Foreign travel advice

Bonaire/St Eustatius/Saba

Summary

The hurricane season in the Caribbean normally runs from June to November. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the US National Hurricane Centre and follow the advice of local authorities, including any evacuation orders.

Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba (the BES Islands) are used as a drug passageway from South America to Europe and North America. Don’t leave bags unattended or agree to carry a package for anyone.

UK health authorities have classified the BES Islands as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the BES Islands, attacks can’t be ruled out.

If you need to contact the emergency services, call 911 (police), 911 or 913 (ambulance), 911 or 912 (fire) or 913 (Coastguard).

Safety and security

Crime

Most visits to the BES Islands are trouble-free. However, petty theft and street crime is a concern. There is violent crime amongst members of the illegal drugs world, but this rarely affects tourists. The main tourist areas are generally safe, but you should take normal precautions. Avoid remote areas at night. Don’t take valuables to the beach. Make sure purses and handbags are closed and not easy to snatch.

The BES islands continue to be used to smuggle illegal drugs from South America to Europe and North America. You should have a heightened sense of awareness of this problem and never leave bags unattended. Under no circumstances should you discuss or agree to carry a package for anyone. Some airports have installed body scanners and it is possible you may need to have a scan. Dutch authorities generally screen all baggage and passengers from the Dutch Caribbean.

Local travel

When taking a taxi, always check that it is a registered one and negotiate the price before taking the ride. Most taxis do not have meters.

Road travel

Traffic drives on the right. Main road conditions are relatively good, but roads can become slippery when wet.

Air Travel

Safety concerns have been raised about INSEL Air. The US and Netherlands authorities have prohibited their staff from using the airline while safety checks are being carried out. UK government officials have been told to do the same as a precaution.

Political situation

On 10 October 2010 the Netherlands Antilles were dissolved and Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba (now known as the BES islands) became special municipalities of the Netherlands. Bonaire lies within 50 miles of Venezuela, whilst St Eustatius (Statia) and Saba are some 600 miles to the north east, about 100 miles east of Puerto Rico.

Terrorism

Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, attacks can’t be ruled out.

There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.

Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.

Local laws and customs

By Dutch law, you must always carry your ID. You should have a copy of your passport with you at all times. Local laws are similar to Dutch law.

Language

Dutch, Papiamento, Spanish and English are spoken in the BES Islands with Dutch being the official language. In Bonaire the Creole language, Papiamento (a mixture of Spanish, Dutch, Portuguese, English and French), is widely spoken. English is mostly used in Saba and St. Eustatius.

Entry requirements

The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.

The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.

You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.

Visas

You don’t need a visa for stays of up to 3 months. For further information about entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Immigration is handled on an island to island basis so your passport is needed when travelling from one island to another.

Passport validity

Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into the BES Islands.

Yellow fever certificate requirements

Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.

UK Emergency Travel Documents

UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from the BES Islands.

Health

Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures.

Check the latest country-specific information and advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website or from NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.

UK health authorities have classified the BES Islands as having a risk of Zika virus transmission. For more information and advice, visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre website.

Cases of Chikungunya virus have been confirmed in Bonaire and the number of reported cases in the region is increasing. You should take steps to avoid being bitten by mosquitoes.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is not valid. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 911 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Natural disasters

The hurricane season in the Dutch Caribbean normally runs from June to November. You should monitor local and international weather updates from the Meteorological department of Curacao (servicing all Islands within the Dutch Kingdom) and the National Hurricane Centre, and follow the advice of the local authorities. See our Tropical cyclones page for advice about what to do if you are caught up in a hurricane.

Most hurricanes pass well to the north of Bonaire, which has no record of a recent major hurricane; there are occasional tropical storms. Statia and Saba, and many other islands in the northern and eastern Caribbean have experienced some quite severe hurricanes.

Money

Since 1 January 2011 the local currency is the US Dollar.

ATM machines (Maestro/Cirrus) are situated throughout the islands. Major credit cards are accepted in most tourist establishments.

Travel advice help and support

If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).

Foreign travel checklist

Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.

Travel safety

The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.

When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.

Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.

Refunds and cancellations

If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.

For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

Registering your travel details with us

We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.

Previous versions of FCO travel advice

If you’re looking for a previous version of the FCO travel advice, visit the National Archives website. If you can’t find the page you’re looking for there, send the Travel Advice Team a request.

Further help

If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.