Plenty of islands in the world have their own currency. However Bonaire, a beautiful island in the Caribbean, does not. It uses the long-established US dollar as its official currency.
What coins and notes are available for this currency?
You’ll no doubt be familiar with the US dollar already, even if you don’t happen to live in America. Each dollar is split into 100 cents and of the six coins in circulation today, five are in cents. These are the 1, 5, 10, 25 and 50 cent coins. Aside from this there is also a one dollar coin available.
As for banknotes you’ll find several of these around too. They are the $1, $2, $5, $10, $20, $50 and $100 dollar bills. However the $2 banknote is only very rarely seen – the chances are you won’t see it in use at all in your time on Bonaire.
From past to present – the history of the US dollar in Bonaire
While the currency is a couple of centuries old it was not always used on Bonaire. In fact it was only on New Year’s Day 2011 that the island officially adopted it as their proper currency. Before this the island used the Antillean guilder, although in reality the people there were also quite happy to use the US dollar as well. Certainly, by swapping over to the US dollar it became much easier and simpler for people to make transactions with each other. Furthermore they made it easier for tourists to get hold of the US dollar prior to arriving on the island itself.
How to get hold of the US dollar in Bonaire
Firstly you’ll no doubt be aware you can easily get hold of US dollars prior to arriving on the island. Since this is one of the most popular and frequently-used currencies in the world, you can order your dollars in advance of going away. This can be done online or at a bureau de change. Nowadays there are more options for picking them up too. For example you can sometimes get them delivered to your door, while it’s also feasible to collect them from some outlets at the airport before you catch your flight.
The island is pretty well-equipped with cash machines as well. There are around a dozen of them, which may not sound like much but it is a relatively small island. Check that your particular bank card will be accepted by the cash machines before leaving home. Your bank should also be able to advise you on charges applicable for withdrawing money when abroad. This at least saves any nasty surprises while you are away.
Since this is a popular tourist destination you will also find it quite easy to pay by using a credit card. All the major brands of cards will be accepted; just check to see whether your card will be accepted at a particular outlet before assuming you can pay this way.
How to find out the latest exchange rate between your home currency and the US dollar
Every currency converter will have the US dollar included on it, since it is one of the most popular currencies around. Although the converters typically list currencies in alphabetical order, some of them put the most popular currencies at the top of the list. This will place the US dollar near the top so it is easier to find. Just convert your own currency with the US dollar to see how much you’ll get for your money.
Of course this won’t take into account any charges that would be applied to a bureau de change transaction. However it does give you a good ballpark figure (to use an appropriate American term) to work with.
It might seem a little strange but the best website to visit with regard to official information on visiting Bonaire is the website for the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the UK. Based in London, the embassy also deals with visas for trips to the so-called Dutch Caribbean, which is where Bonaire is located. You can access the site at http://unitedkingdom.nlembassy.org/passports-visas–consular/visas/visa-for-the-dutch-caribbean.
Travelling safely with the US dollar in Bonaire
One of the main things to be aware of here is the need to keep an eye on your bags while travelling. Unfortunately the location of Bonaire makes it an appealing place for drug runners to shift drugs from South America to other parts of the world. Never be tempted to carry a bag for anyone else, no matter how innocent it seems. Don’t leave anything unattended either, even for a moment. There have been cases where people have slipped packages of drugs into luggage belonging to other people.
While this is the main concern to be aware of, it is wise to be aware of petty crime as well. You shouldn’t be affected by any serious crimes; tourists tend to be more at risk of petty crime that includes bag snatching and dipping into pockets for cash and valuables. You can reduce the odds this could happen to you by keeping an eye on your bag. Don’t even be tempted to hook it over a chair as it is very easy for an experienced pickpocket to dip into it, even if they don’t steal the bag outright.
Make sure the accommodation you book provides you with a safe if at all possible. You can store valuables here when you don’t need them. Obviously, keeping cash to a minimum also helps reduce the amount you could lose if someone does dip into your pocket.
Where to spend your dollars in Bonaire – and what to spend them on
Bonaire is located in the Caribbean and is one of the so-called ABC islands. They are known by this name because it refers to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao (hence ABC). You’ll also sometimes see it referred to as one of the BES islands. This refers to Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba. It is to the east of both Aruba and Curacao and is located off the northern coastline of Venezuela.
There are many highlights to appreciate on the island, but one of the best is arguably the Washington Slagbaai National Park. The park is now over 40 years old, having come into being in 1969. This takes up a major part of the entire island so it seems a shame not to pay it a visit. The park is big enough to provide a variety of activities for visitors to try. Hiking is extremely popular, as is mountain biking, but it makes sense to be prepared and to have plenty of food and water with you. Remember, it’s hot here so sunscreen won’t go amiss either.
For those who would rather indulge in water sports, well, you won’t be disappointed either. Swimming is welcomed here, as is snorkelling and even scuba diving. What would appeal most to you?
If you’d like to see plenty of donkeys you can do so with a visit to the Donkey Sanctuary on the island. It has been going for some 20 years now and the donkeys here are protected in order that they can live a peaceful life. You can get close to the donkeys on foot if you wish, which is quite an experience.
Another idea you might want to try is visiting the so-called Pink Lake, or Pekelmeer. The lake looks pink thanks to the salt flats there, and it seems a rather appropriate colour since there is a flamingo sanctuary nearby as well.
Now since this is a Caribbean island you’d rather expect there to be some beaches wouldn’t you? You won’t be disappointed in this respect either. One rather attractive beach is Wayaka beach, which although small is definitely perfectly formed! The waters near the beach are nice and shallow so they’re good for paddling but this is a good place to come if you’re into snorkelling or scuba diving, since both can be done here. There is plenty beneath the surface of the water to marvel at, so it would be a shame to do nothing but sunbathe!
We mentioned the previous beach being a little on the small side, and this could be said of other beaches as well. This is an island after all, and while some parts of the Caribbean offer endless stretches of beach you won’t find anything record-breaking on Bonaire. What it lacks in size it certainly makes up for in appeal though.
The northern end of the island has several beaches all within relatively easy reach of each other. It’s fairly uncommon to come across a beach where you have to be staying at the local resort to use it. Do be aware of the conditions for swimming in each location though. Just because there is a beach it doesn’t automatically mean you can swim there without the danger of being swept away in the sea. Some areas are known for their huge waves so make sure you stick to enjoying the beaches in these areas. Others are famous for being good dive sites while some are good for the whole family to use and enjoy.
There are many good things to bear in mind about Bonaire. You’ll certainly be pretty familiar with the currency they use before you go there, so this is one thing you won’t have to get to grips with. There are plenty of attractions available that will help you part with a few dollars too, so get organised and start preparing for a sensational holiday if you decide to visit Bonaire.