This is an annual report produced in
conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Willemstad,
Curaçao. OSAC encourages travelers to use this report to gain baseline knowledge of security
conditions in the Dutch Caribbean, to include Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba,
Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten. This report focuses mainly on Curaçao, the
location of the U.S. Consulate serving the Dutch Caribbean, but mentions
conditions on the other islands where they differ significantly from those in
Curaçao. For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact
information, some of which may be available only to private-sector
representatives with an OSAC password.
Current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisories at
the date of this report’s publication assess Aruba, Curaçao, and
Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal
precautions. Review OSAC’s report, Understanding the Consular Travel Advisory System.
The U.S. Department of State has assessed Aruba,
Bonaire, Curaçao, and
Sint Maarten as being MEDIUM-threat locations, and Saba and Sint Eustatius as LOW-threat locations for crime directed
at or affecting official U.S. government interests.
As a major Caribbean tourist
destination, the principal crimes of concern in Curaçao are petty theft and
street crime (e.g. pickpocketing and purse snatching, particularly at beaches, in
hotel lobbies, or from cars). Many feel Curaçao’s official statistics
understate the amount of crime on the island. These statistics currently
reflect a trend of decreasing violent crime (reflecting a steady drop every
year since 2014), car thefts (fewer than 200 in both 2018 and 2019 after more
than 400 in 2017), and robbery (halving since 2017). Home burglaries have risen
slightly each year since 2017, but burglaries of businesses have dropped
slightly. Statistics show that victims who resist criminals are more likely to have
incidents result in injury or death.
Although it appears that gangs
are becoming more common, with a corresponding increase in gang violence,
homicides have remained fairly steady, with between 19-22 murders per year, apart
from a small bump to 27 in 2017. Home invasions have also become more common in
the last two years. Rapes and sexual assaults are infrequent but do occur. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for female travelers.
Violent crime is very infrequent
elsewhere in the Dutch Caribbean. There was a high-profile murder case
involving a Canadian citizen victim in Sint Maarten in 2019 where the suspected
assailants fled across the unguarded border into French St. Martin for several
days. Authorities eventually captured the suspects with the cooperation of
Do not leave
valuables in cars in plain view or unattended in unsecured hotel rooms and
rental homes. Parking lots that are unattended and without access control are higher-risk
locations for car break-ins. Some beaches charge a fee for access and employ private
security, which provides some deterrent to crime. Exercise caution when
visiting more isolated areas of Curaçao. Some thefts and assaults have been
reported near nature areas, remote beaches, and small or informal parking areas
used by divers. Travelers should exercise caution at night in Koredor,
Punda, Otrobanda, Director’s Bay Beach, Baya Beach, the Mambo Beach parking
lot, and the neighborhoods of Scharloo, Fleur de Marie, Seru Fortuna, Marchena,
Seru di Kandela, Souax, Koraalspecht, Seru Loraweg, Dein, Kanga, and most beach
areas. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind, Hotels: The Inns and Outs, and Considerations for Hotel Security.
Authorities throughout the Dutch
Caribbean do not enforce the legal drinking age (18) rigorously, so extra
supervision of minors may be appropriate. Those who patronize bars or
nightclubs should travel in pairs or groups to minimize their risk of
victimization. Review OSAC’s report, Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.
withdrawing large amounts of cash from banks or ATMs. If you need to withdraw a
large sum of money, consider conducting an electronic transfer instead. Ensure your
credit card stays in your sight, and monitor the billing activity on that card
for several months. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
The Dutch Caribbean is not immune to
cyber intrusion. In April 2018, malefactors interrupted the public-facing electronic
resources of the Government of Sint Maarten for an entire day. Curaçao is home to CARICERT, the Caribbean Cyber Emergency Response Team,
which currently focuses on prevention and detection of cybersecurity incidents,
and plans to expand into incident response and advisement. CARICERT
currently has partnerships with CERTs in the Netherlands, Brazil, and the
United States. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security on Public Wi-Fi, Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends & Best Practices, and Satellite Phones: Critical or Contraband?
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Driving regulations are similar
to those in the U.S. Vehicles drive on the right side. Local law requires
drivers and passengers to wear seat belts, and motorcyclists to wear helmets.
Right turns at a red light are illegal. The use of cellular telephones while
driving is illegal, unless used with a hands-free device. Authorities will fine
drivers caught talking on a cellular telephone while driving.
Several complex intersections route
through roundabouts. Vehicles in a roundabout have the right of way, unless
otherwise marked. Curaçao’s main roads generally have adequate lighting, but road
lighting on the other islands can be less so. Serious traffic jams are rare.
