Almost two years ago, I wrote a fairly comprehensive guide on how to save money in Aruba. My wife and I went back there a couple of weeks ago and I was surprised to find that I had more tips to share. We like to go to Aruba because it’s a lot like our Boston home due to the direct flights. Also, the weather is perfect, it has great food, casinos, and no hurricanes.
The best tip (and the first one) was one I got from a friend after I got back from Aruba:
- Make Money in Aruba – As opposed to most of the things I write about, this is second-hand information from a trusted source. It’s even someone dated information from that source. Because of that, I’ll have to recruit a friend to try it out and report back the results. Here’s how it goes:
- Go To Tomato Charlie’s for Pizza – Numerous reviews say it’s the “best pizza they’ve ever had” and it’s relatively cheap. My source says that you can get a pizza and pitcher of beer for around $20. I recall him saying that there’s something extra that they toss in as a special
- While at Tomato Charlie’s grab a discount magazine – There are other places you can grab these, but you’ll have time to flip through one while you are waiting for your pizza. What you are looking for are Casino match play coupons. As About.com says, match play coupons are almost always a sure way to make money at a casino. You can use them for free money on tables where the house has a 1% advantage. The beauty of this? If you are like most people in Aruba (a couple), you can pick up two sets of coupons for 5-10 casinos in the high-rise hotel area (near Tomato Charlie’s). With coupons of around $20 each, you can go down the line playing one-hand at each where winning gets each person $40 and losing is only $20 gone. My source did this every night and came back with over $1000 in winnings (though I suspect he “gambled with the house’s money” when he started off well.)
- Shop at the grocery stores – I mentioned this one in the article, but it bares repeating as much of this article will assume that you’ve taken that advice. Our favorite place to shop there is Ling and Sons which is hidden behind the Hong King.
- Maximize Your Dunkin’ Donuts’ iced coffee dollar – Dunkin’ Donuts is the favorite coffee of my coffeeaholic wife. The problem is that they don’t have them in California. However, there are a couple in Aruba. Problem is that it’s a pain to wake up and walk 10 minutes from our Marriott timeshare to the Dunkin’ Donuts. As I’ve said before, laziness is the father of innovation. Order a mega-large black ice coffee with no ice (or two). Bring them back to your place and add the ice and milk (from your grocery store stop) yourself. It’s amazing how much ice and milk are in an iced coffee. By having just the main ingredient, my wife got three days of iced coffee without the long morning walk in 100+ degree heat. I was concerned the coffee might not be good after a couple of days, but she said it was fine.
- Eat at cheaper hotels and resorts – A cheeseburger at the Marriott Timeshare we stayed at was $15. At the Holliday Inn next door it was $10. Everything was like that. It was worth walking next door and just eating there. (Of course grocery shopping for deli meats was by far the cheapest option.)
As we talked to others we found that some places had happy hour specials of $1 for a drink. Marriott ran a 2 Balashis (local beer) for $10 happy hour “special.” The price of one Balashi any other time – $5. Marriott did have some “deals” where you could get a frozen for $6.50 during happy hour if you ordered two, but we rarely saw anyone drink at the bar by the pool. Instead, everyone had their own cooler that they got from their shopping trip. If you didn’t have a cooler odds were that the person next to you had more beer than they could drink and would offer you one (or 10). It’s not even mooching because you just talk to someone and they offer it. This is an appropriate time for me to thank Jim Gonsalves for his generosity yet again.
- Plan your trip in advance – This might be hard to do if you don’t know Aruba. Now that we do, we know we’ll rent a car on the first or second day. We’ll use the car to do our grocery shopping for the week (it’s easier than taking Aruba bus system though that is a great value). We’ll plan to go to Flying Fishbone which is a good 20 minute or more drive from the high-rise hotels where we stay. We’ll also use it to sight-see on the island. We only need a car for a day or two to get this all done. We spend the the rest of the trip is generally around the hotel or on snorkeling tours. Speaking of snorkeling tours, as a bonus tip, we found that if you book those online in advance you can save some 15%-20% off them as well.