As of June 2022, the Caribbean Island of Bonaire introduces a new visitor tax – the Tourist Tax Bonaire. Every visitor to this small island in southern Caribbean Sea, will have to pay the new entry fee the funds from which will be allocated to the local business and culture.
Being an ex-colony of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and currently a special status community, can the Schengen visa holders travel to Bonaire without having to pay the new BonaireTax? In other words:
Is the ex-Dutch Island of Bonaire a Schengen Country
The Schengen Area is mostly made up of countries that form a part of the European Union. Countries such as Switzerland and Lichtenstein fall outside of the EU but nonetheless from a part of the Schengen Zone. The 26 countries that it comprises are all a part of Europe.
Why Schengen? The zone gets its name from the small southeastern Luxembourg winemaking town and commune of Schengen. This is where the Schengen Agreement was originally signed by Netherlands, France, Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg.
France, the Netherlands, Norway, and Denmark are Schengen countries that own overseas departments and territories. None of those overseas countries are members of the Schengen area. Bonaire is one of the six Dutch territories in the Caribbean that belong to the Netherlands and fall outside of the Schengen area. Of these, the BES islands are special municipalities within the Netherlands proper.
The BES Islands or Caribbean Netherlands are Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba. The island of Bonaire was a part of the Netherlands Antilles before its dissolution in 2010. The islands do not form part of a Dutch province, unlike normal municipalities and the National Office for the Caribbean Netherlands undertakes national tasks on the three islands.
Bonaire is positioned in the westernmost group of the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and its capital is Kralendijk. The 111 square miles (288 square kilometers) of Caribbean Island lies 20 miles (32 km) east of Curaçao and 50 miles (80 km) north of the Venezuelan coast. The Caquetio people were the first settlers of Bonaire circa the year 1000. In 1636 the Dutch West India Company claimed the island as theirs. In 1954, Bonaire became part of the Netherlands Antilles. A referendum in 2010 saw the islands become special municipalities of the Netherlands.
Bonaire is not a Schengen Country and short-stay tourists to the island cannot apply for a Schengen Visa to gain entry. The Kingdom of Netherlands has a separate and common visa policy for Aruba, Sint Eustatius, Bonaire, Saba, Curaçao, and Sint Maarten in the Caribbean Sea. To travel to the above-mentioned countries, visitors need only one visitor’s travel permit.
That being said, however, holders of a multiple-entry visa for the Schengen Zone and those holding a residence permit for the Kingdom of the Netherlands or for another state from the Schengen Zone, they are exempt from traveling with visa to Bonaire.
Holders of a valid residence permit for Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Mayotte, Martinique, Réunion, Saint Martin, or Saint Barthélemy do not require a visa for Bonaire either. Holders of a multiple-entry visa or residence permit for the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, or Ireland do not need a visa to enter Bonaire. Nationals of Bolivia, China, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, India, and Jamaica do not require a visa.
Short-stay Caribbean Visa
This type of vis is for those tourists traveling on certain passports and of particular nationalities wanting to stay in the Kingdom’s Caribbean municipalities, such as Bonaire, for 90 days or less. Since Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius are not party to the Schengen Agreement or member countries of the Schengen zone, they have a separate policy as far as visas are concerned. The Caribbean Visa available from the Netherlands consulate offices or embassies allows travelers to enter Saba, Bonaire, and Sint Eustatius.
This is a multiple-entry visa. Visitors holding this visa are permitted to stay for as long as 90 days over a period of 180 days. The visa allows visitors to remain for 30 consecutive days on each island. This means that visitors are not allowed to stay more than a month in Sint Eustatius, Saba, and Bonaire no matter that the duration of stay is three months (90 days).
The short-stay visa might be a requirement for those in transit within the Caribbean parts of the Kingdom. This depends on the unique requirements of their passports. Travelers cannot enter the EU part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands or any state from the Schengen Zone on a short-stay Caribbean visa.
Who needs BonaireTax?
Those exempt from the visa condition include the citizens of Canada, the US, the UK, the EU, and Australia. They can remain in Bonaire for up to 90 days in a 180-day period. Dutch and U.S citizens are allowed to stay in Bonaire for as long as 180 days every year without the need of a visa. Travelers in transit, for the most part, as well as cruise ship passengers do not require a Caribbean visa.
To enter Bonaire, visitors are required to use a valid passport. Most of the visitors do not require a travel permit to get to Bonaire. However, tourists must pat the new Tourist Tax Bonaire.
Tourist Tax Bonaire
International visitors to Bonaire are expected to pay the Tourist Tax Bonaire online that was instated on July 1, 2022. This entry tax will assist in the ongoing efforts to maintain the island’s environment, infrastructure, tourism, and education.
The Tourist tax or Entry Tax focuses only on tourists, with the explicit intention of preventing and reducing the impact of the over-population firing the tourist season on the region. The tax will also relieve the obligations on the residents of the island who foot those expenses as tax payers. The Rental Car Tax and Room Tax are no longer applied as this new tax has replaced those. With effect from January 2023, cruise passengers will be charged a tourist entry tax specifically for cruise ship passengers that will be taken in by the cruise lines. Foreign tourists must pay the BonaireTax when visiting for the following reasons:
- family and friends visits
- weddings and honeymooning
- education and business
- sports and cultural events
Although, the tourism tax is payable at the dedicated kiosques at the Flamingo International Airport, we advise tourists to pay tax online before arriving in the country to avoid queuing and unnecessary delays.
Bonaire is the perfect location for rest, relaxation, sea, sun, and snorkeling 365 days out of every year. In fact, it is one of the best places for diving in the world. Check on Bonaire’s website whether you require a visa to enjoy the many pleasures of the island as a visitor.