Finding The Best Bargains In Aruba

By: Justin Burch

Known as one of the most luxurious destinations in the Caribbean, it only makes sense that Aruba is also a hot spot for shopping. Everywhere you look in Oranjestad - Aruba's historic capital - you will see shops selling everything from designer clothing and jewelry to Caribbean souvenirs and locally-made products. Throughout the streets and along the beaches, street vendors offer distinctive Caribbean arts, crafts and delicious snacks. Regardless of what type of souvenirs you want to take home from Aruba, you will find plenty of bargains in the streets of Oranjestad.

One of the best destinations for shopping in Aruba is the bustling wharf area in downtown Oranjestad. Amongst the historic warehouses and storefronts, you will find a number of distinct shopping centers. Bargain hunters can find considerable discounts on designer apparel, perfume, electronics and jewelry. If you are looking for souvenirs with more local flavor, this area also boasts a number of art galleries displaying the work of Aruban artists and antique shops that stock all kinds of Caribbean oddities.

Most of Aruba's finest shops are located in the malls and European-styled shopping arcades of the harbor front neighborhood. Incorporating the existing historic Dutch architecture, many of these shopping centers feature elaborate glass ceilings that open to the Caribbean sunshine during the day. At night, downtown Oranjestad lights up with luxurious neon beaming from the malls, restaurants and clubs. The downtown area is also a great place to visit for dinner and late-night entertainment, as casinos and clubs regularly feature live entertainment.

When visiting the shopping area surrounding Oranjestad's harbor, you can also begin by visiting the street vendors selling all kinds of locally produced products. In many cases, the vendors are selling their own work and you will most likely have the chance to see some authentic Caribbean arts and crafts being created. However, the best collection of locally produced products is at the Aruban flea market. Open on the weekends and easy to find - located on L.G. Smith Boulevard - this incredible flea market boasts over 100,000 products, many of them unique to Aruba. When shopping with street vendors and flea market sellers, feel free to negotiate. Arubans are known as very friendly people and are often flexible with their prices.

Regardless of what types of stores you visit in Oranjestad or elsewhere on the island, you are bound to notice the prevalence of a few items directly tied to Aruban culture. As the name of the island is derived from the words for "gold" (ore) and "red" (ruba), Aruba has developed a fascination with fine jewelry and boasts some of the best boutiques in the Caribbean. As a member of the Netherlands Antilles, ties to the island's Dutch heritage can be seen throughout the shopping district in everything from miniature windmills to fine Dutch cheeses. Lastly, as aloe vera is a native crop in Aruba, many stores sell products incorporating this incredibly useful plant.

While you are shopping, you will probably notice scores of signs reading "Duty-Free." It should be noted, however, that Aruba is not technically a duty-free destination. Instead, when shopping in most stores and with individual vendors, you will not be required to pay any tax. The results are prices lower than you would find in the United States on most goods. Also, when returning home, you are granted a duty-free tax exemption of $600 per person. If you want to purchase items that are truly duty-free, you can visit the shops at the airport as you prepare to leave.

Most stores in Aruba are open from 8 am to 6 pm Monday through Saturday, yet some close for lunch between 12 pm and 2 pm. American currency and credit cards are accepted at most stores, but you can also find plenty of locations to exchange your dollars for Aruban florins. Lastly, before you hit the streets in search of bargains, pick up a copy of the Aruba Shopping Guide from your hotel. This comprehensive booklet provides a handy shopping map and information about most of the stores in Oranjestad.

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