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Travel Warning & Consular Information Sheet for Netherlands Antilles

Netherlands Antilles - Consular Information Sheet
November 3, 2000

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

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Either a U.S. passport or U.S. birth certificate accompanied by valid photo identification must be presented. While a U.S. passport is not mandatory it is recommended since it is more readily recognized as a form of positive proof of citizenship. Tourists may be asked to show onward/return tickets or proof of sufficient funds for their stay. Length of stay is granted for two weeks and may be extended for 90 days by the Head Offfice of Immigration. For further information, travelers can contact the Royal Netherlands Embassy, 4200 Linnean Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or the Dutch consulates in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and Houston. Internet: http://www.netherlands/embassy.org.

DUAL NATIONALITY: Dutch law in principle does not permit dual nationality. However, there are exceptions in some cases. The Embassy of The Netherlands in Washington or one of the Dutch Consulates in the U.S. will be able to provide more detailed and specific information on this subject. In addition to being subject to all Dutch laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Dutch citizens. For additional information, see the Consular Affairs home page on the Internet at http://travel.state.gov for our Dual Nationality flyer.

CRIME INFORMATION: 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 and beach houses. Armed robbery occasionally occurs. As the American boating community in Curacao has recently reported a handful of incidents, 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 rentals 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.

The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. U.S. citizens may refer to the Department of State's pamphlet, A Safe Trip Abroad, for ways to promote a more trouble-free journey. The pamphlet is available by mail from the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 20402, via the Internet at http://www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs, or via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page at http://travel.state.gov.

MEDICAL FACILITIES: Medical care is generally good in Curacao 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, TV, better food; second class: two to three patients to a room, shared bathroom, etc.; third class: 15 to 29 people in one hall), and patients are accommodated according to the level of their insurance.

Bonaire: San Francisco Hospital, a small hospital (35 beds) has an air ambulance connection/service to Curacao and Aruba.

Curacao: St. Elizabeth Hospital, a public hospital, and several private clinics can be compared to mid-range facilities in the U.S.

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

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

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

MEDICAL INSURANCE: U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the U.S. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the U.S. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation, and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the U.S. can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains on event of death.

Useful information on medical emergencies abroad, including overseas insurance programs, is provided in the Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure Medical Information for Americans Traveling Abroad, available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax: (202) 647-3000.

OTHER HEALTH INFORMATION: Information on vaccinations and other health precautions may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via CDC's Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the U.S. 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. In St. Maarten, recent hurricanes have degraded road quality, and cruise passengers in particular are uncomfortable with the aggressive behavior of taxi drivers.

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 the same as in the U.S., on the right-hand side. Right turns on red are prohibited in the Netherlands Antilles. The traffic conditions in the Netherlands Antilles require defensive driving, as other vehicles tend to follow rather closely, have a tendency to drift over the center line, and do not reliably stop for yellow and red lights. 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; if older they should ride in the back seat.

Major road hazards specific to the Netherlands Antilles are hidden and poorly maintained street signs. Night driving is reasonably safe in the Netherlands Antilles as long as drivers are familiar with their routes. Most main streets are properly lit, but smaller side streets may not be. 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 nonstop during the daytime with no fixed schedule. Each van has a specific route displayed in the front windshield. Buses, which run on the hour, have limited routes. The road conditions on the main thoroughfares are in good to fair condition.

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 http://travel.state.gov/road_safety.html. For specific information concerning Netherlands Antilles driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Netherlands National Tourist Organization offices in New York at 1-888-464-6552, Internet: http://www.goholland.com. See also road safety information from other sources for Curacao at http://www.curacao-tourism.com/; for Saba at http://www.turq.com/saba/; and for St. Maarten at http://www.st-maarten.com/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: 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 web site at http://www.faa.gov/avr/iasa/. 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 the DOD at (618) 229-4801.

CUSTOMS REGULATIONS: Netherlands Antilles customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning importation into and exportation out of the Netherlands Antilles. Travelers are allowed to purchase a maximum of $600 worth of duty free merchandise based on the retail value. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington or one of the Dutch Consulates in the U.S. for specific information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: 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 U.S. 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 U.S. for similar offenses. Persons violating Netherlands Antilles laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Netherlands Antilles has strict gun control laws; even a stray bullet in a suitcase can trigger a fine or time in jail.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The time-share industry and other real estate investments are two of the fastest growing tourist industries in the Antilles. Time-share buyers are cautioned about contracts that do not have a "non-disturbance or perpetuity protective clause" incorporated in the purchase agreement. Such a clause gives the time-share owner perpetuity of ownership should the facility be sold. Americans sometimes complain that the time-share units are not adequately maintained, despite generally high annual maintenance fees. Because of the large number of complaints about misuse of maintenance fees in Sint Maarten in particular, prospective timeshare owners are advised to review the profit and loss statement for maintenance fees. Note: a reputable accounting firm should audit the profit and loss statement.

Potential investors should be aware that failed land development schemes involving time-share investments can result in financial losses. Interested investors may wish to seek professional advice regarding investments involving land development projects. Real estate investment problems that reach local courts are rarely settled in favor of foreign investors. Travel information publications are available via the Bureau of Consular Affairs home page or autofax.

DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: St. Maarten, Saba and St. Eustatius lie in the path of hurricanes. General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY/CONSULATE LOCATION: Americans living in or visiting the Netherlands Antilles are encouraged to register at the Consular Section of the U.S. Consulate General in Curacao, located at J.B. Gorsiraweg #1, Willemstad, Curacao, telephone 011 (599-9) 461-3066; fax 011 (599-9) 461-6489; e-mail address: cgcuracao@interneeds.net. The Consular Section hours of operation are 9:00 a.m to 11:00 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday except U.S. and Dutch holidays. After-hours, emergency telephone 011 (599-9) 560-6870.

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