I’ve fretted about this enough, so I’m going to write the entry. You see, it really, really, really bothers me that we went to the ABC Islands, but the way in which we toured the islands makes it nigh-impossible to write about them in the correct order. Yet if they aren’t in order, then they are, well, out of order, and I think that I’ve finally decided that that bothers me even more. So on we go.
Bonaire was really the third of the three islands we visited on the trip, but was our first destination country. As I mentioned previously, you have to actually stay somewhere for a night before they’ve really admitted you to the country, and we hadn’t done that yet.
To get to Bonaire, we had to first get to Aruba (and also stop in Curacao, it turned out). So we departed from Charlotte on USAirways and arrived at the Aruba airport in the late afternoon after an uneventful flight, and then proceeded to find our way to Bonaire. As was also previously mentioned, we had procured email reservations on BonairExel for our inter-island trips, but we hadn’t actually obtained the tickets. You see, you’re supposed to do that in Aruba.
The first thing that’s odd is that the international flights to the US are in a completely different building than those elsewhere (for instance, to Bonaire). So we walked towards the second terminal to check-in for our next flight, assuming that is where we bought tickets. But as we stood in line, it became apparent that everyone else already had their tickets. So we had to find out how to get ours.
After wandering aimlessly for a bit around the airport – and this is quite a task, as it really isn’t very large – we found a KLM window that appeared to also sell BonairExel tickets. After attempting to get the details across for several minutes, and arguing that we didn’t have to pay departure tax because we hadn’t actually stayed in Aruba yet, we finally were presented with a fare that was $20 higher than we had been told via email – because of departure taxes! And naturally we didn’t have the email, as if that would have been proof of anything. So what were we to do? You guessed it – we paid the extra $20 and checked in for our flight.
It turns out that this was the first step in our learning about the nature of departure tax. It seems that each country has its own way of collecting this tax. Yet the obvious answer, that we were paying to leave Aruba, turned out to not be the case. We were actually paying the departure tax for Curacao, which we hadn’t even been to yet!
After a short flight, we stopped in Curacao briefly to drop off a handful of folks and pick up some others before continuing to Bonaire. We didn’t even need to get off the plane, though it was a bit hot sitting on the runway – even though it was already dark. Before long, we took off and after another short flight we found ourselves (finally!) on Bonaire.
One thing I’ve noticed about the ABC Islands, and that is that they don’t have much in the way of signage. The people all speak pretty decent English, so that really wasn’t a problem. There just isn’t a lot of direction in how to get places (for instance, a pointer to ground transportation would have been amazingly useful at this juncture).
The Bonaire airport is very small. In fact, it isn’t much of an airport. It really reminded me of a two-story, open-air flea market, without much for sale. So it really wasn’t too difficult to find our way past the older gentlemen playing checkers and get a cab to our hotel. Unfortunately, the proprietor had left for the night, and we had no way to get in. Luckily for us, the cab driver called the hotel owner (how he knew him, I have no idea – I guess it really is a small island), who promptly checked us in and we had a place to sleep. Finally!