Curacao is a constituent country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On average, Curacao receives one million tourists every year. Considering it only has a population of 155,000, Curacao receives more than its fair share of tourists!
Although Curacao attracts many tourists, you should still be careful when you visit. Let’s go through some safety tips for the beautiful Caribbean island and some general guides to what you should avoid on your visit.
Is Curacao Safe to Visit in 2022?
In general, Curacao is a relatively safe country. Because of Curacao’s small population, many of the figures seem large. But when you drill down to it, they are only two things you need to be on the lookout for — scams and petty theft.
The primary factor people think of when they consider safety in a country is violence. Luckily, Curacao is a safe country for tourists and residents alike.
Gangs involved with drugs do exist, but they don’t concern themselves with tourists who don’t use illegal drugs. Petty theft includes pickpocketing and other non-violent thefts. Theft is the most common crime on the island, so be wary of where you leave your belongings.
If you’re in a crowded area, you may want to use a money belt or other concealment device. Scams are also frequent on the island. Most scams target residents of the island, but others target tourists.
Be wary of new people who come off as overly friendly. Also, avoid drinking alcohol in areas you aren’t familiar with because it can lower inhibitions, making it harder to distinguish a scam.
Crime in Curacao
We can break down the crime in Curacao into three categories — organized crime, petty crimes, and violent crimes. Let’s go through each type of crime and tell you the best ways to avoid crime when visiting the island.
Organized crime in Curacao centers around the drug trade. Curacao is one of the primary ports of entry for drugs into the European Union (EU). That’s because Curacao is a constituent country of the Netherlands, meaning it has EU trading rights.
That means it’s a hub for importing drugs like cocaine from South America into Europe. With drugs comes gang activity.
The local and the Dutch governments are working hard to combat these issues and make them safe for tourists. In general, gangs know that if they commit crimes against tourists, the police are more likely to pursue charges.
Curacao has a police force specially designed to combat crime against tourists. So, unless you find yourself looking for illegal drugs, you shouldn’t have any interaction with the criminal underworld.
As stated before, the most common crime on the island is theft. Thefts often occur in two forms — pickpocketing or unattended items. Preventing pickpocketing isn’t impossible.
If you’re in a crowded area like a bus or a bar, you can hold onto your wallet while it’s in your pocket or you can use a money belt. Aside from that, being aware of your surroundings is the best way to prevent petty theft.
Unattended item thefts occur most often at places like beaches and bars. When people go for a swim, they might leave their phones, wallet, or other items on the beach.
Never leave your possessions unattended. If you have to leave your items somewhere, always ensure a trusted person is watching them. The same goes for cars. Never leave valuable items unattended in your car.
Some thieves break into rental cars to get cash or other valuable items. By locking your car and taking all items of value out, you can reduce the chances of a break-in. To prevent scams, you should always stay in familiar areas.
Although the people of Curacao are friendly, don’t be overly trusting. Scammers often prey on people they think are too trusting. If you’re worried about scams, only visit establishments in tourist areas.
Muggings aren’t an ordinary occurrence on the island, but they do happen. Muggings happen most often to people who are alone at night, but they can occur any time of the day.
The best way to prevent muggings is to dress in modestly priced clothes, don’t flaunt your money, and don’t walk alone. Violent crime is rare on the island, especially for tourists. In 2007, the year with the most updated data, there were only 28 homicides on the island.
But that means it has a murder rate of 19 per 100,000, which is high. But is that rate representative of the crime on the island? Not exactly.
Louisiana, for example, had a murder rate in 2021 of 19.9 per 100,000 people, but the state had nearly 900 murders that year. Murder rates aren’t the best safety measure, especially when the population is minimal.
Compared to other Caribbean islands, Curacao has a low murder rate. For example, Jamaica’s rate in 2021 was 44.9, while Puerto Rico’s rate in 2020 was 18. Compared to other Caribbean territories, Curacao’s murder rate is average.
Other violent crimes, such as assaults and rapes, are low for the region. Although there is no set-in-stone way to avoid violent situations, certain activities make them more likely. Avoiding these situations will lead to better outcomes.
Some steps you can take to avoid these situations include:
- Only visit areas where other tourists frequent
- Visit areas you’ve researched or are familiar with
- Never carry large amounts of cash
- Never walk alone at night
- Never drink alcohol in excess in unfamiliar areas
- Women should always walk around in groups
- Leave important items (passport, excess cash, etc.) inside your hotel or residence
- Avoid bad neighborhoods
Avoiding Bad Neighborhoods
There are bad neighborhoods in every country, and Curacao is no different. But, because of Curacao’s tiny population and position as an island nation, the bad neighborhoods are concentrated in the only real city on the island—the capital, Willemstad.
Just like any other city, Willemstad has its share of poorer areas. You’ll recognize these areas because they often have abandoned buildings, copious amounts of graffiti, and numerous unemployed young people, mostly men.
Koraal Specht District
One area people often describe as unwelcoming is the Koraal Specht district. The district is south of Willemstad proper, and it’s home to the only prison on the island. It also has a lot of access to the beach.
But avoiding this area is best. People report seeing gang members in the area, likely due to the proximity to the prison. It also has enough beach access for drug smugglers to utilize the locale, especially under the cover of darkness.
