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An Expat's Guide to Living in Aruba

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Have you been dreaming about working on a tropical island like Aruba and are wondering what it’s like? Well have no fear, I’m here to provide you with some insider tips!

Aruba is also known as “one happy island” and is located in the Antilles. With its nice and pleasant climate, it’s a place where many people seeking sun spend their winter holidays. Recently I have been working on this beautiful island for 3 months and even though it’s a very small island, I've continuously been able to find new places to discover.

As an expat, I'll be here for at least one year working as an international travel nurse. If you're like me, it doesn't matter exactly when you decide to move here as you'll get to experience all the seasons on the island but as a tourist, the best time to visit Aruba will depend on what you're hoping to do while here.

Whether you're driven here by work like me or the great beaches and laid back lifestyle, here's what you need to know about living in Aruba.

Short on time? Here's the cheat sheet:

💭Aruba is a stunning Caribbean Island, legally a constituent of the Netherlands.

📚The official languages are Papiamento and Dutch but many locals also speak English. If you need some help learning these languages, Mondly is a great app for that.

🏠The best area to live is Noord. This area is popular with tourists and expats and will offer you plenty of things to do and people to meet.

🚗You'll need a car to get by living in Aruba. Even though it's a small island, the best way to get around is definitely by driving yourself.

🏥Although a safe country, accidents happen so come prepared with nomad insurance, just in case!

🏖️One of the best parts about living in Aruba are the stunning beaches, impeccable natural beauty, and access to watersports. If you like the beach, you’ll love living here!

Adjusting to the Caribbean Pace of Life

As someone coming from the Netherlands, one of the best things about living in Aruba has been embracing the slow island culture.

When you go to Aruba, you will experience the Caribbean way of life with a variety of different cultures coming together. On this island people are very friendly and “poco poco” is a way of life (which means, take it easy!)

I really was able to embrace the culture since I've been working at a local hospital. Working while living in a country is always the best way to jump right into the local way of life!

If, though, you're a little worried about adjusting to the relaxed way of life, it might be a big challenge. Throughout the Caribbean this culture has a strong focus on enjoying the day-to-day and never being too rushed or too stressed by the small things. It's best to embrace it rather than fight it!

Best Areas to Live in Aruba

If you are looking for a place to live on this beautiful island, I would recommend you to look for a place in the area called Noord. In this area there's a lot of tourism which makes it a lively area that’s near the best beaches, hotels and shops. Many expats tend to live in this area, too.

Just note that since this is a touristy area, it can also be one of the most expensive areas to live in Aruba.

Do note that you do need a car on Aruba. Even though it's a small island, the roads are not well developed, especially not for pedestrians or bikes. You could either rent a car or buy a car. There are usually expats selling their cars before returning home.

📍Book a hotel or a vacation rental in the meantime to buy yourself some time while you settle in. A few recommended places to stay in Noord are:

  • Budget Stay: Palma Apartment: Located right in the heart of Noord, this one bedroom apartment has just what you could need as a great arrival point to the island.
  • Mid-Tier Stay: Aruba Boutique Apartments: This adults-only complex offers adorable villas and shared spaces with a swimming pool to start making friends as soon as you move here.
  • Luxury Stay: Villa Encantada: Want to really get into the island spirit? This vibrant private villa is ideal for those who are moving to Aruba with their entire family in tow.
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Best Beaches to Spend Your Days

Aruba, just like most of the Caribbean Islands, offers breathtaking beaches where you can swim, go snorkeling, or just enjoy the view.

While living in Aruba, I went to the beach everyday and it never got boring! I must admit that after living here, your standards will be so much higher when it comes to what makes a great beach in the future.

While it's hard to go wrong when choosing the beach to lay your towel out on, a few of my top recommendations for best beaches in Aruba are:

  • Eagle Beach: This beach was voted one of the best beaches in the world and is certainly the most famous beach in Aruba. With its white sand and clear blue water, it’s a great place to relax or watch the sunset.
  • Divi Beach: The best part about this beach in my opinion is Matthew's Beachside Restaurant. Go here for one of the best views at night.
  • Surfside Beach: Want to watch the planes landing in and have some good drinks while you do? Visit this beach!
  • Mangel Halto, Boca Catalina, Tres Trapi: These are more quiet beaches that are great for snorkeling.
  • Baby Beach, Arashi Beach, Palm Beach: To simply relax, bring you book and head to one of these spots.

Top Things to Do in Aruba

Be sure to spot the famous divi trees

While of course Aruba offers picturesque beaches, there's more to do on this Caribbean Island than just that!

