Oranjestad very recently installed a small tram system, making it feel even more like a European city. The tram runs from the cruise terminal, through the downtown shopping area, and is free, so you can hop on and off as you please. So if you get lost, or tired of walking, you can hop on the tram.
We rode it one stop, just for the experience. It's nothing too fancy, but not a bad way to get around.
The one cool thing about is, is that it has two stories, so you can sit on top, and get some nice views of the streets.
Here is a map of the tram's route.
- Budget Travel
Downtown Oranjestad is very small, and most streets are traffic free from morning until around 3:00, so Oranjestad is very easy to explore on foot. Once you get here, exploring the town on foot, is the most logical option.
We made a few visits to Oranjestad, and each time, we were dropped off somewhere, than walked around.
If you get tired, or lost, you can always hop on the free tram.
- Hiking and Walking
Aside from walking, the Arubus is the cheapest way to get to Oranjestad. All buses go to Oranjestad, and cost 4 florins, $2.39. You can pay in either, but it is easier to pay in florins, because the numbers are whole.
The bus runs all along the western coast of the island, as far north as Arashi Beach, as far south as Baby Beach, and as far inland as Santa Cruz. The bus route runs from Arashi Beach, all the way to Oranjestad, and from St. Nicolas, all the way to Oranjestad. If you want to go beyond Oranjestad, you have to change buses, so pretty much any bus you hop on, will take you to Oranjestad. Getting to Oranjestad was easy, but getting back can be a bit difficult, because the buses all depart from the same station, so you have to figure out which one is yours.
The bus schedule is a bit confusing, but not necessary, since they run about every 20 minutes, accept on Sundays. There are schedules listed at the bus station in Oranjestad, for each route. They pretty much run the entire day, from 6 AM to around midnight.
Stops are very frequent. If you go to Google Maps, you can print out maps with all the bus stops. A few have benches and cover, but most of them aren't even marked. They're basically just niches in the road, where it can pull over. After you've seen them a few times, you will figure the stops out.
Buses will only stop at a stop, if they see a passenger, or if someone presses the stop button, which you must do, if you want to get off. Otherwise, they just cruise along to their final destination, so we got to Oranjestad very quickly. The bus was almost empty, but on the way back, there were two buses going to Noord, and they were both packed, mostly with tourists. The driver actually had to kick some tourists off, so local students could get on to go to school. Please be respectful of local passengers. This is their island, their bus, so they have first priority. For many locals, this is their main source of transportation to school and work, so please be courteous and give them first priority. You don't NEED to take the bus, they do. You can take a taxi. If you can afford to stay in Mariott Hotel, you can afford $10 cab ride.
- Budget Travel
Take A Taxi From Noord
The easiest, and fastest way to get to Oranjestad from Noord, is to take a taxi. It costs $10, and is about a 10 minute ride.
There are plenty of taxis, and they are very easy to get. All you have to do is wave at them, and if they are free, they will stop for you. If they don't, it means they are full. Just hang tight, because sometimes they will dispatch a free cab for you. Sometimes, they will even honk at you, if they see you walking. If you want a ride, just wave at them. Either way, getting a cab at any hour of the day, is not a problem.
Once you're in Oranjestad, you have no need for one. The downtown area is very small, and everything is within walking distance. We had our driver drop us off in front of the Royal Plaza, than we walked everywhere from them.
When you are ready to go back to your hotel, just walk along the main road, and wave at a cab.
All prices are fixed, and the drivers are very well oriented, and speak 4 languages, so you don't have to worry about getting lost, or ripped off. Prices are in USD, and most cab drivers on the island prefer USD, but they will take florins too, of course. No Euros though.
The cab drivers in Oranjestad are a bit rude, and won't talk to you, though we did meet one that was really friendly, but the cab drivers in Noord, were all very friendly. They like to talk to you, answer questions, and sometimes even joke around with you. They are very knowledgeable, so you can learn a lot about the island. Anything you want to know, just ask.
If you want, you can arrange for the same driver to pick you up, but because cabs are so plentiful, it is not necessary.
