Road Conditions and Safety: Nonexistent, hidden, and poorly maintained street signs are a major road hazard on the BES islands. Proceed through intersections with caution. Roads can be extremely slippery during rainfall. Night driving is reasonably safe if you are familiar with the route and road conditions. Many streets are poorly lit or not lit at all. 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.
The emergency service telephone number is 911. Police and ambulances tend to respond quickly to emergency situations.
Traffic Laws: 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 must be in child safety seats, and children under 12 must ride in the back seat.
Public Transportation: Taxis are an easy form of transportation on the islands. Verify the price before entering the taxi, as there are no meters. Fares are quoted in U.S. dollars. In Bonaire, public minibuses are inexpensive and run nonstop during the day 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 St. Eustatius.
See our Road Safety page for more information.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of the BES Islands? Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the BES Islands? air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA?s safety assessment page.
The U.S. Consulate prohibits U.S. Consulate personnel from flying on Insel Air, a Dutch Caribbean airline based in Curacao with service to multiple Caribbean destinations. The Consulate adopted this policy following an internal review of safety-related considerations.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to the BES islands should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts. Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.
Access to quality medical care is limited on the BES islands, and facilities do not offer the health and service standards typically expected in the United States.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare does not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation. Critically ill patients requiring service not offered in the BES islands are normally transferred to another island or the United States at the patient?s expense. If medical evacuation is authorized by the patient?s insurance carrier or funded privately (approximately $15,000 ? $25,000), patients can be transferred to the United States. Medical evacuations are common for most serious health issues on the BES islands.
Medicines: If traveling with prescription medication, check with the government of the Netherlands to ensure the medication is legal in the BES islands. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor?s prescription.
Drug stores or ?boticas? provide prescription and over-the-counter medicine. Visitors need a local prescription, and may not be able to find medications normally available in the U.S. Emergency services are usually quick to respond.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The following diseases are prevalent:
Further health information:
Local laws and Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Consulate. See our webpage for further information.
Dutch law allows for suspects to be held by order of a judge without a hearing during an investigation.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report ? see country reports
- Human Rights Report ? see country reports
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in the Netherlands.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Some public areas and buildings are not wheelchair accessible and may present difficulties for persons with mobility issues.
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers.
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.
Safety and Security
There are no known areas of instability on the BES islands, although drug trafficking organizations do operate on the island.
Crime: The crime threat is considered low for Saba and St. Eustatius and medium for Bonaire, although you should always take precautions in unfamiliar surroundings. Do not leave valuables unattended in public areas or in unsecured hotel rooms and rental homes. Keep a copy of your valid U.S. passport in a secure location in case it is stolen.
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. The legal drinking age of 18 is not always rigorously enforced on the BES islands, so extra parental supervision may be appropriate. Travel in pairs or groups and be responsible with alcohol consumption.
Victims of Crime: Dial 911 for police assistance in the BES Islands. Contact the U.S. Consulate at (+599)(9)-461-3066 after you have contacted local police. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting the crime.
Do not rely on hotels, restaurants, or tour companies to make the police report for you.
For more information, see our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas.
- help you find appropriate medical care
- assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- explain the local criminal justice process in general terms
- provide a list of local attorneys
- provide our information on victim?s compensation programs in the U.S.
- provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- replace a stolen or lost passport
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Consulate for assistance. If you are in immediate danger, first contact the local police at 911.
Tourism: The tourism industry is unevenly regulated, and safety inspections for equipment and facilities do not commonly occur. Hazardous areas/activities are not always identified with appropriate signage, and staff may not be trained or certified either by the host government or by recognized authorities in the field. In the event of an injury, basic emergency medical treatment is widely available throughout the country. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. Critical injuries often require medical evacuation. U.S. citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage.
Entry exit Requirementsh
All U.S. citizens must have a U.S. passport for all air travel, including to and from the BES Islands. All sea travelers must have a passport or passport card. To enter the BES islands, you are required to have an onward or return ticket, proof of sufficient funds, and proof of lodging accommodations for your stay. For the most current visa information please visit the website of the Caribbean Netherlands Immigration and Naturalisation Service.
For further information, travelers may contact the Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch Consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Houston, and Miami. For more information on visas or extending your visit, please call the Immigration Office of Bonaire at +599-715-8330.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the BES Islands.
See the Department of State?s Fact Sheet on the Netherlands for information on U.S. – Netherlands relations.