Koraal Specht doesn’t have too many tourist attractions, aside from beaches and an aquarium.
If you plan on visiting the area for these sights, don’t go alone or at night. Staying in a group will help you avoid any trouble, while not venturing into unknown territory at night is always a good idea.
The Marie Pampoen neighborhood is directly west of Koraal Specht. It has many of the same problems as Koraal Specht, both because of its proximity to the beaches and the prison.
The same advice applies to Marie Pampoen, although there are more popular beaches in the area. If you do go to the beach, always be mindful of your possessions. Don’t leave your phone or wallet on the beach unattended as they may get stolen.
The streets in this area can be very narrow. Narrow roads mean your ability to see and know your surroundings is limited. Try to avoid walking along narrow roads and never use ATMs in the area.
You should also avoid Marie Pampoen at night. Most violent crimes and muggings occur at night, so avoiding a bad neighborhood in the evening is the best way to lower your chances of becoming a victim.
The area of Otrobanda is one of the most historic areas in Curacao. It’s southwest of the main city center of Willemstad. The neighborhood is home to one of the first settlements on the island, Otrobanda, which the Dutch founded in 1707.
The historical nature of the area means that it attracts a lot of tourists. The neighborhood isn’t necessarily bad, but you do need to be aware of your surroundings. Many crimes that affect tourists, such as pickpocketing, occur in this area.
So, the best way to protect yourself from petty crime and theft is to be aware of your surroundings and keep your money in a protected area, such as inside a money belt. Since the area has a lot of tourists, violent crime is rare and taken very seriously by the authorities.
Safest Areas for Tourists
In general, most areas on the island are safe for tourists, but some have more amenities than others. These areas are also often the best patrolled by police officers, which makes them feel safer than other areas.
If you’re on the lookout for an area filled to the brim with bars and other nightlife, Piscadera is what you’re looking for! The area is west of Willemstad and it’s only a mile from one of the most popular beaches, Blue Bay beach.
In Piscadera, you’ll find enough ocean-themed bars and restaurants to feed and entertain you for the entire trip! If you’re lucky, you’ll also see live performances by local musicians at some of the bars.
The beating heart of Curacao is Willemstad, its largest and most inhabited city. Here you’ll find everything a tourist needs — accommodations, nightlife, restaurants, and quick access to the beaches.
Willemstad’s best restaurants feature local foods, like fish, tropical fruits, and European-style cheeses, many of which have their roots in old European recipes. You’ll find some of the best food of your life in the local restaurants and diners.
If history and culture are your things, don’t look any further than Scharloo. Located south of Willemstad proper, this area was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
With all of its museums and cultural institutions, who could refute that designation?
The Maritime Museum is located in the neighborhood, as well as Fort Church. Founded in 1825, the church boasts magnificent views of the water and city from its bell tower.
The government of Curacao and their Dutch counterparts take tourism very seriously. Tourism accounts for more than 11% of Curacao’s GDP, meaning it’s essential for their economic health. That’s why they put together the tourist police.
The “Politur,” which stands for the tourist police, are a separate police force dedicated to protecting the island’s tourist population. They assess risks and other problems that may arise for tourists, as well as prevent criminal activity so tourists can enjoy their stay.
But tourists don’t need to use the Politur system. If an emergency is happening, the closest police officer will respond to your emergency. You can find information about the police forces on their website.
Things to Consider
Here are some of the most important things to consider when evaluating the risk of traveling to Curacao:
- Never carry large sums of money on you
- Always travel in groups, even if that means two people
- Visit areas away from the city center during the day
- Never leave valuables in vehicles even if you lock them
- Always do research on areas before visiting
- Never use unpatrolled beaches at night
- Ask your hotel or host what areas are best for tourists
- Always tell a friend or family member if you’re traveling to an area you believe is dangerous
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some of the most common questions we get from people concerning Curacao’s safety and tourist tips!
Is Curacao a poor country?
Curacao has been a Dutch government dependency for centuries. During that time, many of the high-level positions in government and business were operated by Dutch people. That left generations with few opportunities.
Although things are getting better since they gained more autonomy, the country still has high rates of poverty.
Curacao has a brain drain problem where the most educated citizens leave the country to work in Europe. According to recent stats, roughly 25% of the population lives under the poverty line designated by the Dutch government.
Is Curacao safe to walk?
In general, Curacao is a safe place to walk around, especially in the capital Willemstad. As long as you’re aware of your surroundings, walk in a group, and avoid the bad neighborhoods, you’ll enjoy walking around the unique neighborhoods on the island.
Do people speak English in Curacao?
Yes, most of the people who were born and raised in Curacao are multilingual. They tend to speak Dutch, Spanish and English.
Is Curacao expensive?
In short, no. Businesses in Curacao accept the dollar, so American travelers don’t need to exchange their currency on arrival. Locals are known to charge more in stores tourists frequent, such as gift shops or tourist attractions. But in general, food and other necessities are no more expensive than in other Caribbean islands.
So, Is Curacao Safe to Visit?
Although Curacao may not be as safe as the Netherlands, it’s still an incredibly safe area to travel. All you need to worry about are petty crimes, such as theft.
Theft mainly occurs in the high-traffic areas tourists frequent, such as transit, bars, and beaches. As long as you’re aware of your surroundings and taking precautions, you’ll have an awesome time in Curacao!