*Our visit to Aruba was hosted by the Aruba Tourism Bureau, and we are grateful for the experience. As always, the content and thoughts expressed here are our own.
Our family just returned from the gorgeous Caribbean island of Aruba, and we loved it there. Since we had never been here before, we didn’t know how easy or difficult navigating the Aruba Airport would be. I googled “tips for navigating the Aruba airport” and since nothing helpful came up, I’m writing this now so others can find their way easily.
Everything about Aruba is friendly and laid back. The beaches are postcard pretty, the people are so nice and welcoming, and the ocean is the bluest, aquamarinest, turquoisest I have ever seen. When you get off the plane upon arrival at Aruba’s Queen Beatrix International Airport, you feel immediately lulled into a relaxed state and slower pace. We call it “Island Time” because everything slows down, including your need to care.
In order to help maximize your enjoyment of this beautiful destination, let’s get you prepared for navigating the Aruba Airport when you arrive (easy!), and when you leave (not as easy, but still not bad if you leave enough time).
Tips for Navigating the Aruba Airport
It’s a small airport with one runway and eight gates, so the walks aren’t long and it’s very clean and spacious. There are a few things you’ll want to know as you deplane and prepare for customs, and when you are departing and fumbling with your passport and papers.
Arrival at Aruba Airport
Granted, we arrived after 9 pm when most flights had long ago deplaned all their passengers. As it turns out, arriving that late does have some advantages. As we walked directly off the plane and into baggage claim, we saw there were just three baggage carousels. Since I am a veteran over-packer, we had checked bags to accommodate my need for wardrobe options. But if you can carry-on, even better.
Tips on Arrival at Aruba Airport:
- The bathrooms are super clean if you have to go. You will have some time to kill before your bags arrive (remember, Island Time), so might as well!
- You will need that customs form they gave you on the plane, so keep it handy with your passport.
- After claiming your bags, you will go through local customs. This took us just a few short minutes. Our passports were stamped, the customs form was torn in half, and the remaining half was handed back to us with our passports.
- It’s important to remember this remaining half of your customs form. You will need it when you leave, and you absolutely won’t want to go through the long and laborious process of getting a new one if you lost it.
- Taxis will be waiting outside to the left, with a fairly long queue during daytime hours. At the front, an attendant will ask your destination and then give you a slip to hand the taxi driver. This slip will tell you the exact fare you will pay upon arrival. Fares vary according to destination. We stayed at the wonderful Tamarijn All-Inclusive Resort in the Low-Rise Hotels area, and the fare was $29 US. The High-Rise Hotels area is farther away, so expect a higher fare if headed there.
- If renting a car, all the rental agencies are just across the street via a short crosswalk from baggage claim. The rental cars are right there waiting, and our whole process was quick and easy.
- If you are driving, the navigation is a little tricky. GoogleMaps did not work for us here, but Waze worked great. There are all sorts of little quirks and odd turns on the roadways that will keep you alert!
Departure from Aruba Airport
Our hotel suggested we arrive at the airport three hours before our flight – which we have NEVER done anywhere in the world. Maybe our family likes to live on the edge, but it has never been a problem. In Aruba, we understand now why they recommend this. Knowing it was a small airport, we planned to arrive two hours beforehand. We all have Platinum Priority boarding on American Airlines, as well as Global Entry passes to breeze through US customs. Boy are we sure glad we did, because the entire process took us 1.5 hours before reaching the gate area.
Tips on Departure from Aruba Airport:
- When they say to arrive three hours before your flight, they mean it. The lines were very long.
- Luckily we had Priority boarding access on American Airlines, which diverted us to a far shorter line to check in at the counter with our bags. It still took about 20 minutes to reach the counter, with two agents working the Priority line of maybe 10 people deep. Three agents were working the regular line, which had at least 75 people waiting.
- Keep your passport handy, because you will need to show it A LOT. We counted eight separate stations where we were asked for our passports. Check-in at the counter was #1.
- Once checked in, you proceed to Aruba customs to depart. Outside this area, a man seated at a desk asked to see our passports and boarding papers (#2).
- Inside this same area, a woman tending the very short line asked to see our passports again (#3). She directed us to automatic kiosks.
- At these kiosks, we stood on the little feet symbols on the floor, scanned our passports (#4) and posed for our photos to be taken by the machine. The gates opened, and we were approved by Aruba customs to leave the country.
- From there, you will go through security with all your carry-ons, etc. No TSA Pre-Check line, so shoes come off and laptops out.
- Then you are ushered into a large room with two baggage carousels, where you will reclaim your luggage that you just checked at the original counter.
- With your luggage, you will then go through US Customs. There is a huge benefit to doing it here, rather than the long lines we typically experience on US soil. We were especially happy, because our connecting flight was only 55 minutes from the time our first flight landed. There would have been no time to go through customs, security, and make our gate in time.
