Stay – Aruba is a popular destination for people who prefer all-in vacations. To accommodate all these people, you’ll find lots of ressorts and hotels at the north and west side of Aruba. This is the so called high-rise.
Budget options aren’t easy to find on the island. For a bed in a hostel, I paid around $25 a night. I stayed at the hostel of the Aruba Harmony appartments and can definitely recommend it to backpackers. The accommodation is owned by a Dutch lady and her boyfriend, which are both very helpful.
A single room or apartment costs between $40 en $50. An apartment is a good choice if you’re visiting with multiple people. It’s not so expensive and you can split the cost.
Hotels are not too expensive. For about $50 a night you can find a good hotel in the city center. The luxurious ressorts are more expensive, but you’ll get a lot more extra’s for that price. Ressorts and luxurious hotels start at ninety dollars a night.
A complete list of accommodations in Aruba can be found on this page.
Eat – Because of the many American tourists, the island has been ‘Americanised’. Because of that, you’ll find lots of their (fast)food chains all around the island. For lunch expect to pay between $8 and $15 a person. Local restaurants are a little cheaper, except for when you visit them in the more touristy zones.
If you want to cook yourself, it is a good idea to buy food at the Chinese supermarkets. In most cases, they are cheaper than the non-Chinese stores.
Transport – There is public transportation in Aruba, but it is rather limited and quite hard to plan. On the island, you’ll definitely see some white vans stopping now and then. These little busses cost around $5 and can drop you anywhere on the island.
There is also the possibility to take public transportation, but they only seem to ride around in the high rise area.
Otherwise, you need to take a taxi or rent a car. This last option is a lot cheaper if you plan on visiting some things in Aruba. Do keep in mind that you can only reach certain attractions or sights (like the natural pool) with a jeep.
Renting a car can be as cheap as $30 a day.
Arrange your own excursions – On the island you can only find about five tour operators. Because of that they usually ask a lot of money for excursions that don’t cost a lot of money…
It’s a lot cheaper to rent a car and head to the top sights yourself. A car only costs between $35 and $60 a day, plus you have the freedom to drive at your own pace and see whatever you want. Most tours start at $60.
Do keep in mind that you might need to buy insurance or pay an extra fee if you’re not 25 yet.
The snorkel excursions are way too expensive too. All the most common snorkelling spots (for example the SS Antilla) are located quite close to the coastline. Just take your snorkelling gear, swim a bit and you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
Chinese supermarkets – There are a lot of Chinese people in Aruba. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that you will see lots of Chinese stores and markets all around the island. On average these Chinese stores are a lot cheaper than other supermarkets.
Drink tap water – All islands of the Dutch Antilles have perfectly safe, filtered tap water. Don’t spend money on bottled water, just fill your bottle up at your place. If you always have to buy water, it’ll eventually start to add up. Aruba is a hot country and staying hydrated is necessary!
Rent an apartment – If you come to Aruba with a group, then consider renting an apartment. For only $40 to $50 a night you can accommodate four to six people in an apartment. A cheaper way of sleeping in Aruba is impossible.
SS Antilla – If you like snorkelling, this is an absolute must. The SS Antilla is a ship that was sunken on purpose to create an artificial coral reef.
The ship is located very close to the coastline and you can easily swim towards the underwater monument if you have your own snorkel gear. This saves you a lot of money and you can choose to go whenever you want. Around 11 AM and 2 PM most organised snorkel tours pass by this area.
Baby Beach – This beach is supposed to be the most beautiful beach in Aruba. The small “baby” beach is a little far from other popular spots in Aruba, but nevertheless it is a favorite amongst many. The water is very shallow and completely see-through. Just relax, float around and enjoy the passing sea gulls and other sea birds.
Oranjestad – Wherever you are located in Aruba, the capital of the island is always close by. In Oranjestad you’ll find a mix of collonial and modern buildings. Main street is where all the shops are. Don’t forget to deviate from Main Street now and then to see some of the charming buildings and houses.
The High Rise – Most often, tourists stay in this region. If you’re not, try to visit it still. The High Rise has some similarities with the Strip of Las Vegas. The whole street is crammed with giant, luxurious ressorts. Often they have private beaches. Definitely try to go inside one of the many ressorts. Normally they don’t mind guests at all.
Arikok National Park – A quite big national park for this small island is Arikok National Park. The famous Natural Pool can also be found here. It is very hard to get into the park without jeeps, quads or horses. It is possible, but the further you get into the park, the harder it gets. The best views are in the more rocky areas, so plan accordingly.
It is better to organise a tour, or if possible rent a jeep.
The landscape is rugged and dry, but has some of the best natural sights of Aruba.
Sightseeing – There’s plenty of small sights to see in Aruba. Personally, I really enjoyed the natural bridge and the natural pool. Often you need to sit in your car for quite a while, because the roads to these sights are quite rugged and quite far apart.
The lighthouse and the Alto Vista chapel are nice to see, but I personally didn’t think they were worth the drive.
Paying a lot for tours – Almost all tours offered in Aruba are way too expensive for what they offer. Instead, try to rent a car or meet a local with whom you discover the island. Aruban people are very friendly. I had two locals who proposed to take me around the island, so it might also work out for you.
Definitely don’t do a snorkel tour. All the popular snorkel spots are very close to the beaches and you can easily drive there yourself (or even take the public transportation). For a tour, most companies charge $89 or more. Way too much if you ask me!
Driving around late – In Aruba no-one really cares about drunk driving. Every evening you hear, or see, drunken locals who switched the Aruban streets into a race circuit. Always be careful when walking or driving the streets at night.