These are a few of my favorite things to do when I need a break from the sand.

Hang Out in San Nicolas

San Nicolas is the southernmost part of the island. Although I do think Noord is a better area to live, San Nicolas is a great area to hang out in.

It's the cultural capital of the island and is full of colorful street art that you won’t be able to stop taking pictures of. 

Go Hiking

Although Aruba doesn’t have mountains or green scenery, there are some great places to go hiking. These are a few of my favorites.

The Hooiberg

167 meters high, this is the second highest point of the island, after the Jamanota, which is 189 meters high.

The Hooiberg is located in the middle of the island so you can have a 360 degree view of Aruba.

You can reach the top by climbing the 587 stairs, but make sure you go in the early morning to see the sunrise or in the evening for sunset. As well, bring enough water because it can get pretty hot during the day.

Trinity Bridge

You can hike to this beautiful bridge starting from the “Natural Bridge”. The hike takes about 45 minutes one way and you will pass Andicuri Beach on the way. To me, this was the most beautiful bridge of the island where you can take gorgeous pictures. 

Arikok National Park

This National Park covers almost 20% of the island and is located on the north side. With it’s very rough terrain it feels like you are walking in a desert, surrounded by hills, rock formations, bays and some caves. 

You can enter the park by car (but there are limited roads where you are allowed to drive) or if you are really adventurous, you can go hiking.

The park is only open during the day and does charge an admission fee.

Natural Pool

Natural Pool is a small, natural pool surrounded by volcanic rocks, where you can take a swim and snorkel for a bit. But please take caution as the waters can be very rough.

If you want to hike to the Natural Pool you can start at Daimari Beach and the hike will take you about 3-4 hours return.

On your way you will pass a variety of landscapes like dunes, rough coastlines and some nice beaches (like “Boca Keto”). 

New Natural Pool

This is still a hidden place on the island that I went to after locals told me about it. It’s located not far from Bushiribana Ruins. In this pool, you can take a refreshing swim because compared to the natural pool, the water is calm and serene.  

‍Take in the Sunset Every Night

Not only does Aruba have beautiful beaches, you can also see amazing sunsets. One of my favorite places for viewing the sunset is from the sand dunes of California Lighthouse, where you can wander around the dunes as the sun is setting.

And the best part of it? There's almost no other people around!

Enjoy the Nightlife

Of course, living somewhere also means exploring some of the nightlife and I can confirm, the nights out in Aruba are a really good time.

There are plenty of bars to choose from but I recommend Bugaloe for some karaoke, MooMba for live music on the beach and Craft for the best sangria on the island.

Enjoy the Local Cuisine

My number 1 favorite restaurant in Aruba is Nos Clubhuis, especially on Sundays when you can dig into the Sunday BBQ along with a great sunset view.

Zeerovers is the most famous restaurant, located in the Savaneta area, which is popular with tourists but also by locals. At Zeerovers, you can eat really tasty fresh fish. I just recommend you to go early because it can get very busy.

Local Store is also a good local restaurant (with local prices)!

A Few More Things to Know Before Moving to Aruba

A street view in Oranjestad

Excited to move to Aruba? I know you'll love it! There are just a few more things you should know before you pack your bags to go:

  • It does not sit on the hurricane belt. The ABC Islands (A is for Aruba) is less likely to get hit by hurricanes and the weather is a lot more pleasant here.
  • The official languages are Papiamento and Dutch but many locals also speak English. Like living in St. Maarten, Dutch people will have a slightly easier go at moving here and settling in. Given its close proximity to South America, some locals speak Spanish, too.
  • Tourism is big here, especially in the winter and mid-summer. Since there are a number of cruise ships that dock here and convenient flights tourists do love visiting this island.
  • Dutch citizens can stay for 6 months each year, visa-free. To stay longer (or it you have a different nationality), you'd either need a job to sponsor your working permit or apply for residence permit.
  • The cost of living can be high based on what you're looking for. Since Aruba is an island, a lot of things need to be imported in, driving up the cost. If you live like a local, this won't be as tough but if you cling to products you're used to from back home, your cost of living can skyrocket.

Will You Give Living in Aruba a Try?

After living on this beautiful island it was pretty hard to go back to my normal life. Living in Aruba has changed my way of thinking. At work it has made me less stressed, and on my days off, it has given me a lot to think about.

As a result, I'm thinking about going back to Aruba next year! Will you be there, too?

Photos courtesy of depositphotos.com.

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