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Curaçao
Introduction
Geography

Geographically part of the Dutch Leeward Islands, Curaçao is the largest island in the Netherlands Antilles. The western countryside is dominated by hills, as The Christoffelberg, the island's tallest peak (1230 feet). If you're an avid hiker, don't miss the short but strenuous trek to the top. The eastern part of Curazao is flatter and lower, broken by flat-topped Tafelberg ('Table Mountain') at Santa Barbara. Just west of town, note the three sharp hills known as Drie Gebroeders ('Three Brothers'), the remains of an ancient coral reef formed at least three million years ago.
Flora & Fauna
Flora
If there's one word that describes Curacao's most prevalent plant, it's cactus, and the island hosts hundreds of species: The towering kadushi cactus, the also tall yatu cactus, sometimes as much as 30 feet. You'll find both these species in abundance all over the island, in places so tall they fall over from their own weight.

The prickly pear cactus, Turk's cap, and many others, some as small as a pebble, are prevalent all over the island. Acacia bushes, scraggly trees with small green leaves and long, hard thorns, are also numerous, as is aloe vera, with its pale green, waxy leaves.

The island is also home to the Divi Divi tree, the famous leaning tree of the ABC Islands. Other plant species include several types of palms, including the coconut, sabal, and manila palms, and an evergreen tree called the wayaca, an Arawak name. In the hilly, western end of the island look for more lush greenery, including the flowering plants and trees such as hibiscus, bougainvillea, poinsettia, allamanda, flamboyant, and oleander.
Fauna
Birders will not be disappointed by the dozens of species of hummingbirds, bananaquits, orioles, and the larger terns, herons, egrets, and even flamingos that make their homes near ponds or in coastal areas. The trupial is common to the island, as well as the mockingbird, called "chuchubi" in Papiamentu. Near the shore, note the big-billed brown pelicans and other seabirds including several types of gulls and large cormorants.

Curacao's most notable animal is the white-tailed deer. In Curacao you'll be able to identify it by its long tail with a white underside, and because it's the only deer you ll see on the island. It is a protected species (since 1926), and an estimated 200 live on Curacao. They are found in many parts of the island, but most notably at the west end's Christoffel Park, where about 70% of the herd resides.

You will also find several species of iguana, light green in color with shimmering shades of aqua along the belly and sides, lounging in the sun here and there. Along the west end of the island's north shore are several inlets that have become home to breeding sea turtles. These turtles are protected by the park system in Shete Boka Park, and you can visit the moms-to-be in the mornings, accompanied by park rangers.
Facts at a Glance
Population
140.000 inhabitants from very different ethnic backgrounds. The biggest groups are African descendants, West Europeans, Sarphatic Jews, Portugese, Chinese, people from India and immigrants from surrounding islands.
Political system
Curaçao is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Locals have Dutch nationality and carry European Union passports. The form of government is a parliamentary democracy, based on underlying premises such as freedom of association, the right to form political parties, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech.
The island has two levels of government -a central (federal) and an insular (territorial) level- The Central Government's jurisdiction covers mostly state affairs (legislation) and includes police, communications, taxation, public health, education, economic control, the establishment of enterprises, labor legislation, money and banking, and foreign currency. The Island Government is responsible for the island territory affairs; it manages its own territorial affairs and has the power to enact laws. The island's government is responsible for the infrastructure, harbors, etc.
Religion
More than 70% of the population is catholic. Important groups are Protestants, Jews and Muslims.
Language
Curaçao's culture embraces many languages. Although Dutch is the official language in Curaçao, and English and Spanish are also widely spoken, many residents speak Papiamentu - a Creole mixture of Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, French, English, and Arawak. Historians believe that Papiamentu originated in the 17th century as means of communication between slaves, who hailed from various African regions, and their Portugese masters. Unlike other Creole languages, Papiamentu is spoken through all levels of society. This Curacao language has become a major element of the island's identity.
Currency
Curaçao's currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder (also called the florin), which is abbreviated as Nafl. The Ang. U.S. dollars circulate freely, so it is possible to get by using only American dollars or credit cards. Please note that vendors can rarely supply Curaçao money in U.S. currency. The U.S. dollar is at a stable rate.
US$ 1 = Nafl. 1.77-cash
US$ 1 = Nafl. 1.78-traveler s check
Exchange rates may vary slightly at stores and hotels. You can find daily exchange rate information at one of our local banks.
Visa & Documents
To be considered a tourist to Curaçao, vacationers must be visiting the island for three months or less and cannot be employed while on the island. If you are planning to stay longer than three months, you must get special documentation. When vacationing on the island, travelers should make sure to have the following documents:

