Like most Caribbean islands, Aruba's transportation network consists primarily of two-lane paved roads.
Oranjestad is often jammed with traffic when Aruba is full of tourists, which means that if you are staying north of Oranjestad, you must budget at least an hour each way to transit through Oranjestad. A glance at the map will reveal several possibilities for going around the worst of the traffic by heading inland, but there aren't any really good shortcuts, just long detours where the time spent going out of your way to bypass Oranjestad is almost as long as the time it would have taken you to just sit through bumper-to-bumper traffic passing through it.
You can conveniently get around Aruba by car, bus, or by foot. As a tourist, it is not completely necessary to rent a car because many restaurants, beaches, and shopping areas are within walking distance. If something is not within walking distances, taxis are always available and the ride is never very long. There is also a bus line that can take you close to major tourist areas.
There is a new - modern and green - trolley in downtown Oranjestad. These double-deckers run from the harbor cruise ship port to east of downtown along shops, small hotels and restaurants. The tram's batteries are augmented by hydrogen fuel cells, which in turn are powered by Aruba's wind turbines. The ride is quiet and free.
Driving In Aruba
The most important thing U.S. drivers need to remember is that there are no turns on red. Also, there are several roundabouts circles, which can be frustrating to some drivers but are quickly gotten used to. Unlike conventional roundabouts which either lack lanes altogether or have very confusing lane markings, Aruba has extensive signage and asphalt curbs which precisely indicate available movements through roundabouts and you will get used to them very quickly.
Aruba uses international road signs under the Vienna Convention standard, which generally have no words or any obvious relation to their meaning. Fortunately, tourist maps usually contain quick references explaining their meaning if you are unfamiliar with them. Aruba also marks roads in the European style, meaning they use only white lines and do not use yellow lines to divide two-way opposing traffic as on the North American mainland.
The island's most important road is LG Smith Boulevard also known as Sasakiweg north of Oranjestad. Sasakiweg between Oranjestad and Palm Beach has been improved so that it is the island's only major four-lane divided highway, on which the speed limit is 80 kph except at roundabouts, where it drops to 40.
Because the island is so small, everything of interest is close to everything else of interest, and it takes special talent to get lost—if you don't know where you're going, you can basically just keep driving, and statistically speaking you are likely to end up where you need to go eventually. It should be noted, however, that most street names are not identified by signage. Even worse, many rural streets are unnamed, meaning you have to navigate them by dead reckoning or landmarks.
The lack of street name signs can be especially frustrating in downtown Oranjestad. The best approach is to park in the parking lot across LG Smith Boulevard from the Renaissance Mall and Royal Plaza Mall and simply walk to your destination. A cab might also be easier than navigating the narrow unmarked streets. Take a map with you to determine what road signs mean because they are not immediately obvious.
You should also be cautious when driving, as there are certain "bus only" roads that are not marked but that feature large pits in the road designed to trap normal cars while letting buses drive through.
The bus system is called "Arubus" (http://arubus.com/). This bus is great to see the island and to travel from Oranjestad to the tourist hotels all for $2.30 round-trip. You can take the bus to the far end of the island, have lunch at St Nicholas, see how the 90,000 islanders live. The bus stops at 9 PM.You can find city/island buses at a main station right downtown. During other than "rush hours", friendly drivers and some riders will help you choose routes and provide commentary on stops and sights. Fares are quite modest. An economical way to get to the resort beaches.
You can also rent a car or jeep at the Queen Beatrix airport or through the hotel concierge. Because Aruba is small, consider the possibility of not renting a car until you know what you want to do. Many activities are central to the resort area of the island and are within walking distance. Renting cars/jeeps is easy, and many rental companies provide pickup service from area hotels. This is one of the easier holiday destinations to negotiate your own car around so keep the pace easy and book ahead online.
If you do decide to rent a car, be aware that the local rental car companies often rent older, higher mileage cars. It's especially important to recognise that even the big brand rental car agencies will rent you a vehicle in poor condition that may or may not function properly. It may also have extensive preexisting damage in terms of both dents and flaking or scratched paint. You should make the time for a thorough walkaround at time of rental and photograph the vehicle yourself during the process to ensure that such preexisting damage is fully documented so that you are not charged for it upon return.
Aruba rental car offices at the international airport do not operate on the model of "here's the keys, go find it yourself" seen in the U.S. While you complete all the typical rental paperwork in one of the offices across the main airport access road from the airport terminal, one of the staff members will be retrieving your vehicle from a remote lot and parking it in the alley that runs behind the offices parallel to the airport access road. That staff member will then lead you out to the vehicle and do a walkaround with you.
To return the vehicle, you will follow the signs back to that alley and park in whatever spot is closest to the appropriate rental car office. A staff member on duty monitoring the alley will come over and do the walkaround to determine fuel level, mileage, new damage, etc. Don't worry if you can't get a close spot, they can spot your vehicle as theirs since Aruba is one of the countries where rental car vehicles still often include the owner's logo somewhere. You then go into the office where the clerk will reconfirm what will be charged to your credit card and close out your rental car contract.
International road signs are used in Aruba. Foreign driver's licenses and International Driver Permits issued by a member country of the Geneva Convention on Road Traffic are generally valid. If your driver's license is already written in English from such a country, an IDP is not necessary. Car speedometers and road signs are in kilometres. The speed limit in urban areas is 40km/h; out of town it's 80km/h, unless a higher or lower speed is specifically indicated. Much of Oranjestad's traffic is one-way and at intersections, where there are no road signs, traffic from your right has the right of way. Aruba follows the European approach to intersection signage, where stop signs are used only when absolutely necessary and the yield sign is the predominant traffic control device. If you do see a stop sign, it really does mean stop completely not slow to a creep or roll, usually because it's a blind intersection.
Cabs are available at the airport and at hotels.
Rates from the airport in USD which is widely accepted:
$ 18 - Downtown, Cruise ship terminal$ 22 - Low Rise Hotels Dutch Village to La Quinta and Eagle area Oceania to Amsterdam Manor$ 25 - High Rise Hotels Phoenix to Marriott Hotel and Palm Beach hotels.
Add USD $3 on Sundays, holidays and nights 11 PM to 7 AM.One item of luggage per person is allowed; add USD $2 for every additional piece.