parties, and more during an event that runs from November 11 to December 31.
Shopping is an art on Aruba. With one of the largest deepwater ports in the Caribbean, the island welcomes some seriously large cruise ships. A rich selection of shopping arcades, design studios, and malls can satisfy the shopaholic in everyone. Tax and duty keep prices high, but quality is top-notch.
Tipping (15–20%) is expected at restaurants and for taxis, porters, and chamber services.