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SafetyTravel Safety: Americas: Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles: Netherlands Antilles
Capital: Willemstad
Population: 214,258
Currency: Netherlands Antillean guilder (ANG)
Languages: Dutch (official), Papiamento (a Spanish-Portuguese-Dutch-English dialect) predominates, English widely spoken, Spanish
Religions: Roman Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Seventh-Day Adventist
Borders: Guadeloupe (Saint Martin) 10.2 km

The Netherlands Antilles is an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands comprised of five islands: Bonaire, Cura�ao, Saba, St. Eustatius (aka Statia) and St. Maarten (Dutch side). Tourist facilities are widely available.

Terrorism and kidnappings are unknown, and there are no extremist groups or areas of instability of that kind. Drug related organized crime exists within the Netherlands Antilles, but has not directly affected tourists in the past.

In recent years, street crime has increased. Valuables, including passports, left unattended on beaches, in cars and hotel lobbies are easy targets for theft. Burglary and break-ins are increasingly common at resorts, beach houses and hotels. Armed robbery occasionally occurs. The American boating community has reported a handful of incidents in the past, and visitors are urged to exercise reasonable caution in securing boats and belongings.

Car theft, including that of rental vehicles for joy riding and stripping, can occur. Vehicle leases or rental may not be fully covered by local insurance when a vehicle is stolen. Be sure you are sufficiently insured when renting vehicles and jet skis.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating the Netherlands Antilles' laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands Antilles' are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences. Do not agree or attempt to smuggle illegal drugs, either internally (swallowing) or in luggage. The Netherlands Antilles has strict gun control laws; even a stray bullet in a suitcase can trigger a fine or time in jail.

Medical care is generally good in Cura�ao and St. Maarten, but may be limited on the other three islands. Hospitals have three classes of services i.e.: First Class: one patient to a room, air conditioning etc.; Second Class: two to six patients to a room, no air conditioning; Third Class: 15 to 30 people in one hall. Patients are accommodated due to the level of insurance.

Bonaire: The San Francisco hospital is a medical center (35 beds) with decompression facilities. The hospital has an air ambulance service to Cura�ao and Aruba.

Cura�ao: St. Elizabeth hospital is a public hospital that may be compared to midrange facilities in the United States. St. Elizabeth's hospital has a decompression chamber and qualified staff to assist scuba divers suffering from decompression sickness. Several private clinics provide good to excellent medical service.

St. Maarten: St. Maarten Medical Center (79 beds) is a relatively small hospital where general surgery is performed. Complex cases are sent to Cura�ao.

Statia: Queen Beatrix Medical Center (20 beds). A medical facility well equipped for first aid. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten.

Saba: Saba Clinic (14 beds) is a well-equipped first aid facility. Surgery cases are sent to St. Maarten.

St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius lie in the hurricane belt, as opposed to Cura�ao and Bonaire. Hurricane season starts in June and ends in November. In the event of a weather emergency, please follow the instructions of your hotel or the local government. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at

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 Netherlands Antilles is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of public transportation: good
Urban road conditions/maintenance: good
Rural road conditions/maintenance: fair 
Availability of roadside assistance: good

Driving in the Netherlands Antilles 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 in the Netherlands Antilles. Therefore, drivers should proceed through intersections with caution. Roads in the Netherlands Antilles are extremely slippery during rainfall. Night driving is reasonably safe in the Netherlands Antilles as long as drivers are familiar with their routes and the road conditions thereof. Most streets are poorly lit or not lit at all. Drivers should be aware of herds of goats that may cross the street unexpectedly. In Bonaire, also wild donkeys may cross the road. 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. Vans are inexpensive and run non-stop during daytime with no fixed schedule. Each van has a specific route displayed in the front of the windshield. Buses, which run on the hour, have limited routes. The road conditions on the main thoroughfares are in good to fair conditions.

For additional general information about road safety, including links to foreign government sites, see the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs, home page at For specific information concerning the Netherlands Antilles driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Netherlands National Tourist Organization offices in New York via the Internet at See also road safety information from other sources at,,,,

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of the Netherlands Antilles' civil aviation authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of the Netherlands Antilles' air carrier operations.

For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the separate Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

January 28, 2004

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