Caribbean Curaçao DIY Lifestyle Travel

Become a Caribbean expat: Start living the Curaçao Dream

We’ve all been there: scrolling through your instagram feed & seeing all those amazing shots of foreign places. People from all across the world living the dream. People who dare themselves to go on adventures abroad. What if I told you there’s just one thing that needs to change in order to achieve such a goal: you. Turn your can’ts into cans & your dreams into plans. I decided to start living the life I’d always imagined. Basically I realized that the instagram ‘she’ had become ‘me’ – never would I’ve imagined that MY life could look like this. If I’m able to pursue my dreams, so could you. What is holding you back? 

In this post I’ll tell you all about how I became an expat in the Caribbean, living on Curaçao and how you can become one too.

When live hits you down, hit right back. That’s what I did nearly 2 years ago. After some major bummers I decided to turn my life around & to move to the other side of the world: Curaçao. For someone who had never left Europe before, you can imagine it holds quite the adventure. In only 3 weeks of preparations I made the decision, arrangements & hopped on a plane to this Caribbean paradise.

📸 by Niekartistiek

Why should you move to Curaçao?

One of the main reasons people move to the Caribbean would be the weather. It’s always hot – around 30º C , even during it’s annual raining season. The second reason to pick Curaçao over the other islands in the (Dutch) Caribbean is that it is the biggest one of them. Which means there is more to discover. Third, the languages. Locals speak 4 different languages fluently: Papiamentu, Spanish, English and Dutch. Big chance you can understand each other in one or multiple languages.

Next up: the laid back ambiance. Even tho you’re coming here to live your life, you’ll always have the feeling you’re on a holiday. It might be the nice weather, the famous Happy Hours or the tropical vibe around you. Beaches, cocktails.. spots full of tourist or the more relaxed places where you can take a break from all of it.

Another important feature of this island are it’s locals. They match with its weather: they’re a warm type of people. Very welcoming & friendly. Curaçao has an incredible island vibe, which means you don’t have to stress & you can just take it slow.

📸 by Niekartistiek
When my sister flew in from the Netherlands!

Moving to Curaçao: the preparations

Please note that I have a Dutch passport, and by moving to an island in the Dutch Caribbean my preparations could differ from yours if you’d emigrate from a different country. Please keep in mind you’ll need additional paper work in order to get your permit.

Job hunting

The first thing of importance would be getting a job. You don’t need to have saved all your life to be able to live here, however you should be able to take care of yourself with a regular income. On Curaçao you can always find work in hospitality. In my search for a job I looked on Facebook pages that promoted job openings or simply googled what type of restaurants or hotels are nearby the areas I’d fancy myself living.

I applied by sending e-mails containing a CV and a personal motivation letter. In my experience it is better to always give it a try & show your enthusiasm, even if the company ain’t advertising for new employees. From the 12 applications I send, I received 7 invitations, on which 2 were very kind of hiring me on the spot. Most will ask you to stop by for an interview while you’re on the island, and if that works for you, great! I however find it more convenient to have a job upon arrival, so you’re more prepared and know what to expect in order to plan your budgeting.

Note: incomes on Curaçao are low. But if you start with a minimum of 1600 guilders a month, you should be able to sufficiently get around. The longer you work for one employer, the bigger the changes are you’re salary will grow in time.

📸 by Niekartistiek

A place to call home

When you know what & where your job is gonna be, the next step would be finding a place to live. I moved here when I was 21 and at that moment I felt comfortable by starting out in a student house. It’s a good way of instantly meeting new people on the island – and a rather cheap way of living.

I was so excited for everything, I did not keep in account for the risks it may hold. You never know with what kind of people you’re ending up with. I’m always as optimistic as possible – seeing it as another great adventure. Unfortunately, the start of my own shared house experience was not a success – bad luck with the roommates. But when you’re already here on the island it is so much easier to find a new place for yourself. In my second month I got my own apartment.