Markings/signals may be confusing; nonexistent, hidden, or poorly maintained
street signs are a major hazard. Traffic signs prohibiting actions have a red
circle around them, but not the red slash one would expect to see in the U.S.
During and after a rainstorm,
roads frequently become extremely slippery. Night driving is reasonably safe,
as long as drivers are familiar with their route and the condition of the
roads. When driving at night, use well-traveled, well-lighted streets. Plan
your route before you leave. The speed limit is 40 km/hr in urban areas and 60
km/hr outside urban areas, unless otherwise indicated. Driving while
intoxicated should result in a fine or loss of driver’s license, but authorities
do not enforce this rule consistently. Outside of urban areas, watch for herds
of animals (especially goats) that may cross the road in unexpected areas. In
Bonaire and St. Eustatius, be vigilant for wild donkeys or other animals
crossing the road. Use caution when driving in Saba, as roads tend to be steep
and have many sharp turns.
Watch for aggressive drivers traveling
at high speeds, as they are frequently the cause of serious or fatal accidents.
Traffic accidents are a regular occurrence. If an accident occurs, drivers
should not move vehicles. Immediately contact ForenSys (a private company with
official responsibilities for non-injury accidents, formerly known as “Curaçao
Road Services”) at 199 or (599-9)
747-1333. In the event of an injury, reach emergency medical services at 912.
Car thieves have targeted vehicles
left unattended, either for joy riding or to be stripped down for parts. In
many cases, local insurance may not fully cover rental vehicles in the case of
theft or damage. Those renting vehicles should ensure that they carry
Review OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad, Driving Overseas: Best Practices, and
Evasive Driving Techniques; and
read the State Department’s webpage on driving and road safety abroad.
Public transportation is limited.
There are two bus terminals in Curaçao, one in Punda near the post office at
the Waaigat, and another in Otrobanda near the overpass. Minibuses in Bonaire
and Curaçao (bearing the word “BUS” on their license plates) are inexpensive
and run nonstop throughout the day with no fixed schedule. Each minibus has a
specific route displayed in its front windshield. Limited government-run buses (Konvooi) operate on fixed routes,
generally running on the hour throughout the day.
Buses in Aruba run every 15
minutes between 0545 and 1800, and every 40 minutes between 1800 and 2330.
There is no public transportation
in Saba or St. Eustatius.
Taxis are well-regulated and
generally safe, but are fairly expensive. As they do not operate with meters, patrons
should verify the price before entering. All taxi drivers carry badges, and all
taxis should be clearly identified. Taxi stands are available at the airport,
in Punda and Otrabanda, and outside most major hotels.
In 2012, the U.S. Federal
Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded Curaçao’s air safety rating from
Category 1 to Category 2, based on International Civil Aviation Organization
(ICAO) aviation safety standards. Current air service is unaffected, but local
airlines may not establish any new routes to the U.S. until Curaçao returns to
Category 1. Sint Maarten is similarly assessed as not compliant with ICAO
aviation safety standards.
The FAA has assessed the Civil
Aviation Authority in Aruba, Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius as compliant
with ICAO aviation safety standards.
U.S. Consulate prohibits U.S. Consulate personnel from flying on Insel Air, a Dutch Caribbean airline based in Curaçao with service to
multiple Caribbean destinations, adopting this policy following an
internal review of safety-related considerations. The ban will continue until
the airline proves that it is once again safe to fly. Review OSAC’s report, Security In Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
Yacht owners wishing to anchor in
littoral waters or marinas should educate themselves on required registration
procedures and permits prior to visiting the Dutch Caribbean. Mariners planning
travel to Curaçao must have completed a Customs Form 1300, Vessel Entrance or
Clearance Statement declaring their intention to travel to Curaçao prior to
their departure from the U.S. port. Curaçao will deny entry to mariners failing
to fill out and submit this form.
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Willemstad as being a LOW-threat
location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S.
Elements associated with
dissident groups of the former of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia
(FARC) may sometimes enter the Dutch Caribbean to engage in illegal activities
related to the drug trade. However, the Consulate is unaware of any terrorist
attacks being planned or executed in the Dutch Caribbean.
All travelers should be aware of
the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks. These could take place in
public areas, and terrorists have targeted sites foreign travelers frequent.
