Moving around in Curacao can be a challenge, taxis are expensive and the roads are not the same as at home. We give you the best tips for car rental and driving in Curacao!
Don’t take taxis, rent a car
Renting a car and driving in Curacao is a great and inexpensive way to see the island. Taxis in Curacao are relatively expensive compared to renting your own car. A taxi trip from the airport to Jan Thiel or Coral Estate will set you back in the neighborhood of US$40, with surcharges for luggage on top.
Alternatively, car rental will run you US$30-40 per day and gives you unlimited access to the island. Though there are larger vehicles, like Jeeps, available, most rental cars are tiny sub-compacts which fit on the narrow roads quite well. Additionally, they do not burn through very much gasoline, keeping your transportation costs minimal.
When you arrive at the airport, there are many car rental booths. It is much better though to rent a car upfront via the internet at local companies like D&D car rental. They deliver the car for you at the airport and will pick it up when you fly back home.
Photo by: Ducks United Curacao (http://ducksunited.com/curacao/)
If you like to have a special Curacao car rental experience, we recommend renting a Citroen 2CV from Ducks United. These charming old-timer "ducks" with a manual gear are fun to drive on the Curacao roads!
What roads are like
The roads in Curacao are narrow, like many European streets, and twist and turn up and around and over the rolling hills. The drivers in Curacao will stop to let someone turn onto the street in front of them and stop to let many pedestrians cross the road, even if it is not a designated crossing.
However, the rest of the time their driving is fairly aggressive. The navigation and friendliness are made easier by the relatively low-speed limits.
Roundabouts keep traffic flowing fairly smoothly but ensure you know how to drive in them before departing. Turn signal use is relatively uncommon, due to the prevalence of the traffic circles and the natural flow they have.
Photo by: Curacao Chronicle
Outside of roundabouts, intersections are generally governed by yield signs, or by no signage at all. There are a few relatively unregulated, large intersections, which can be confusing.
Just pay attention and go where you need to go; drivers are used to different actions happening.
The tourist maps provided by most information centers and the rental car companies do not have very much detail. For example, they aren’t labeled with street names! That is okay as many of the streets aren’t labeled with their names either. Though the roads twist and turn, there are obvious main streets. For the most part, you can follow your nose and head in the general direction of your destination since you are on an island.
Some rental car companies like D&D Car Rental provide a free GPS. Alternatively, you can use the GPS on your mobile device. Curacao Roadmap, for instance, offers a high detail big map of Curacao. The map is stored locally on your device. It uses the device its GPS and can be used without an expensive mobile data network coverage. See our blog post 9 Great apps for the best vacation in Curacao for more information.
Do not leave anything visible inside your rental car when parking, and always try to leave nothing at all in the vehicle. There is some paid parking on the island, but there are places you can park for free in most locations.
When you go to Willemstad, the easiest place to park your car is at the Renaissance parking garage. Go right at the roundabout at the Rif Fort, then take the first left to the Renaissance hotel. There will be a guard at a barrier, just drive up and he will open it for you. Take a left to the free parking garage.
Gasoline is relatively inexpensive in Curacao, it costs about US$ 3.25 per gallon (September 2016).
If you have to refuel, you first have to go to the ticket office at the gas station to pay in advance. Mention the amount you like to spend and the pump number. Keep in mind that although credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, you can only pay cash at gas stations.
At some gas stations, friendly staff is ready to fill up your car. A small tip for these people is often rewarded with a generous smile.
Some more things to remember
If you're going to stop in Willemstad you will notice that there are lots of one-way streets. All one-way streets are clearly marked with a blue sign and arrow pointing in the direction you are allowed to drive.
The most important difference between driving in the US and Curacao is that you can't turn right on red; you have to wait for green arrows. Also, remember everything is kilometers and not miles per hour.
It is also very important to understand that the Curacao roads get very slippery when it rains. It is, therefore, important to slow down if it rains, even if it just drizzles. Cars on Curacao are often of significantly lower quality than cars in the US; they leak more oil. The oil on the road with the rain makes the roads extremely slippery on Curacao. It is, therefore, important to maintain distance, braking in a straight line (not in the curve) and to curve as smooth as possible. If one does not, then the car slides easily off the road which can cause a lot of damage.
You will with no doubt notice that all the locals slow down significantly at the first sign of rain.
Keeping the above in mind will make your car rental and driving experience in Curacao a safe and pleasant one!
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