From there I moved to a compromise : having my own studio within a student compound. No direct roommates but you aren’t quite alone either. Perfect way to meet awesome people – I had the bonus of meeting someone with whom I rented our own house with garden & our two adorable pups. As far as living on Curaçao goes – not that bad. Shows that even with a less fortunate start, if you are open to it, it will only get better.

A lot of times people do get fortunate and love their student houses. They have the time of their lives. You just have to see what works for you.

My advise: go with your guts. Make sure you’re choosing a place that is in a nice & safe neighborhood, as well on a easy accessible spot to get to work. You either rent / buy a car to get around or locate yourself within walking distance from where you need to be. A very good neighborhood for students is the Pietermaai District. De Nieuwestraat is a street full of student housing, apartments or studio’s. It’s in the center of Willemstad and close by cute hangouts & bars, the busstation etc. It’s the part of the city that’s the most alive.

Getting around

Whether you do or do not need to have a car is an ongoing discussion. I have survived nearly 2 years on this island without driving a car – I’m finishing up my driver lessons as we speak & have my exam next month! – so yeah a car doesn’t have to be a priority. It does make living here a lot easier tho. Getting to a decent supermarket does require you to have a vehicle so once in a while.

My advice: if you can drive a car, make sure you get yourself one. Not able to? Just be creative: hop on a bus, rent a scooter instead or be a bit more sporty and walk – during the daytime! – to your go-to spots. Just make sure to consider this when choosing a place to live.

More info about Curaçao beaches & how to get there –> Life’s a beach: the Curaçao ‘Vitamin Sea’ guide

📸 by Niekartistiek
Kokomo Beach

The paperwork

To become an expat you do need to do your homework. Here’s a list of things you’ll need in order to get through the customs:

  • Passport – with validation for at least 6 months
  • Certificate of Birth – make sure you’ll request an international certificate
  • Certificate of Conduct – no longer than 3 month old
  • An exit ticket – within 6 months
  • International Insurance Papers
  • Extract of the population register – proof of no longer residency & Copy of an entry in the Registry of Marriages

Book a Round-Trip 

Let’s address some of the above. In order to get through the customs at Curaçao you’ll need a two way ticket. Or, as I did, a ticket out of the Dutch Caribbean – so not to Aruba/Bonaire/St. Maarten etc. I booked a separate ticket to Venezuela. This is a waaaaaaay cheaper option than booking Round-Trip ticket! The fact that I never planed on taking that flight doesn’t matter.

Why do you need this proof of exciting within 6 months? The only way of getting your Sedula (your permit/Visa) is to apply for it in person on Curaçao. So by entering the country you do not have a citizenship and are therefore being dealt with as a tourist. Tourists from the Netherlands have a maximum of 6 months per year they’re permitted to be on Curaçao.

Note: People with a different nationality need a ticket of proof of exiting within 3 months.

📸 by Niekartistiek

International Insurance 

The moment you ‘unsubscribe’ from your former address you’re local insurance is no longer valid. Make sure you have an international insurance upon the day you emigrate until you can get your local one after your permit has been approved. To play it save I would recommend an insurance with the duration of at least 3 months.

To round it up, these are the last things you should double check before hoping on your plane:

  • Passport photo’s – you’ll need quite a few for the paperwork on Curaçao
  • Check your ongoing subscriptions – newspapers etc.
  • Stop by your bank and check if your card is set on working in the Caribbean, and while you’re at it you can register your new address.

Check, check, double check? Great! Put yourself on that plane and fly sky-high – off to your Caribbean adventure.

📸 by Niekartistiek
Mambo Beach

What’s next?

Yay! You’ve landed on Dushi Korsou, the beautiful island of Curaçao. Take a cap to your new residence and sleep off your jet-lag. The following can get your attention afterwards:

  • Your VVR – Dutch: Verklaring van Rechtswege – this is your working permit
  • Sedula – Your local ID-card, aka your visa/permit to stay as a resident
  • SVB – Dutch: Sociale Verzekeringen Bank – Local Insurance
  • GGD – Optional if your employer requires this: it’s a test on hygiene.  

