How To Get Around on Aruba Without Getting Taken for a Ride


Jul 29, 2003


The Bottom Line Don't waste your time waiting for the bus, and don't waste your money on taxis. Rental cars are cheap on Aruba and the driving is EASY!

Different strokes for different folks. It's the way of the world. Why should it be any different on Aruba?

You've basically got three options if you're on Aruba and you want to get around the island: 1) taxis, 2) buses, and 3) rental cars.

Sure you could walk everywhere, if you really wanted to, and there are a couple of places that will rent you a Harley if that's more your style, but I think it's pretty safe to say that 99 and 44/100ths percent of the fine folks reading this review will agree with me that there's really only three viable ways to get around.

Of the three, rental cars are the way to go!

The bus will work out to be cheaper, and it's not a bad choice if your only "getting around" consists of going from the hotel zone into Oranjestad -- after all Arubus only charges about a buck and the buses run every half hour from 5:30 in the morning through 11 at night. So if you're truly on the economy plan, or if you already have the airport transfers thrown into your vacation package, then what the heck, do the bus. The down side of the bus is that it isn't flexible. You're not going to be able to buzz around the island on your own whim, driving up to California Light, or heading to the southern tip of the island to see what's up in San Nicolas. To really get around, you're going to need your own wheels. Or maybe a taxi...

I'm a big fan of taxis in some places -- I use 'em all the time in Mexican resort areas -- but I don't recommend them highly in Aruba because they're fairly expensive and they're not going to be convenient to you if you want to go anywhere other than between the hotel zone and Oranjestad (in which case, you might as well consider taking a bus).

The car really gives you the kind of independence you want. You can go where you want, when you want, while having predictable transportation costs and the flexibility of having your own schedule -- who wants to spend their vacation time waiting at bus stops? Not me!

I'll take the rental car.

What Kind of Car?
Far and away the most popular rental vehicle is the small economy car -- especially the Toyota Yaris (which is like the Echo sold in the U.S.). These cars make a lot of sense since they have 4 doors and are economical on gas, which is very expensive in Aruba by U.S. standards (we're really spoiled by our ridiculously cheap gas prices), but in line with what most of the world pays. Prices for gas are posted in guilders (Aruban florin) per litre, but it currently works out to about US$3.50 to $4 per gallon.

One thing to be aware of is that, unlike in the U.S., many of the rental car companies provide manual transmission cars (stick) unless you specify automatic transmission. Be sure to ask (or specify) when you reserve to avoid any surprises when they bring you the car. There's also at least one company that charges less to rent a car with no air conditioning. Some of the 4WD vehicles are available in your choice of soft top or hard top -- again, ask when you reserve if this is important to you.

If you have a big family or group, a mini-van might make more sense, and most of the rental companies have vans of some kind available, although prices are generally higher for a van than renting two economy cars.

People often recommend renting a 4-wheel drive vehicle in Aruba, the idea being that you can then go off-road, especially in the rugged southeast portion of the island, around Arikok National Park, or along the rocky coastal areas of the western shore. That's all find and good, but my recommendation is to just do one of the tours that takes you out in the backcountry in their own vehicles. In my opinion, this makes more sense because the 4-wheel drive vehicles can cost double the economy car rate. (It might also make sense to just rent a 4WD for one day.) Why pay for 4-wheel drive if you aren't really going to use it every day of your stay??? Of course, if you're able to snag on a good rate on the 4WD, and it seems reasonable to you, or you're planning to spend a lot of time on the rocky eastern shore, than what the heck -- go for it!

Almost every rental car company on Aruba offers 4-wheel drive vehicles. The most common being the Suzuki Jimny, which is like the Trackers sold at Chevy dealers in the U.S. Jeep Wranglers are also pretty common, but usually cost about $20 per day more than a Jimny (though they seem pretty reasonable at other places, like Aruba Rent-A-Car). Some dealers offer other models, like Grand Vitaras, but they're less common than Jimnys and Wranglers, and usually more expensive.

Of course you can also reserve your basic mid-size or full-size sedan, but given the higher cost of these vehicles coupled with the higher fuel costs, I don't really see the point in them. Your mileage may vary.

In my shopping experience, the big U.S. chains were competitive with the smaller, local outfits, and offered the convenience of easy reservations through their web sites and easy airport pickups.

Note on Rates...
Most of the prices that I'm quoting are current rates that will be available to you if you call right now. This is the summer though, and summer is the off season for Aruba. Rates might well be higher if you're heading out in January or February...

Note on Insurance...
Optional insurance isn't too badly priced: generally about $6/day basic liability and around $8-10 for comprehensive. But then, Aruba is a pretty gentle place to drive...

Where to Rent
I'll list contact info and addresses of rental car locations on Aruba in just a sec, but before I do, I have a few thoughts on where you should rent a car.

I highly recommend renting a car from the airport locations. This makes the most economic sense to me since a taxi from the airport to the hotel zone will cost about $20. Daily rental rates for 3-day or longer terms are as low as $24. In my opinion, pick up the car at the airport and forget about the taxis and you've already paid for 2 days of your car rental! (Assuming you do the econo car deal.)

