It's not perfect, but Bonaire is a relatively friendly destination for travelers with disabilities.
Many resorts offer accessible rooms, restaurants and docks. Several resorts – including Captain Don's Habitat – have staff trained in assisting disabled divers, with extensive experience training and guiding groups of disabled US Vets.
In Kralendijk, the cruise-ship terminal has a wheelchair ramp, as do many sidewalks around town. Roro Services offers wheelchair-accessible transportation and tours.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel.
Bargaining is not appropriate in Bonaire.
Dangers & Annoyances
Bonaire is extremely safe, although there have been growing reports of petty theft and all the standard precautions apply. Do not leave valuables in your vehicle.
Fire coral is very common in Bonaire. Learn what it looks like and avoid touching it, as it causes a nasty burning sensation.
110V, 60Hz; US-style two- and three-pin plugs are used.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Entry & Exit Formalities
Travelers are allowed to bring the following duty free:
- 200 cigarettes (or 50 cigars)
- 1L liquor
- 2L wine
- 8L beer
All visitors need a passport and a return or onward ticket to enter Bonaire.
Not required for citizens of the US, Canada and EU countries. Visitors are allowed to stay for three months out of any given six month period.
Bonaire is an extremely friendly, mostly informal place, with just a few guidelines to keep things pleasant:
- Always greet people upon arrival. Bon dia (good morning) or bon nochi (good evening) is perfect, though English is fine too.
- 'Island time' allows a 15- or 20-minute leeway for appointments.
- Bathing suits are for the beach or pool. Anywhere else, it's polite to don a cover-up or other proper clothing.
- Topless sunbathing is generally frowned upon, but tolerated at 'tourist' beaches. Sorobon Resort no longer caters to a naturist clientele, and nude sunbathing is prohibited throughout the island.
- Don't forget to tip your servers (15% to 20%) unless a service charge is included in your bill. Tour guides, taxi drivers and housekeeping staff also appreciate tips.
Bonaire is a 'special municipality' of the Netherlands, and as such, observes the same laws regarding GLBT equality. Same-sex marriage is legal (though rare) on the island.
That said, gay populations are not out or active on the island. There are no gay bars (and few bars of any type). There is no official Pride celebration and there are no gay activist groups. GLBT travelers are unlikely to encounter any discrimination, but they are also unlikely to encounter other gay folks, except by sheer coincidence.
Most resorts, hotels and rental units offer wireless internet access.
Bonaire has seen an increase in petty crime against tourists in recent years, including break-ins to hotels and rental units without significant security. Some travelers complain that local police show little concern about such incidents.
Unlike in the Netherlands proper, all drugs are illegal. Violating these laws can lead to arrest and imprisonment.
As always, if you get arrested, your embassy can help you notify your family and contact an attorney, but not much else.
- Newspaper Bonaire Reporter (www.bonairereporter.com) is a free biweekly newspaper that actually covers controversial issues on the island.
- Television Tourist TV Bonaire (Telbo MiTV channel 1 and Flamingo TV channel 60) shows short documentaries on the island's history, culture and nature.
ATMs are widely available, dispensing US dollars (US$). Credit cards are accepted at most hotels and restaurants.
For current exchange rates, see www.xe.com.
- Bars & restaurants For good service, tip 15% to 20% (minus the service charge that is sometimes included in the bill).
- Dive guides Tip US$10 for a half-day outing.
- Resorts Often include a 15% service charge on the bill. If not, tip US$1 to US$3 per day for housekeeping.
- Taxis A 10% tip is usual.
The following are standard business hours across the island. Outside tourist areas much is closed on Sunday.
Banks 9am–4pm Monday–Friday
Shops 9am–6pm Monday–Saturday
Post Office Reliable postal service is provided by Flamingo Express Dutch Caribbean in Kralendijk.
New Years Day January 1
Carnival Monday Monday before Ash Wednesday
Good Friday Friday before Easter
Easter Monday Monday after Easter
King’s Birthday April 27
Labour Day May 1
Ascension Day Sixth Thursday after Easter
Bonaire Day September 6
Christmas Day December 25
Boxing Day December 26
Smoking is not usually restricted in bars or casinos, though restaurants usually designate smoking and nonsmoking areas. The airport and other public buildings also have designated smoking areas. Most hotels and resorts prohibit smoking in rooms, but allow it on the grounds.
Taxes & Refunds
A 6% sales tax is levied on the purchase of all goods and services in Bonaire. There is an additional per night per person charge – ranging from US$5.50 to US$6.50 – on accommodations.
Bonaire’s country code is is 599.
To call within Bonaire, dial the seven-digit number without the code. For other countries, dial the international access code 011 + country code + number.
GSM cell (mobile) phones are compatible with local SIM cards. There is also 3G service. The main operator is Digicel (www.digicelbonaire.com).
Bonaire is in the Atlantic time zone (AST), which is four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time. Daylight saving time (DST) is not observed.
Public toilets are practically nonexistent at beaches or in town in Bonaire.
Staff at the Bonaire Tourist Office in Kralendijk can answer questions about accommodations, tours and more.
Travel with Children
Bonaire does not have a slew of sights and activities catering specifically to children, but it's a terrific destination for adventurous families. Children as young as five years old can learn to snorkel, and Bonaire's calm, warm waters – with the reef right near the shore – are the perfect place to start. Children as young as 10 years old can get their diving certification. And children between aged five to seven years old can start to learn to windsurf.
Although Bonaire does not have the wide, sandy beaches of some neighboring islands, there are plenty of places to swim and build sand castles, such as Spice Beach Bar. And let's face it, that's all kids really need. That said, the larger resorts offer dedicated children's programs, to keep kids occupied while their parents go diving.
When it's time to take a break from the sea and sun, the small Terramar Museum offers a kid-friendly history of the island, and the Donkey Sanctuary provides plenty of opportunities to snuggle with donkeys.
Many accommodations are set up for families, with connecting suites and kitchens available. Children's necessities such as diapers are widely available. Most car rental agencies offer car seats.
Bonaire is one of the more prosperous islands in the Caribbean, and volunteer opportunities are scarce. That said, there are a few organizations that depend on the efforts of dedicated volunteers:
Animal Shelter Bonaire This beloved place depends on volunteers to help out with maintenance and working the markets, as well as showering some loving kindness on the resident dogs and cats.
Coral Restoration Foundation This inspiring organization works hard to preserve and produce endangered species of staghorn and elkhorn corals around Bonaire's reef. After undergoing specialized PADI training to be a coral restoration diver, volunteers can help maintain CRF's offshore coral nurseries and transplant healthy specimens to degraded areas.
Donkey Sanctuary Dote on the donkeys and make them feel at home.
Echo Parrot Sanctuary This bird sanctuary – working to protect the yellow-shouldered Amazon parrot – depends on volunteers for all manner of support, including population monitoring, bird care, trail maintenance and more.
Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire Long-term volunteers undergo training to become independent 'beachkeepers' – monitoring beaches all around the island. From January to April, STCB recruits snorkelers to help out with its in-water survey to count, identify and record sea-turtle species.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & Measures The metric system is used.
Tourists are not permitted to work or engage in any business while in Bonaire. Finding work requires getting a work permit, normally only granted if there are no local people who are qualified for a position.