Just a few things to take care off. I’ll take you through these steps as I encountered them 2 years ago. Some of the papers you now can request online, but you still have to go to the offices to receive them yourself.


First thing you’d like to have arranged is your VVR. You’ll go to the immigration desk in Punda – it’s the glass building across from the McDonald’s – and ask for the payment form. With this form you’ll go to the Giro Bank and make the additional payment. Or you pay upfront digital, depends on what works best for you. It’s quite a lot – 615 guilders – but don’t let it discourage you! Prices can differ, depending on what your requesting. If it is just for working within the holiday permitted stay it’s a different price then if you’re planning on staying beyond that.

After doing your payment you return to the immigration desk and request your VVR. For this you bring your receipt of the payment, your passport, certificate of birth, certificate of conduct, copy of an entry in the Registry of Marriages, your Employers Declaration & a previous filed in form of the VVR agency. Be aware that you can only apply for a VVR when you have found a job. You’ll receive a proof of administration, which allows you to start working already. It’s not your VVR yet! You’ll have to come back for that in a couple of weeks.

📸 by Niekartistiek


After you collected your VVR – and enjoyed your first couple of weeks on the island – it’s time to stop by Kranshi. This is the Civil Registry of Curaçao, where you apply for you Sedula. It is located in the Otrobanda district, which is on the other side of the Queen Emma Bridge.

First thing you do at Kranshi is register your VVR. You can walk right in, grab a number and wait your turn. Come prepared & bring your papers with you. You’ll need your passport, certificate of birth, extract of population register – the proof you unsubscribed from your previous address and your VVR.

Next up is making the appointment for your Sedula. You’ll get a number to call or an web adress to make your appointment. Most times this appointment is 3 weeks ahead. On the day of your appointment you’ll only have to bring your passport and 15 guilders. Wait your turn, let them make a splendid picture of you and your Sedula is being printed while you wait. Congratulations! You’re officially a Curaçao resident!

With the Sedula in your wallet you can come and go off the island as much as you please. This of course within the validation time of your Sedula – mine is valid for 5 years.

📸 by Niekartistiek
Mood Beach


Let’s fix your insurance. On Curaçao your basic insurance is being payed for you by your employer. You only need to stop by the SVB office in Otrobanda to get your insurance card. Bring your Sedula & a paper from work – they’ll know which one you need. You pick a doctor & that’s it. You’re basic insurance has been fixed.


Last thing is optional, and only if your employer requests it from you. The GGD – it’s a certificate of knowing your hygiene. It’s mandatory if you work in a restaurant or in other sectors that make you work with food / hygiene. It’s a easy test you have to make on annual base and cost 50 guilders. Most employers pay this or part of this fee.

Update: Curaçao keeps innovating & improving their systems in order to make it a bit more easier. Some of the above papers you can now request online!

📸 by Niekartistiek
Playa Kalki

Live your Caribbean dream

After all the bureaucratic arrangements you’re finally where you want to be: living your Caribbean adventure. Looking back at all this makes me realize how quick you can make a life changing decision work. It only took me 3 weeks from making this unbelievable decision to getting on board & being flown to paradise. Sure, you do need to do your homework & make the mandatory arrangements. But what else would you expect from becoming a expat?

Most important thing would be to enjoy the ride. Whatever you do or whatever your motivations are, never forget to celebrate life. You can live the dream of your own makings. If only you are bold enough to dare yourself in making it happen.

Caribbean Curaçao Travel

Ready for the Seabob adventure?

Traveling to the Caribbean & want to take your snorkeling trip to the next level? Go on a Seabob adventure! With your personal submarine you’ll dive into the ocean & discover its treasures. These eco-friendly underwater scooters are just so much fun!

