Ask RedWeek / August, 2020

Planning a trip to Aruba - what to expect?

My family wants to visit Marriott's Aruba Surf Club next month, now that the island has reopened. What do I need to know about the new travel rules in Aruba?

Aruba, one of the world's most coveted timeshare destinations, reopened its borders to travelers from the US, Canada, and Europe in early July, as part of a phased reopening program that depends, critically, on health measures imposed to protect travelers and workers from the Coronavirus. Travelers from South and Central America — right next door to Aruba — are still banned.

Before You Book

If you are planning a trip to one of the island's timeshare resorts, it is essential that you do your homework by following the mandatory guidelines on Aruba's official website for travelers. This page is updated regularly. While applicable to travelers, the website identifies different health and safety protocols for U.S. visitors from certain states. A total of 24 states are currently on a COVID watchlist where the travel requirements for entry are more rigorous. No matter what state you live in, you must comply with Aruba's Health and Happiness rules to get on the island.

The watchlist states, as of August 9, are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. Curiously, New York, one of the hardest hit US states, is not on Aruba's COVID watchlist.

Among many other things, Aruba travelers must be prepared to do the following: Fill out a health questionnaire two weeks prior to arrival; buy travel health insurance through Aruba's approved vendor (between $15 - 21 USD/day/visitor); and get tested for COVID 72 hours before arrival or upon your arrival in Aruba (depending on your origin). If you test positive while on the island, you will be quarantined for 14 days. Every person 15 years or older must get tested, too, so there's a financial impact. The mandatory tests cost at least $75 per person on the island, and probably more back home.

All these requirements make sense, medically, but they also make travel extremely cumbersome. The health mandates in Aruba, moreover, are similar to those in other tropical paradises, including St. John, St. Kitts, and the Hawaiian islands.

"All of the island properties, everybody with a fly-in circumstance, are all having a tough time," said Edward Kinney, global VP for Marriott Vacations Worldwide. "Hawaii doesn't even open up until the end of August." (Note: it is rumored Hawaii may be extending their reopening yet again.)

"The (health) programs continue to change and are continually evolving," Kinney said. They also differ state by state, and country by country. At best, the health mandates are moving targets that are bound to change as the pandemic cuts a swath through the globe.

Pay close attention to the cancellation policies when you are booking your flights and accommodations. For timeshare rentals, where the owner is often limited by their own cancellation options within 60 days, changing your mind later may be costly. Make sure you are prepared to assume some risk if the situation changes.

Before You Go

Once you've made the decision to go to Aruba, here are some things you'll need to address prior to take-off.

Fill out, online, the Embarkation/Disembarkation card. It's a health questionnaire and self-assessment to determine whether you've been exposed to the virus two weeks prior to arrival. Without an approved ED Card, you cannot get on the island. It must be completed between 4 - 72 hours prior to arrival.

If you live in one of the 24 COVID watchlist states, you'll have to get a Negative PCR COVID-19 test in your home state and upload the documentation of the negative test at least 12 hours prior to boarding your flight. One caution: a week-old test won't get you into Aruba. The test must be conducted within 72 hours of arrival.

If you live in one of the 26 states that are NOT on the COVID watchlist, or another country Aruba is open to, you can pre-register and pay $75 to get tested upon arrival in Aruba. You will need to quarantine for 24 hours (in your booked accommodations). However, if the test turns out positive, or if you show virus symptoms while in Aruba, you will be escorted to a two-week quarantine in a separate facility.

There's also a third testing option that includes two tests: one before, one on the island. This option is for people in states on the watchlist that cannot deliver a PCR COVID-19 test result in the timeframe required. In this case, you may be able to take another kind of COVID test, and then pay to be re-tested once you arrive in Aruba, as the non-watchlist visitors do. Check with your local health authorities to see if this is a reasonable testing option for you. One thing for sure: it is the most expensive.

The Aruba government also require travelers to buy COVID health insurance to get the ED Card. All of the coverage details and costs are covered at Aruba Visitors Insurance. Even if you have other travel insurance, you will still have to buy Aruba's state-approved insurance plan. Children 14 and younger are insured for just a $10 admin fee.

While preparing for a trip to Aruba, also keep in mind that you'll be required to wear masks most, if not all, of the time in public places. You'll also be subject to temperature checks at various locations, including the airport and at your resort - and a fever, for any reason, most certainly means quarantine.

Most important: you need to know that traveling to Aruba is still a risk - it is a fluid situation, so you can't assume that the conditions in place on the day you book your trip will be the ones you will need to comply with when you embark. You can check the Aruba health site and VisitAruba's near daily updates to stay on top of changes. Also check the website for your resort for updates on COVID procedures and the availability of amenities such as pools, recreation facilities, beaches, and restaurants.

As Kinney observed, there probably won't be a "new normal" for timeshare travel until a workable vaccine is developed. Until then, if you are determined to head to Aruba's (likely less-crowded) beaches, make sure you are prepared to do the work.

About the author

This answer was provided by RedWeek contributor, Jeff Weir. Jeff is a California-based journalist who has covered California, Congress, and the White House. He also has roots in Silicon Valley, where he directed public relations and marketing programs for high-tech companies. He is also a timeshare owner and member of RedWeek.com.

3 Comments

  • Avatar for billm429
    billm429
    Aug 13, 2020 (3 months ago)

    Jeff thank you for doing the work to report the requirements for travel to Aruba. Sorry you are from one of the watch list states, Aruba is worth a visit as I'm sure you know.

    • Deleted message
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  • Avatar for shirlelyc
    shirlelyc
    Aug 29, 2020 (2 months ago)

    Is there a pet friendly timeshare?

    • Deleted message
    This message was deleted.
  • Avatar for jeannel123
    jeannel123
    Nov 02, 2020 (3 weeks ago)

    My understanding is if I tested positive for Covid I will continue to rest positive for 3 weeks to 3 months. What if I’m supposed to travel to Aruba in 3 weeks but I can’t produce a negative Covid test even though my quarantine is over?