Driving Is Not A Good Idea
Driving in Oranjestad is not a good idea. The streets are a bit chaotic, there are a lot of one way streets, and finding parking can be very difficult.
Cabs are easy to hail, and Arubus runs frequently. The town is very small. It is better to take a cab or bus to Oranjestad, then explore the town on foot.
Taking A Taxi From The Airport
Taking a taxi from the airport, to your hotel, is a bit different than it is in most places. At most airports, you just walk outside, and grab an availiable cab, but here you actually have to find a taxi stand, and order a cab. There were several cabs parked outside, but we were told to go to the taxi stand, and so was everyone else, so we did.
It is not very complicated. You walk up, tell the person where you want to go, and he will give you a slip, with the price, and all the rates. prices are in USD. From airport to Noord, costs $22. In my opinion it is a bit pricey. From Oranjestad to Noord, only costs $11, so I don't know why it costs twice as much for the airport, but either way, rates are fixed, so there is no negotiating.
Taxi ride shouldn't be longer than 15-20 minutes, but it can take longer if your driver decides to take the scenic route. Either way, the price is fixed, so you don't have to worry about him ripping you off.
Tipping the cab driver is not neccessary here. I am not sure what you do with the slip. We kept ours, but our driver seemed to be searching the car for something when we got out, so maybe we are supposed to give them to him, I have no idea, since we only did this once.
There are taxi stands in other places too, but they are not neccessary to use. We only had to go this at the airport. Anywhere else in the city, or on the island, you can just hail a cab. These are mainly designed so people who don't have a phone, can order a taxi.
Take A Cruise
I am not too crazy about cruises, but a cruise actually wouldn't be a bad way to explore Oranjestad. Cruises usually dock for around 7.5-8 hours, that is more than enough time to see the city. We walked around for an hour, took a 2 hour submarine tour, than came back, and still had enough time to shop, eat, and see the main attractions. We were in Oranjestad for around 7 hours, about as long as a cruise stop, so you could explore the entire city on a cruise stop, easily.
This seems to be quite a popular port of call. We once saw 2 cruise ships arrive on the same day.
There are some that arrive in the morning, and leave in the afternoon, and there are some that arrive at 1, and leave around 10 o'clock, at night, so people can attend the Bon Bini Festival. So whichever one you choose, you will easily be able to see the most important sites in the city, and still have time to shop and eat.
The only other way to get to the island is to fly, but if you're only interested in seeing the city, or just want to add Aruba to your map, a cruise would be perfect for you.
Try to find a cruise that arrives here on Tuesday, at 1, and leaves at 10, so you can attend the Bon Bini Festival.
The only con is, you will miss out on a lot of amazing things, outside the city.
Unless you own your own boat, or are on a cruise, the only way to get to Oranjestad from the mainland, is to fly.
There are several direct flights from the East Coast, Florida, South America, and even the Netherlands. There are also daily flights from the neighboring islands of Curacao and Bonaire.
If you were planning to day trip to Oranjestad from Venezuela, or another island, forget it. Airport customs takes such a long time, that flying here, site seeing, and flying back in the same day, is not possible.
Take the bus around parts of Aruba. The main depot is in Oranjestad and there are maps and bulletin boards to tell you how to get to places. Cost is $2US (2005 prices). You just hand the cash over to the driver. No fare box. He even gives change if necessary. Then go through the turnstyle, take a seat and hold on. The bus drivers are crazy. On our way back to Oranjestad, he even cut through this dirt road parking area just to avoid a traffic jam on the road. But it's a cheap mode of transport and that's a good thing in Aruba where things are quite expensive.
Busses run frequently between the resort district in Palm Beach and Eagle Beach to the Central Bus Station in Oranjestad. The bus transportation system is good, the busses are brand new, comfortable and mostly airconditioned. A return ticket Oranjestad Resort district will cost you $1,75.
The bus will take 10 minutes from the resort district to reach Oranjestad. A rise in travelling time will depend on rush hour traffic and the amount of people standing at the bus stops. A bus schedule can be given at the Central Bus Station or you can find a hug bus schedule at the bus stops infront of the hotels.
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