This weekend was all about having a good time. New experiences are a perfect way to do so! At Tugboat Beach we met with Andy Max from Seabob Curacao to go on this adventure.

📸 by SeaBob Curacao

As mentioned before, a Seabob is basically a mini submarine. You hold on tight while you cruise through the water. Above the water you can easily reach 15 KM/H & when you dive under a good 11 KM/H. Talk about a fast dive!

At Tugboat Beach we began our journey. It’s a popular snorkel & dive spot here on the island. And for a good reason! You may have guessed it: in its depths you can find the sunken tugboat. It is surrounded by creatures of the sea. So many fish! With the Seabob it was easy to get to the bottom real quick & to see all of this underwater world up close. Out of breath? Put the Seabob at maximum speed and speed out of the water! Felt like a dolphin going for an air jump.

📸 by SeaBob Curacao

From the Tugboat we took our underwater tour towards the coral reefs. Gorgeous spots I hadn’t seen on the island yet! Between here and Director’s Bay you’ll see so many beautiful things. Colorful coral, fish & nothing else around you than the ocean itself.

For safety reasons the Seabob’s are manually put on a maximum of 2.5 meters depth. But if you’re just as used to go into the water as us, you can easily let it be altered so you can dive deeper – just don’t forget to clear your ears!

📸 by SeaBob Curacao

The tour takes about an hour. We had so much fun on this tour! It gives a whole new dimension to the underwater world, no diving experience needed. It’s fast, it’s fun & a new adventure which I would recommend for sure.

They have a second tour as well, located at Playa Piscado. Here you can do the Seabob tour while swimming with sea turtles & seeing the Neptunus underwater statue. If you want to read more about these sea turtle spots on Curacao, check out my previous Sea Turtle Hotspots post.

Big thanks to Seabob Curacao for this cool underwater adventure!

📸 by SeaBob Curacao

Caribbean Cuba Travel

Trinidad: Museum City of the Caribbean

Traveling to Cuba? Visit Trinidad! Even tho its a half day traveling (by bus) from Havana, it is worth the ride. This post will cover the charm, things to do, where to stay & some things to be aware of when in Trinidad.

Why I love Trinidad

The whole vibe gets you. Wander around in its cobblestone streets and be amazed by your surroundings! Bright, colorful buildings around you and music comes out of every corner. The buildings itself hint their colonial heritage, as one of the best preserved historic towns that’s on the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

📸 by Niekartistiek

Trinidad seems to be untouched by time, by the looks of the vehicles. There are Russian Lada’s dated from the 50’s everywhere and occasionally you’ll see a horse-drawn cart pass by. Can you imagine?!

Take a walk towards the heart of Trinidad: Plaza Mayor. Filled with palm trees, colorful flowers & some benches to rest while getting really aware of everything around you. Especially since there are no cars allowed in this area. The city has a great laid-back Cuban vibe — I also recommend getting away from the main square to explore the rest, losing yourself into its streets & alleys.

Where to stay

When you get off the bus you’ll be bombed by locals who are desperate for you to choose their casa. We booked our casa in advance, but in Trinidad you could easily get a casa on the spot. I can not shut up about the need to choose a Casa Particular above a regular hotel! If you want to read more about what it is and how you easily book a casa, read my previous Prepping for CUBA! post.

Since we didn’t know how to get to the casa we took a bicycle cap. Turned out to be quite the adventure on the cobblestone roads (bumpy ride!) and a driver who didn’t exactly know where to go.. but we made it!

📸 by Niekartistiek

We stayed at Casa Rogelio Inchauspi Bastida. This blue building used to be the old pharmacy of Trinidad. It is filled with peculiar objects & a lot of green plants. We had breakfast every morning in the garden which displayed a lot of slavery artifacts. The room itself was at the first floor, offering a private patio with it & access to one of the balconies. Gorgeous views all over town, overseeing the streets & looking upon the famous Trinidad church tower & the surrounding mountains.

