Driving Tips for Curacao

Curacao has a lot to see, and it's a 45 mile long island.  Unless you have very deep pockets to pay for shuttles and taxi's, you'll need a rental car.  You can rent one online and pick it up at the airport.  When you pick it up, you can buy a map for $3 USD. 

Note that there are now GPS service on Curacao. Many car companies as well as rental owners will lease them for a few USD a day.o.    Even though the island is small, it's easy to be lost for an hour, or even two hours if you don't know how to get around.  Hopefully the lessons we learned below will make driving on the island a bit easier for any new travellers! 

With that said, there are some things to know about the map and how to drive there.

  1. If you're not familiar with roundabout's - read up!  Be able to determine which is the 2nd right or 3rd right from your entrance of the roundabout (simular to a town square, but round, with traffic only flowing right).  Note that the right's to turn sometimes have merge lanes for inbound traffic as well, which can mess up your count of right turns.
  2. Pay attention when buying gas.  The exchange rate is $1 = $1.77 for USD, and gas is sold in liters - not gallons.  Some stations want you to pay before you pump unless you are filling up.  If you fail to do so, you could be using the gas the car behind you just paid for.  And go to a reputable (large) gas station.  You could be charged $65 for 3/4 tank in a Toyota Yaris! That was about $20 too much.
  3. Road signs are not always seen on the road from both directions.  Some signs, such as the one to turn into Piscadera Bay, are only seen from the viewpoint of someone travelling Westpund going east.  If you're travelling west, you'll never see it.  Look for large silver signs and read them when you pass them just in case.
  4. Ask people for help when you get lost.  They're all friendly.  Most do speak English.  When they give directions ask for landmarks - the colors of the buildings, the minit markets you'll pass, a church or a "landhuis" (find out what they are and you'll have half the landmarks!)
  5. You cannot go right on red at an intersection.  The speed limit is 40 in town and 60 elsewhere.
  6. All beaches are on the west end of the island, which has one road to get you there called Westpund.  Find it, and you'll do well. 
  7. There's a large inverted "U" shape sculpture in the middle of the roundabout that leads westward. Mark it on your map as a point of reference, and anything else you're sure of so that if you get lost, you'll realize where you are when you see it again.
  8. The road signs with names seemed to always be AHEAD of the intersection on the main road that you take - not at the intersection of the road.  Once you turn, check your map for roads to the left and right to be sure you're on the right road.  Taking a note pad along is a good idea so you can note things like what you see when you turn onto Westpund, or when you turn to go into Otrobanda. 
  9. The parking lots along the waters in Otrabanda are metered, and the meters take gilders and credit cards.  A gilder gets you one hour.  If you're going downtown, get gilders and use them.  The machines for them are large blue machines like an ATM with a "P" on the side.  You'll need to know the parking space number (which is printed on the parking lot).  Place the ticket it gives you on your windshield.  (A local said that after 6:00, when the shops close, no one checks the meters.  Ask around again before risking it, but w e never saw anyone check them after 6:00.  They do check and they do put the big yellow shoe put on some wheels during the day.)
  10. Use the concierge at your hotel to map out your trip for you.  The Hyatt concierge staff was wonderful about giving driving directions and landmarks.
  11. Most of all, if you get lost - admit it and stop. (Otherwise, you may end up finding the landfill like did!)  Get to know the map.  It's got main road names on it and the coordinates, which helps you determine where you are.  It also has enlarged maps for certain townships and areas, including Daniel, Tera Kora, Jan Doret, etc... One side is an enlarged view of Otrobanda and Punda, which really helps.