The airport rental car locations are super convenient for arriving international passengers -- they're in a row of small cabana style buildings directly across the street from the door that you exit after clearing customs. No messing with shuttles or anything -- in fact, the rental offices are closer to the exit door than the shuttle bus stops in most U.S. airports. Most of the airport rental offices are open from 7am to 11pm (give or take 30 minutes). If your arrival or departure times are outside these hours, you may be better off renting from a downtown or hotel lobby location.
Rental Car Rates and Locations

If you're just renting for a day or two, consider some of the smaller local companies rather than bigger chains with rental desks in your hotel. Although you might be tempted to go with the big chain just for convenience sake, the local companies are actually just as convenient since most of them will come to your hotel with the car. If they can save you money, why not?

Note for Younger Drivers...
A lot of U.S. chains don't rent to anyone under age 25. That blows if you're a responsible 24 year old with a good driving record, and the money to pay for a rental car. If that sounds like you, try calling Toyota Rent-A-Car -- they advertise that they have a minimum age of 21.

Now on with the list of rental car places...

Big U.S. Chains:

Alamo:
Queen Beatrix Airport
Rates: from $35/day compact (Yaris)

Avis:
Queen Beatrix Airport
Rates: from $45/day compact

Budget:
Queen Beatrix Airport + some hotel lobby desks
Local phone: 297-828600
Email: budgetaruba@setarnet.aw
Rates: from $35/day compact

Dollar:
Queen Beatrix Airport, plus location in Noord
Local phone: 297-830101
Email: dollarrentacar@setarnet.aw
Web site: www.dollararuba.com
Rates: from $40/day compact

Hertz
Queen Beatrix Airport
Rates: from $45/day compact

National
Queen Beatrix Airport
Rates: from $39/day compact

Thrifty:
Queen Beatrix Airport + hotel lobby desks in Aruba Grand, Caribbean Palm Village, Costa Linda, Rennaissance, Mill Resort
Local phone: 297-855300
Email: thrifty.aruba@setarnet.aw
Rates: Compact car $35/day - $85/3day, 4x4 - $145 ($202 on thrifty.com)

Local Companies and Smaller Chains:

Aruba Rent A Car:
Queen Beatrix Airport
Local phone: 297-831020
Email: rubarent@setarnet.aw
Web site: www.rubarent-aruba.com
Rates: $40/day Toyota, $58/day Jeep, $81/day Lexus

Econo Car Rental:
Local phone: 297-820920
Rates: from $27.50/day ($83 for the 3 day minimum rental)

Economy Car Rental:
Queen Beatrix Airport
Local phone: 297-830200
Rates: (20 percent discount coupon in "Aruba Experience" magazine)

Explore Car Rental:
Oranjestad, Schotlandstraat 85, L.G. Smith Blvd.
Local phone: 297-827220
Email: explore@setarnet.aw
Web site: www.explorecarrental.com
Rates: ($10 discount coupon in "Aruba Experience" magazine) $35/day Alto, $65/day Jimny

More4Less Jeep and Car Rental:
Local phone: 297-932864
Rates: $90/day Jeep, $95/3 day economy car

Optima:
Queen Beatrix Airport, plus La Cabana Hotel
Local phone: 297-832531
Email: optima@setarnet.aw
Web site: www.optimarentacar.com
Rates: $50/day Yaris, $69/day Jimny

Super Car Rental:
Oranjestad, Washington 94
Local phone: 297-868765
Email: super@setarnet.aw
Web site: www.carrentalaruba.com
Rates: $27/day no a/c econo car, $55/day Samurai, $120/day Ford Expedition

Toyota Rent A Car:
Queen Beatrix Airport, plus Casa del Mar/Aruba Beach Club
Local phone: 297-834832
Email: toyota.rentacar@setarnet.aw
Web site: www.toyotacarrent-aruba.com
Rates from $84/3 day economy car (Yaris)

Value Car Rental
Noord, Kayari 30
Local phone: 297-864188
Web site: www.valuearuba.com
Rates: from $30/day Alto, $60/day Tracker

Driving on Aruba
If you're worried about driving on Aruba, don't be. It's easy and it will all seem perfectly natural after about the first 20 minutes or so.

Arubans drive on the right side of the road, which of course is the correct side, and not the wrong side, which civilized people everywhere outside the U.K. all know is the left side. Got it? Good...it's easy.

Aruba basically has one road. It's labelled 1A. It runs from the southern tip all the way to the northern tip. As it goes through Oranjestad it's labeled Smith Blvd., but rest assured, it's still the familiar 1A. Got it? Good....it's easy.

There are a few roads that go off of 1A, but they mostly come back to 1A -- eventually. Even 1B, which kind of skirts its way around Oranjestad instead of running through it. But it's easy...except for the turns, but even they're not too hard.

Road signs follow the European models, not the U.S. They look a little different, but they're still easy. The signs are mostly in Dutch, but that's no biggee either. Mostly all you need is the signs pointing you in the right direction, and these are all big, bright blue, and pretty easy to figure out. Signs to the airport are all marked "Reina Beatrix". The only word you really need to know is "Verboden", which is "No" (something or other), usually no parking. Verboden problem. Hmmm. Maybe "verboden" for "no" isn't a literal translation -- but it sure is easy!

Have fun, and until next time, see you on the road!



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