To book your stay at this casa, click here.

What to do

Highlight of any trip to Cuba in my opinion – the music! How couldn’t it be? Enjoy the salsa & the rumba every night at Casa de Musica – Open air live music! These iconic steps get transformed into a terras and the live music makes it so vibrant. Watch people start dancing, order a cocktail or two and enjoy the night.

Go on an adventure & book yourself a trip to one of the natural reserve parks. We went to Parque El Cubano and went for a hike. The hike takes you a hour to get to the top and there you’ll find a gorgeous waterfall. We went in for a rewarding dip, and oh my it was so worth it after the walk. Best feeling in the world.

If your more of a salt water type you can also go for a swim at Playa Ancon Beach. This blindly white beach is a nice get a way for ultimate relaxation. We were dropped off here after the hike & we just went for it. First a beer and a bite at the Grill Ancón beach bar – since it’s logo is a shrimp, naturally we order shrimps – followed by a stroll on the beach & a ocean dip. You have some small bars along the beach were you can buy a small bottle Havana Club Rum for just 2.50 CUP (that’s only 3 dollar). Made our own Cuba Libre & combined PIZZA slices that were sold by locals on the beach… like I said, we went for it. Fully.

There are so many other options and things to do to choose from. Since we only were here for 2 days we made above choices. Trinidad also offers trips to the old plantations, horseback riding & there is a discotheque build in an old cave.

Wine & Dine

While you might not write home about the traditional food – Cuba is better known for its coffee, rums & cigars – we were not disappointed in what Trinidad had to offer.

First encounter with the food in Trinidad was right after the long bus trip. We strolled around the corner of our casa and stumbled upon so many places to choose from! We went in a typical Cuban states restaurant & tried some of the local cuisine. Shrimps & chicken, with a lot – and I really mean a lot – of rice on the side. Not particularity special, but very traditional.

The same evening we went for tapas at Salón 1851. The tapas was fantastic! We were guided to the upper terrace and watched the sun set while we enjoyed the food. From fish dishes to slices of pizza, we tried a bit of everything they had to over. Very successful & very tasteful.

The second day was our adventure day – including our lunch on the beach. The evening we spent however in a most lovely restaurant, Los Conspiradores. OH MY, this was by far the best dinner I had during the whole Cuba trip. For prices that are unbelievable low you can enjoy a full lobster dinner, bottle of wine & live music. The staff was delightful. The surroundings were glorious as well, located right next to Casa de Musica. Flowers swirled around the balcony, all different kind of plants & even more flowers & a blossom tree.. Do I need to say more? When in Trinidad, definitely make sure to have dinner here.

📸 by Niekartistiek
Lobster dinner at

A less amazing fact about Trinidad

Although the city was lovely at first glance, we couldn’t help but be in shock at just how many tourists and touts there were. It is bulked with tourists. Because the city is a lot smaller in comparison to Havana, the tourist stand out way easier. It’s certainly a tourist town – but even with other travelers around, Trinidad doesn’t lose its charm.

Tips & Tricks

  1. Traveling to Trinidad from Havana? I recommend to book a bus tour via one of the Hotels – they often buy a lot of space for their guests and have spots available. Much cheaper than booking online or taking a cap.
  2. Wear well fitting shoes! Trinidad consists out of cobblestone streets. Do yourself a favor and leave the fancy shoes at home.
  3. Get out there! Wander around. You’ll only discover the best parts of the city if you’re willing to get off the main routes.
  4. Want to do some things just outside of Trinidad? Ask your casa hostess for tips & recommendations. Often you’ll find he or she can arrange the pick up and tour, mostly for a better price.
  5. Trinidad is know for it’s lobster dinners, so by all means if your a seafood lover make sure to try out a full lobster dinner at least once while you’re there.

The mix of colonial architecture, laid-back local vibes, vintage cars & horse-drawn carts, plus all the outdoor adventurous possibilities made Trinidad one of my favorite destinations.