Trip Report, Tips and Reviews Studio Divider Bar

February 3-13, 2001
These are personal impressions from a first time, nine-day vacation in Aruba. The success of our trip was mostly due to all the great information shared with others on the Internet. We're not the typical tourists but still have some useful and unique information to share.

Travel and Customs
We flew US Airways from Albany, NY just missing 10 inches of snow that fell on the capital district area. The flight was uneventful and entry in the country was quick and easy. I had a passport and Cindi had her driver's license and birth certificate. On the plane we were given an entry document to fill out and one used for leaving the island.

We weren't sure what to expect leaving the island so we arrived two hours early at the airport. It was plenty of time. Once checking in with the airlines we proceeded to immigration which checked our ID's and then we passed the last shopping, eating and gift area before US Customs. This was great because it meant we wouldn't have to go through customs again in the US. We picked up our checked bags, showed our ID's again and then put our bags back on a new carrousel. Nobody ever looked through our bags but I guess it can happen to anyone.

Where to Stay
Most of the resort hotels are on the western end of the island. What they call the high-rise resorts are located on Palm Beach. You'd have to be a pretty cranky person not to enjoy any of the hotels on Palm Beach. If you're looking for the best I'd have to say Marriott, Hyatt or Radisson depending on your personal preferences. The Marriott and Radisson have the best beach area. They have a much larger and cleaner beach area. The Radisson has a huge property and was recently remodeled. The Hyatt's pool area has a little more to offer in atmosphere and includes a cool water slide. Unfortunately, the Hyatt was sandwiched between the Playa Linda and the Allegro. Except for the Marriott all the hotels are connected with a walkway so you have plenty of choices for places to eat and shop. The Marriott is separated a little which good and bad. You have to walk on some beach sand to get to the other hotels but it's not far, and gives the Marriott more privacy.

The so called low-rise resorts on Eagle Beach all looked top rate as well but in many cases guests had to cross the street to enjoy the beach.

The hot ticket in town was the Sonesta Beach Resort. The Sonesta is known for having it's own 40 acre island which makes up for its lack of beach. If you like to be where the action is, this might be the place. You just have to allow for a little more noise from traffic and proximity to the airport.

Aruba is another country! While it's amazing clean and safe they have their own set of rules. You can't turn right on red yet kids aren't required to be strapped into car seats

If you have a fear of Iguana's you won't want to go to Aruba. You'll be sharing the island and even the pool areas with these ugly yet harmless creatures. You don't bother them, they won't bother you.

Aruba doesn't have competition for long distance rates. Our hotel charged $5.00 a minute to call home to the US and always rounded up an extra minute. AOL hasn't updated all of its access number documents. They list one for Aruba but it's no longer active. In you need to check your Email, many resorts have Cyber Stations and in town there is a Cyber Cafe on the 2nd floor of Iguana Joes.

There is no sales tax which was great but there are additional taxes you should consider on your hotel bill. There is a 6% government tax, and a 11% hotel service charge. Keep this in mind especially if you're considering a hotel package that includes meals. Add 17% to what you think you'll spend on meals before you decide if an inclusive package will benefit you.

Dining and Pepsi
There are plenty of unique restaurants in Oranjestad, and the area surrounding the hotel. You'll want to check with other trip reports for fine dining advice since we're plain eaters and tend stick with hotel buffets, My biggest concern was if they were going to have Diet Pepsi. I was pleased that unlike Walt Disney World, there was plenty of Pepsi in Aruba. Unfortunately, it wasn't the same quality. There was a definite citrus taste similar to the old PepsiLite. The other problem was that NutraSweet breaks down when exposed to heat. So depending on how it was stored some diet drinks had the aftertaste you get from diet drinks sold past their date.

Taxis were clean and have a set rate for a trip from one area to another. There's no meter. The trip from the airport to the Marriott was $18. Leaving the hotel, there was always a taxi available to take us back to the airport or into town.
Buses were great. They passed by all the hotels every 20 minutes so going into town was a piece of cake. It cost $1.25 to go from our hotel to the bus station in Oranjestad in the heart of the shopping and restaurant district. There were plenty of bus stops along the way. Just look for the yellow "Bushalte" signs.
Rental Car availability is plentiful and competitive. We rented a car one day just to tour the island and that really gave us a flavor of the island. If you really want to see all the island sites you might consider a three-day rental but I enjoyed the pool and beaches much more.

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