Curaçao has procedures in place in case of terrorist attacks in the handbook of
the Terrorist Incident Response Plan.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
The U.S. Department of State has
assessed Willemstad as being a LOW-threat
location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
Elections are generally free and
fair. Layoffs from the Isla Oil Refinery and austerity measures implemented during
the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in several recent protests against the local
government. Although these protests did not target U.S. interests, they did
result in damage to nearby vehicles and buildings. Review OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
government or civil-society leaders criticize U.S. government policies or the
presence of the U.S. armed forces’ forward operating location in Curaçao, but
such criticism is limited to rhetoric and generally does not adversely affect
The hurricane season in the Dutch
Caribbean normally runs June-November. The northern islands (St. Maarten, Saba,
and Sint Eustatius) are within the active hurricane zone, with major hurricane hits
every six years on average. In 2017, Hurricane Irma hit Sint Maarten, causing
extensive damage to roads, communications, electrical power, and housing. The
UN estimated the storm destroyed or damaged 90% of the buildings, and Princess
Juliana International Airport (SXM) sustained heavy damage and closed to
commercial air traffic for five weeks. Most hurricanes pass well to the north
of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curaçao, which have no recent record of major hurricane
damage, although Hurricane Matthew did brush the islands in 2016, causing some
localized flooding. The significant rainfall hurricanes bring can cause serious
flooding in low-lying areas.
Travelers should monitor local
and international weather updates from the Meteorological
Department of Curaçao, which
serves all islands within the Dutch Caribbean. The U.S. National Hurricane Center also provides hurricane forecasts and a wealth of weather-related
resources. The U.S. Federal
Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommends that persons living in areas prone to hurricanes make
preparations outlined in the hurricane and tropical storm preparation section.
There is difficulty in properly
disposing of waste produced by the large numbers of tourists throughout the
In Aruba, waste burning in the
landfill causes air pollution and poses an environmental and health risk.
The primary source of industrial
risk in Curaçao is the Refineria di Korsou (RDK, the Isla Refinery). The
refinery, operated by the Venezuelan national petroleum company, is in Sint
Anna Bay at the eastern edge of Willemstad’s harbor. RDK processes heavy crude
oil from Venezuela. In recent years, there have been reports of significant
environmental damage to the surrounding area because of neglect and a lack of
strict environmental controls. The release of noxious fumes and potentially
hazardous particles causes schools downwind to close on a regular basis.
Curaçao has state-of-the-art
information and communication technology connectivity with the rest of the
world, including a Tier IV datacenter. With several direct satellite and
submarine optic fiber cables, Curacao has one of the best Internet speeds and
reliability rates in the Western Hemisphere.
Counterfeit and pirated goods are
readily available throughout the Dutch Caribbean. Authorities occasionally
confiscate counterfeit products (e.g. cigarettes, clothing) sold in stores. The
illegal downloading, copying, and selling of movies is also widespread.
There are isolated reports of
corruption in Dutch Caribbean. Sint Maarten authorities arrested two members of
parliament on suspicion of accepting bribes in 2019. Aruba courts sentenced a government
minister to a four-year prison terms and a nine-year prohibition on running for
office for issuing work permits without following proper procedures. In
November 2018, the High Court in the Netherlands upheld the conviction of a
former Curaçao prime minister on charges of corruption and money laundering.
Violations of labor laws in
Aruba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten involve mainly hired workers from Latin
America, particularly in the construction and transportation sectors, earning
less than the minimum wage.
Same-sex marriage is legal in Bonaire, Sint
Eustatius and Saba, but not available in Curaçao. However, as
part of the Netherlands, Curaçao must recognize same-sex marriages as valid. There
are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of
LGBTI+ events in Curaçao. Many see Curaçao as one of the most accepting
Caribbean locations for LBGTI+ travelers, although local LGBTI+ people have
reported discrimination still exists. Review the State Department’s webpage on
security for LGBTI+ travelers.
Throughout the Dutch Caribbean, a wide-ranging
law prohibiting discrimination applies to persons with physical, sensory,
intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, health care,
transportation, and the provision of other government services. Some public
buildings and public transport are not easily accessible to persons with
physical disabilities. Sidewalks and crossings in many areas are not wheelchair
accessible, and many buildings lack ramps. Human rights observers noted that in
Curaçao, persons with disabilities had to rely on
improvised measures to access buildings and parking areas. Review the State
Department’s webpage on security for travelers with disabilities.
The islands continue to serve as
a major transit point for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana from Colombia and
Venezuela. Drugs entering Aruba, Curaçao, Bonaire, and offshore areas are
generally destined for Europe (especially the Netherlands) and the U.S. Drugs
passing through Sint Maarten generally head to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin
Islands. Traffickers transport drugs via aircraft, with the help of drug mules,
and aboard fishing boats. Traffickers also use high-speed boats.
Enforcement policy concerning
drug possession in the Dutch Caribbean differs significantly from the
Netherlands. Authorities enforce laws against possession of controlled
substances rigorously, including against tourists in possession of marijuana
for personal use. Although drug smuggling remains a serious issue, intensive
cooperation with U.S., Dutch, and international law enforcement authorities has
resulted in significant interdictions and disruptions of narcotic smuggling in
the region. In recent years, law enforcement has seen an uptick in
confiscations of marijuana but a decline in cocaine seizures. A relatively high
percentage of Aruba’s population consumes cocaine.
