COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The three “BES” islands of Bonaire, St. Eustatius (or “Statia”) and Saba comprise the Caribbean portion of the Netherlands. These special overseas municipalities of The Netherlands are also part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The economies of the BES islands are well-developed and tourist facilities are widely available.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live on or visit the BES islands, please take the time to tell our Consulate General about your trip. If you enroll in our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements, but only if you tell us how we can reach you while you are here. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency.
United States Consulate General Curacao
J.B. Gorsiraweg 1, Willemstad, Curaçao
Telephone: (599-9) 461-3066
Emergency after-hours telephone: (599-9) 510-6870
Facsimile: (599-9) 461-6489
ENTRY / EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR U.S. CITIZENS: All U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport for all air travel, including to and from the BES. All sea travelers must also now have a passport or passport card. We strongly encourage all U.S. citizen travelers to apply for a U.S. passport or passport card well in advance of anticipated travel. U.S. citizens can call 1-877-4USA-PPT (1-877-487-2778) for information on how to apply for their passports. You are required to have an onward/return ticket, proof of sufficient funds and proof of lodging accommodations for your stay. The typical length of stay granted by immigration to U.S. citizens is thirty days, and may be extended to 180 days by the office of immigration. For further information, travelers may contact the Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch Consulate in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston or Miami.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the BES islands.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: There are no known terrorist or extremist groups, or areas of instability on the BES islands, although drug trafficking organizations do operate on the island.
Stay up to date by:
CRIME: The crime threat in the BES islands is generally considered low, although travelers should always take precautions when in unfamiliar surroundings. There have been incidents of theft from hotel rooms and vehicles. Armed robberies have been known to occur. Valuables left unattended on beaches, in cars and in hotel lobbies are easy targets for theft. Jewelry, phones, cameras and other electronics are the most commonly stolen items.
Car theft, especially of rental vehicles, can occur. Vehicle leases or rentals may not be fully covered by local insurance when a vehicle is stolen or damaged. Be sure you are sufficiently insured when renting vehicles and jet skis.
Parents of young travelers should be aware that the legal drinking age of 18 is not always rigorously enforced in the BES islands, so extra parental supervision may be appropriate. Young travelers in particular are urged to take the same precautions they would when going out in the United States, e.g. to travel in pairs or in groups if they choose frequenting entertainment businesses in the BES islands, and if they opt to consume alcohol, to do so responsibly. Anyone who is a victim of a crime should make a report to the local police, as well as report it immediately to the U.S. Consulate General on Curacao. Do not rely on hotel/restaurant/tour company management to make the report for you.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
Dial “911” on The BES islands for emergency police assistance.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in the BES islands, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. In some places driving under the influence could land you immediately in jail. These criminal penalties will vary from country to country. There are also some things that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in The BES islands, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Persons violating the laws of the BES islands, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Dutch law allows for suspects to be held by order of a judge without a hearing during an investigation.
If you are arrested in the BES islands, local authorities are required to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest. If you are concerned the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Dutch law, in principle, does not permit dual nationality. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For detailed information, contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C., or one of the Dutch consulates in the U.S.
If you are a women traveling abroad, please review our travel tips for Women Travelers.
LGBT Rights: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBT events in The BES islands. For more detailed information about LGBT rights around the world, you may review the State Department’s Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. For further information on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) travel, please read our Information for LGBT Travelers page.
ACESSIBILITY: While in The BES islands, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Some public areas and buildings are not wheelchair accessible.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care is generally good but may be limited due to the size of the islands. Hospitals have three classes of services
i.e.: First Class: one patient per room, air conditioning, etc.; Second Class: two to six patients per room, no air conditioning;
Third Class: 15 to 30 people in one hall. Patients are accommodated according to their level of insurance.
Bonaire: The San Francisco hospital is a medical center (35 beds) with decompression facilities. The hospital has air ambulance service to Curacao and Aruba.
Statia: Queen Beatrix Medical Center (20 beds) is a medical facility well equipped for first aid and has 2 doctors on 24-hour call. There is one hyperbaric chamber used primarily for divers. Emergency cases are sent to either St. Maarten by plane or Guadeloupe, F.W.I., by helicopter.
Saba: A.M. Edwards Medical Center (14 beds) is a well-equipped first aid facility. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten. Saba has two hyperbaric chambers used primarily for divers, one located in Fort Bay and the second located at the medical school in The Bottom. Qualified staff are available to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness.
Drug stores or “boticas” provide prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Visitors will need a local prescription, and may not be able to find medications available in the U.S. Emergency services are usually quick to respond. There are no country-specific health concerns.
You can find good information on vaccinations and other health precautions on the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the BES islands is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving on the BES islands is on the right hand side. Right turns on red are prohibited and traffic conditions require somewhat defensive driving. Local laws require drivers and passengers to wear seat belts and motorcyclists to wear helmets. Children under 4 years of age should be in child safety seats; children under 12 should ride in the back seat. Nonexistent or hidden and poorly maintained street signs are the major road hazard on the BES islands. Therefore, drivers should proceed through intersections with caution. Roads on the BES islands can be extremely slippery during rainfall. Night driving is reasonably safe on the BES islands as long as drivers are familiar with the route and road conditions. Many streets are poorly lit or not lit at all. In Bonaire and Statia, drivers should be vigilant for wild donkeys or other animals crossing the road. Drivers should use caution when driving in Saba as roads tend to be steep and have many sharp turns.
Taxis are the easiest, yet most expensive, form of transportation on the islands. As there are no meters, passengers should verify the price before entering the taxi. Fares are quoted in U.S. dollars, the local currency as of January 1, 2011. In Bonaire, public minibuses are inexpensive and run non-stop during the daytime with no fixed schedule. Each minibus has a specific route displayed on the windshield. Buses, which run on the hour, have limited routes. The road conditions on the main thoroughfares are good to fair. There is no public transportation in Saba or Statia; however, hitchhiking is common in Saba.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. The emergency service telephone number is 911. Police and ambulance tend to respond quickly to emergency situations.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Aruba’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Aruba’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for The BES islands dated March 18 2013, with no substantive changes.