-A valid passport accompanied by any of the following: voter's registration card or birth certificate (U.S. citizens), British visitors' passport (U.K. citizens), and Canadian Immigration of Identification Certificate (Canadian citizens)
-A return ticket
-The necessary documents for returning to their home country or for further travel elsewhere.
Citizens of the following countries must have visas in order to visit Curaçao: Albania, Bulgary, China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti
* Except holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region passport
Travel Tips
Safety and Security
Curaçao is altogether safer than many places in the world today. However, use common sense and take all standard safety precautions. Lock your car and your hotel door when you leave, and don't leave valuables unattended in your room. Most hotels have safety vaults where you can store your valuables.
Cruise visitors should watch out for pickpockets in crowds and should not leave bags unattended or agree to carry packages for anyone. It is recommended not to walk in the small alleys in the town area, and visitors should not walk alone late at night in deserted areas. Additionally, take sensible precautions such as not taking valuables to the beach or wander alone off the main roads at night.
Local time
Curaçao is on Atlantic Standard Time, one hour later than US Eastern Standard Time and four hours earlier than Greenwich Mean Time. During the summer, Curaçao has the same time as some of the cities in the U.S. but during winter, the time changes again to one hour later. In summertime, in Amsterdam it's 6 hours later than in Curaçao, but during winter it becomes 5 hours. So, during winter, when in New York it is 9:00 am, in Curaçao it is 10:00 am and in Amsterdam it is 3:00 pm.
Electricity
Curaçao's electricity is 127/120 VAC at 50 cycles. This means that most appliances made in the USA (60 cycles) will work well, except for electrical devices with internal time mechanisms. For electrical appliances from the USA, you do not need an adapter plug. We use the same two-pronged flat plugs as in the States. Visitors from Europe will need an adapter plug for their round-pronged plugs. These can be found anywhere on the island, and most hotels keep them in stock and in the rooms as well. Only dual-voltage appliances from Europe can be used on the island.
Water and food
Water
Not only is water in Curaçao safe to drink; it is of the finest quality. The Curaçao's distillery, known as Aqualectra, produces water of excellent quality. It is soft, contains no chloride and little calcium, is tasteless and odorless, and has a good bacteriological composition. Very safe to drink.
Food
Tourists have many dining options when visiting Curaçao. Travelers on a budget have many choices, from affordable local food to American fast food and local pizza joints. Other restaurants may serve local and international cuisine at reasonable prices. Diners looking for an inexpensive meal at these types of establishments in Curaçao can eat for anywhere from $5(USD) to $15(USD).
Vaccines
Curaçao has no malaria or similar tropical diseases, and no vaccinations are needed to visit.
Shopping
Store hours vary but are approximately 8:30am - noon and 2:00 - 6:00 pm, Monday-Saturday. Stores and banks are closed on official holidays. Willemstad stores are occasionally open on Sundays if a large cruise ship is in port.
Most stores accept US dollars and major international credit cards; prices are fixed and there is no bartering. Shop employees are generally fluent in English and Spanish. Many stores are air-conditioned.
Banks
Banks are open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The airport bank is open Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Selected banks branches have ATM's that disburse US dollars which are accepted almost everywhere, contrary to traveler's checks. Bills of US$ 50 and 100 can be hard to cash. International credit cards are accepted at most major commercial establishments. Debit Cards are accepted at large shops and supermarkets. The larger denominations of guilder bills (100 and 250) are hard to cash for small purchases. There are currently two versions of guilder coins in circulation.
Taxi hints
Taxis are easy to recognize by their signs and the TX on their registration plates. The prices are based for 1-4 people from 6 am-11pm. A fifth person costs 25% more. After 11pm there is 25% surcharge. Passengers should agree a price for the journey with the driver first. There are taxi stands at the airport, hotels and Sha Caprileskade in punda. Taxi Company: Main Office: tel: 869-0747 Complaints: 869-0747
Emergency
In case of an emergency, just dial 917, Curacao s 24-hour tourist emergency line.
Telecommunications
In order to call Curaçao from your home country, you must first dial the international code "011". If you're calling from the United States, you must dial the international code plus the country code of "599", followed by "9" (which is the digit that telephone numbers on the island begin with), and then the local phone number. There are no internal area codes on the island, and most local numbers contain seven digits, but this can vary for special numbers that may contain three or four digits.
Climate and Season
Located in the tropics, just 12° north of the Equator, Curaçao has a warm, sunny climate year round. The average temperature is about 27° C (in the mid 80s F). Cooling trade winds blow constantly from the east, picking up in the spring months. The rainy season, which is between October and February, is usually marked by short, occasional showers, mostly at night, and continued sunny weather during the day. Total annual rainfall averages only 570 mm (22 inches).