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Beginner’s Guide to Aruba

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Dear Deal Detective,

Let me pick your brain about Aruba. Is the Atlantis Submarine tour worth $90 in Aruba, or should we just take a glass bottom boat ride? Also, can you get around easily in Aruba saving money by taking the bus and not renting a car? If we do rent a car, do we need it the whole week or just for a day or two to see all the sites? It seems by the time you pay for all the tours, you can just rent the car. Do most of the resorts charge for parking there for a week if you are staying there? Are the traffic signs in English? Do they drive on the same side of the road as Americans do? There are so many languages there, I don’t know which is the most used. Just trying to be prepared.

—Karen

Dear Karen,

Aruba is an easy island for Americans to visit. While the official languages are Dutch and Papiamento, most locals also speak English and Spanish. Since Aruba is a popular spot for vacationing Americans, you can expect the hotel or resort staff to speak English fluently.

Whether you decide to rent a car or rely on public transportation depends on what you’re planning to do during your vacation. If your plans include beach time at your resort and occasional forays into Oranjestad for dining and shopping, you probably don’t need to rent a car. Aruba’s bus system is cheap and easy to use (although you’ll be dependent on the bus schedule), and taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, with trips costing about $8 to $10 each way from most hotels.

Driving in Aruba is easy, however, so if you want the freedom to explore the island on your own, you should definitely rent a car or a jeep for a few days. All you’ll need is a valid U.S. driver’s license. Arubans drive on the right side of the road (the same side as in the U.S.), and you can study up on road signs using this traffic tips guide. Don’t worry, the traffic signs aren’t much different than the signs back at home, but right turns on red lights are always prohibited. Most resorts don’t charge for parking, but you should check with your particular hotel. Finding parking spots around the island usually isn’t terribly difficult.

The Atlantis Submarine Expedition gets mixed reviews. Some visitors are wowed by the trip, while others are left feeling lukewarm (and nauseous from claustrophobia). Since $89 is a steep price, I suggest reading comments online on our sister site TripAdvisor before you book the tour. Atlantis also offers a $37 semi-submarine tour that may interest you.

Snorkeling trips in Aruba are less expensive, and several reviewers of the submarine tour mentioned seeing more fish while snorkeling than during the submarine tour. For example, a Jolly Pirates three-hour snorkel tour costs $28—including a 15-percent online booking discount—while a Red Sail snorkel trip starts at $44.

The Aruba Tourism Authority’s website is a helpful resource that can likely answer any further questions you might have about Aruba.

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