There have been very infrequent cases of
kidnapping reported in the Dutch Caribbean. Review OSAC’s report, Kidnapping: The Basics
The emergency line in Aruba is 100; elsewhere
in the Dutch Caribbean, it is 911. Victims of any type of crime should call emergency services to
report the crime to the police or visit a police station. Each station is
responsible for handling the crimes that occur within its district. Do not rely
on hotel/restaurant/tour staff to make the report. Police support is generally
adequate for victims of violent crime, but the police have at times been less
helpful in cases of burglary or theft. Boaters should contact the Dutch
Caribbean Coast Guard at 913 for any
maritime emergency. Download the State Department’s Crime
Victims Assistance brochure.
- The Curaçao Police Force (Korps Politie Curaçao, KPC) manages
general law enforcement and narcotics, weapons, homicide, and robbery
investigations.The Control and Security Division (formerly the Servisio di Kontrol i Seguridad, SKS) no
longer exists, and its officers have been merged into the KPC.
- The Curaçao Security Service (Veiligheidsdienst Curaçao, VDC) gathers
and analyzes security intelligence. VDC works in close cooperation with the
Dutch civilian intelligence service (AIVD) and military intelligence service
(MIVD), as well as with U.S. and other foreign agencies.
- The Dutch Special Police Forces
Unit (Recherche Samenwerkings Team,
RST) is a special investigations unit from the Netherlands that supports the
KPC with anti-drug, money laundering, human smuggling, and other high-profile
- The Dutch Caribbean Coast Guard
pursues drug traffickers and assists with accidents and emergencies at sea,
with the support of the Dutch Royal Navy.
- The Dutch Royal Military Police (Koninklijke Marechaussee, KMAR) performs
immigration investigations at the airport and harbor, investigates crimes by
and against the Dutch military, and provides occasional support to the KPC.
Each of the other islands in the
Dutch Caribbean has its own police force, complemented by Dutch forces similar
to the arrangement in Curaçao. Find
more information at the websites for the Aruba Police Force (KPA), Sint
Maarten Police Force (KPSM), and
the Dutch Caribbean Police (KPCN, for
Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius).
The emergency line in Curaçao
and Sint Maarten is 912; elsewhere in the Dutch
Caribbean, it is 911. Emergency response
may be quick or may take hours. Ambulance services are
under-staffed and under-equipped, especially in the western part of the island.
It may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to
stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. In the event of an
injury, basic emergency medical treatment is widely available. Curaçao’s medical system emphasizes
the use of “house doctors” (huisarts),
outpatient primary care physicians who may not have completed postgraduate
training such as a residency program. The recent opening of the Curaçao Medical
Center attracted new medical professionals to the country and greatly enhanced the
country’s medical capabilities. Some surgical specialties (e.g. neurosurgery
and cardiac surgery) are not available on the island. Some facilities
do not offer the health and service standards typically expected in the U.S. Find contact information for available medical services and
available air ambulance services on the Consulate’s Medical
Critical injuries often require
medical evacuation (medevac), which can cost $15-25,000. The U.S. Department of State strongly
recommends purchasing international health insurance before traveling
internationally. Review the State Department’s webpage on insurance overseas.
Boticas are drug
stores that provide both prescription and emergency medicine. The variety of drugs available locally is
smaller than in U.S. pharmacies.
The CDC recommends that travelers
have the following up-to-date vaccinations at least four weeks before
traveling: measles/mumps/rubella (MMR); diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT);
polio; hepatitis A and B; typhoid; and rabies (only for travelers whose
activities that will bring them into direct contact with bats).
following diseases are also prevalent: Zika virus, chikungunya, and dengue
fever. Zika outbreaks have occurred on Curaçao. All three diseases spread through
the bite of the same mosquito species. There are no vaccines to prevent
infection by these viruses. The most effective protective measures are those
that prevent mosquito bites.
The CDC offers additional
information on vaccines and health guidance for Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint Eustatius, and Sint Maarten.
Review OSAC’s reports, The Healthy Way, Traveling with Medication, I’m Drinking What in My Water?,Health
101: How to Prepare for Travel, and Fire Safety Abroad.
OSAC Country Council Information
There is no Country Council in the
Dutch Caribbean. Interested private-sector security managers should contact
OSAC’s Western Hemisphere team with any questions.
U.S. Consulate Contact Information
J.B. Gorsiraweg 1, Willemstad, Curaçao
Hours of operation: 0800-1700
Before you travel, consider the