One of the best places to study medicine in the Caribbean is definitely the island of Curacao. It is located in the southern part of the Caribbean Sea off the northwest coast of Venezuela. The island is the largest and most popular of the three so-called ABC islands (for Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) and is a self-governing part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its capital city is Willemstad.
Curacao is renowned for its coral reefs which make it an excellent spot for scuba diving. The beaches on the south side contain many popular diving spots. An unusual feature of Curacao diving is that the sea floor drops off steeply within a few hundred feet of the shore, and the reef can easily be reached without a boat. The coastline of Curacao features many bays and inlets, many of them suitable for mooring.
When asked, repeat visitors generally say that they did not have enough time to do all they wanted to do on their first visit. If it is the third or fourth trip, the answer is basically the same but with this addition “It is the warmth and friendliness of the people” that keeps visitors returning year after year. The good news is that while this is all quite true, the island also offers a lively nightlife, fun places to visit and world class restaurants. When you first come to the island, you are a visitor, but when you leave, you are a friend.
The largest and most populous island of the Dutch Caribbean, located in between Aruba and Bonaire, Curacao lies some 35 miles off the northern coast of Venezuela and 800 miles north of Equator. The island is 38 miles long and varies between 2 and 8 miles in width. Spectacular beaches line the southwest, leeward coast. Geographically, it falls within the Atlantic Standard Time Zone, which is one hour ahead of U.S. Eastern Standard Time and the same as Eastern Daylight Time.
Atlantic Standard Time year round (equivalent to Eastern Daylight Savings Time). The difference between the European Time and Curacao Time is 5 or 6 hours (depending on Summer-time or Winter-time)
The population numbers more than 170,000, most of whom are of African or mixed African and European descent. In all, more than 50 different ethnic backgrounds are represented here, and the people are very proud of the island’s international flavor.
The native language is Papiamentu, but Curacaoans are multi-lingual, having learned to speak English, Dutch, and Spanish at school from the third grade on.
Curacao lies well below the hurricane belt, so the climate is sunny and dry, averaging only 22 inches of rainfall per year. The rainy season occurs in November and December. Despite the almost constant sunshine, the average year-round temperature is around 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 Celsius) due to the trade winds that keep the island cool all the time.The picture on right shows the current temperature on the island.
American Airlines, Avianca Airlines, Insel-Air, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Servivensa Airlines, Aeropostal and Air Jamaica.
Miami: 2-1/2 hours, Chicago: 6 hours
US citizens need a valid passport and return ticket within 6 months. Most other nationals need a passport and a valid return ticket within 4 months. The school’s Immigration Department will apply for a student resident permit on your behalf so you can stay for longer than three months. Contact the schools immigration department for more information. Students are not allowed to work on Curacao while on a student visa.
Curacao has the same voltage standard as in North America (110 volts AC). Therefore, European appliances (that use 220 volts) generally cannot be used on Curacao (unless you have a converter).
Banks are open Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The airport bank is open Monday through Saturday 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. and on Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Select banks branches have ATMs that disburse US dollars. They are accepted everywhere, as are Travelers Checks and most major Credit Cards. Debit Cards are accepted at large shops and supermarkets. Prices are quoted in the national currency, the Netherlands Antillean guilder (also called the florin), abbreviated NAF or ANG It is pegged to the US dollar at a stable rate of US$ 1 = NAF 1.77 for cash, 1.78 for traveler’s checks. Bills of US$50 and US$100 can be hard to cash.
For dialing direct numbers from Curacao, the code into the international circuit is 00 followed by the country code, area code and the number. For assistance, call 121. Curacao’s International telephone country code is 5999. To direct dial Curacao from the U.S., the code is 011 – 5999 – then the local number. International calling cards are available all over the island.Internet service is offered by local providers at a very low monthly fee.
Curacao has always been considered one of the safest destinations in the Caribbean, however incidents may occur. It’s recommended not to leave your valuables unattended on the beach or in your rental.
Take sensible precautions against the tropical sun, especially between 10 AM and 3 PM. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are recommended, as well as light beach cover-up. Neither the trade winds nor clouds will protect you from sunburn. In case of serious sunburn, drink plenty of fluids, take cool baths, use a body lotion containing Aloe Vera, and take it easy for a day or two. Sunstroke can be dangerous, especially for children, people who are overweight and the elderly; watch for dizziness, fever, headaches and nausea.
Although Curacao is less humid than many Caribbean islands, mosquitoes can occasionally be a problem in the rainy season and at night. Repellent can be purchased at pharmacies and supermarkets. Curacao has no malaria or similar tropical diseases, and no vaccinations are needed to visit. Due to the high level of overall hygiene and cleanliness, gastro-intestinal complaints (“travelers’ tummy”) are very uncommon. Eat and drink freely. For minor ailments, standard US and European over-the-counter medicines are available at the local pharmacies, called “Botika’s”.
There are a number of medical centers on the island. The St. Elisabeth Hospital is the most modern and well equipped in the region. In can be reached within 20 minutes from almost anywhere on the island