- If you have Global Entry, now is the time it will pay off. There is a separate line inside the door to the right, and no one was waiting here. We flashed our Global Entry cards and passports for the guard to check (#5) and proceeded to the kiosks. This whole process took just minutes.
- The line to present our papers to the US Customs agent was very short – versus the line with no Global Entry, which was very long. We presented our passports and papers for approval (#6) and passed through the gates.
- Important: This is where you will need to present those little slips of paper from your original Aruban customs form.
- Leaving this building, we rechecked our bags by placing them on the correct conveyor belt. There are two belts, so don’t confuse which airline you are flying or your bags will end up gawd knows where.
- Then we stood in another line to show our passports to the door attendants again (#7). This line was waiting to go through security again – shoes off, laptops out.
- Once through this second security checkpoint, we were finally within the gate area. This area is very clean and has nice shops, duty–free, and a few restaurants. Not sure why someone would want to eat sushi in an airport, but hey. Lots of other food choices.
- We proceeded directly to the gate, with barely enough time to visit the restroom before boarding. As we boarded, of course we were asked to show our passports one last time (#8).
Although this might seem like a long, exaggerated list of departure rituals, it went smoothly and easily. And people in Aruba are so nice! No grumpy guards or surly customs agents. Since we were so relaxed from our beautiful vacation on the island, we were remarkably calm throughout the process.
Our advice? Allow for the three hours to avoid that inevitable stress and impatience we can sometimes feel when waiting in lines at airports. Better safe than sorry in this case!
15 thoughts on “Tips for Navigating the Aruba Airport”
Do yourself a favor. If you’re departing AUA on a weekend, arrive FOUR hours early! No joke! Just arrived home last night. It took us almost 2.5 hours frim start to finish, and that was only because the United line had no line in the beginning. Been there other years where I’ve spent 45-60 minutes just in that line.
Better advice. Leave Aruba on a weekday. Avoid leaving Saturday or Sunday. You’ll thank me later.
Ugh! That sounds even worse than our experience. Hope you made your plane!
A new system was implemented to keep people outside the building before going thru the going home process- lines were long and hot- a very bad idea for babies, elderly and people with illnesses such as anxiety and or diabetes- wonder if anyone passed out- who ever thought that idea should be fired- after 40 years going to Aruba we have never seen such a horrific procedure- glad there were no emergencies and many people are not interested in going thru this again – will go elsewhere!!!!
We have had years that worked out quickly and efficiently- this year makes us not want to go back !!
I write this sitting at the gate at AUA waiting to depart for home. The line situation at this airport was HELL and truly makes me think I will not come back to Aruba, lovely as it was! It took us ~3 hours from arrival at the airport to get to the gate, to include at least 45 minutes waiting outside to pass Aruba passport control. Luckily it was in the shade, but my son suffered some ill effects while we waited. I began to think that the lines would never end. That being said, almost all airport staff were very friendly, which was a plus.
Ugh! It sounds like it has gotten worse at the airport. So sorry to hear about your difficult experience.
The airport in Aruba is absolute, sheer, unequivocal hell. Don’t ever go there. 5 hours there. With small kids.
Ugh that sounds terrible. Yes, it is not one of the smoothest airport experiences, but 5 hours is horrific!
Hi hi! How is arrival on a weekday? I have some mobility issues, can normally stand and walk for awhile fine, but wondering if I need to get a wheelchair or not. A half hour is ok, an hour would not be. I flew on a weekend pre-covid and it was rough. After reading this I am definitely paying for the VIP service that is now being offered. Expensive, but I think worth it here.
Hi Dawn – We traveled on weekends, so I am not sure. I would expect they have a plan for taking care of your mobility needs, because it is A LOT of standing in lines. Let us know how it goes!
We just arrived home from Aruba yesterday (the Wednesday after Christmas). Our flight was delayed heading back to the States. Please note that if your flight is after 6 pm, you MUST clear US customs way before then. They will close at 6 pm and if you miss customs you miss your flight. We almost learned this the hard way.
i have 4 kids under 20 who have never been to Aruba. Is there any company that would just walk them through the airport start to finish when leaving.
Gosh, not that I know of.
Just returned to the states from Aruba…20 minutes ago. Going through the many steps to leave Aruba was easy, no more than 5 minutes at any of the check points. I git to the airport extra earlier and spent hours just sitting around. Nothing in this article happened to me, guess I’m lucky like that.
This was so useful to know what to expect. We traveled in March and it was 3 hours until we reached our gate. We had global entry.
So glad to know it was helpful! It seems like the experience varies and sometimes the wait is shorter, but better safe than sorry.