Driving on Curaçao.

We here on Curacao do almost everything by car. That's for a reason; It's often way too hot to go on foot. There are bicycles and motorcycles, but the infrastructure is not really designed for them and the average Curacao driver is not used to it. Public transport is not organized the way you're used to, it doesn't take you everywhere and often doesn't drive at night. And taxis are expensive.

So we take the car!

 

Participating in traffic is not so bad here, despite all the stories you might have heard, provided you possess a bit of a relaxed "go with the flow" (holiday) mode (and of course have activated it!). In general, the islanders drive much more relaxed here than elsewhere in the world. (With the exception of a few idiots) And they are also more courteous; at busy intersections or side roads you will often be allowed to go first. Usually this is done by signaling with high beam and slowing down. It is customary to press your horn briefly as a thank you. Be aware that traffic might also come from the other side, so don't cross the road too eagerly.


As a tourist or trainee, it is useful to know a number of things:

  • Different traffic behavior/rules.
  • Traffic from the right does not always have priority. 
    • At a T-junction, traffic on the thoroughfare has priority. 
    • At an equivalent intersection, traffic from the right does lead, but there are not many of them on the island. Usually the right of way at intersections is regulated by signs or traffic lights. 

If you don't remember, everyone has the right of way, except you!

  • Traffic lights.
    • They work and mean the same as everywhere, but some local drivers deal with them in a slightly different way; it is not uncommon for drivers (from the aforementioned category of idiots, whose brains are probably working slower due to the heat) to continue driving the intersection while the light has been red for several seconds. 
    • So pay close attention and take another look left and right before you accelerate when your light turns green.


  • Direction indicators.
    • They're also standard issue here on the cars. Only a lot of people here probably think they are just (Christmas) decorations. They don't use them at all.... 
    • or they do, but that doesn't mean they're actually going to turn (sometimes they're just still on from 9 intersections ago)..... 
    • or they're not switched on and they suddenly do take a turn anyway....
    • or they drive with alarm lights on... just because it's fun or maybe because they are drunk.

So, don't place too much value on the indicators of your fellow road users.



  • Condition of the road surface.  
    • The roads on the island have improved a lot in recent years. However, there are still many places where the road surface is bad. So always keep a close eye on the road in front of you, because if there is a hole in it, it is often quite a crater and you might drive your tires (and sometimes even rims) to pieces.
    • If the roads are or are getting wet, they become extremely slippery. Keep that in mind, adjust your speed and keep more distance. 
    • Don't just drive through puddles; you usually can't tell if it's a small puddle or if there might be 'a hole to China' underneath.

 

  • Keep your lane. 
    • There are not many two-lane roads on the island but where they are you will notice that people often keep driving on the left. Therefore, they simply overtake on the right.
    • So, remember that when you drive left and want to go back to the right lane, you also check your right mirror and -blind spot.
    • Of course, if you are from Britain, you are used to driving left, so for you this is more normal than for those 'other Europeans'. And if you are from the United States, you are probably used to the 'keep your lane' system anyway.

  • Poko poko / Relèks! 
    • Life here is a bit less hectic than in Europe. People take time for a chat with a friend they happen to meet. Even though they are blocking traffic in the process. Don't get angry, it doesn't help! Quietly wait for traffic to start moving again.

You've got the clock; we've got the time!


  • Refueling. 
    • Refueling here is also a bit different than you are probably used to; you have to pay in advance. 
    • Put your car at a pump. 
    • Go to the cash register and pay the amount you want to refuel for. 
    • Go back to the pump and start filling up; the pump will stop automatically when the amount you paid is reached.
    • Not sure how much you need? No problem; pay plenty and pick up your change afterwards.
By the way, don't bother looking for the cheapest petrol station; the prices for fuel are set by the government and are the same everywhere.

  • Navigate. 
    • Finding your way around here can be quite a challenge. Many roads don't have a name sign (anymore) and the house numbers are often not clear, illogical or don't even exist. Still it doesn't have to be a problem if you have a smartphone.
    • We use and recommend the free app maps.me (www.maps.me). After installing the app and downloading the map of Curacao, you no longer need an internet connection and this app will take you anywhere without further data consumption. The app is fed by users and you will find locations in it that other navigation apps don't know about.

  • An accident / collision.
    • Well, that could happen. It's important to know what you should and shouldn't do in such a case.
    • You are NOT allowed to move the car after a collision/accident! It has to stay where it is. Even if you are standing in the middle of the Juliana Bridge or at the busiest intersection of the city and in the middle of rush hour!
    • Make sure you and the other passengers are in a safe place.
    • If you rent from us, call us first, and then the Curaçao Road Service (also known as Forensys).
    • Under no circumstances discuss the situation with the opposite party. It is pointless and usually the atmosphere does not improve. The question of liability will be answered later on.
    • We will help you with the further proceedings and, if necessary, arrange other transport.
    • Remember; all our cars have all-risk insurance, so you don't have to worry about the car.