Month: October 2013
Driving in Antigua – for the best way!
Getting around Antigua is a bit of a pain (unless you drive yourself) so this article is probably one of the best info tools online on the subject.
Most all of the best destinations for tourists can be reached via boat or are seaborne activities like sea fishing or jetski or indeed one of Antigua’s most famous sports sailing (oh yes include the best beaches which makes Antigua famous) If you can sail or power boat then it may be worth your time exploring Antigua like that and you should visit a specialist website for that.
If you want to get an idea of what it is like to drive in Antigua I recommend this voyeuristic view of Driving in Antigua – Sanchia and Calvin chat while driving through the island while chatting – worth having on on the background if you like listening to opinionated people?
For most of us however Antigua will need to be visited by land or by using a tour. I will outline some of the more common ways to ‘Do Antigua’ and for each recommend the best most economical approach depending on the kind of group you have below.
All Inclusive Holiday | Duration 1-2 weeks
This is probably one of the most common ways to visit Antigua or at least visit a beach and a resort in Antigua. You may be happy with what you have and indeed a good day tour can easily acquaint you with the best interior places that Antigua can offer and in just one day.
If you are staying for a couple of weeks I recommend hiring a car for a day or at most 2 with gaps. Even though you need to purchase a temporary license in order to rent a car the taxi fares are quite a lot when they start to add up. So in order to have ANY independence at all it is a must do. You might find that you want to escape the resort too – so mix this with a couple of well selected island tours or sea tours like Around Antigua Circumnavigation and you will save more money. Don’t come this far and miss out on some of Antigua’s History and get some memorable photos. If you are here for just a week then just do up to 2-3 tours would be my advice. A circumnavigation or better still the
day trip to Barbuda (unfortunately Barbuda was hit hard by Hurricane Irma) or the classical island tour by jeep. Kick back and relax the rest of the 4-5 days and get the most from your all inclusive status.
If you are staying in a 2 weeks all inclusive then read on..
There is something supremely satisfying to driving in a foreign country and Antigua is not a hard place to drive. Drive on the left here and you will find things go much easier ! Also try and spot one way streets as some are not well signposted in the capital St Johns. Tip : Follow the rest of the traffic flow. I have never seen an Antiguan so alarmed as when I started to drive up a one way street !
IT IS POSSIBLE TO EXCITE AN ANTIGUAN IN THE AUGUST MID DAY SUN.
But seriously speeds are low due to the road surfaces..
Antigua Pot (Holes)!
I have even seen pot holes in Antigua with hair (grass) growing out of them ! On Fig Tree Drive.
I will also try and get a photo of some of the directional signposts here that have been washed out due to the weather. Particularly tricky is finding Jolly Harbour from the north!
But driving in Antigua – it’s not all that bad and in fact quite enjoyable once you get over the spending money part (notice the pattern in my articles?) . Speeds are slow due to the speed bumps and natural speed bumps as in pot holes or inclines and meandering dogs near death or just the villagers who decide to walk in the road as there are often no paths. This has led to the macho man not needing a sidewalk. It is probably a good thing as it keeps the speed in villages down. Also mention must be made to the business that use the public roads notably the car mechanics where there are frequent gridlock. Instead of spend more money on a yard or place to jack up cars and work on them they fill their business premises up with junk then use the road as the yard. Also don’t be surprised to see abandoned cars on the roads some with vegetation growing out of them. Carlisle Bay on fig tree drive is notable. This is just outside one of Antiguas most exclusive resorts Carlisle Bay ! It’s all part of the charm- rest assured on your first drive you shouldn’t be rushed- take it easy and get used to the width of your car/4×4 as there are gullies on the Near Side (passenger side) OFTEN and if you run into them you may need more than the local CDW. The really great news about driving in Antigua is that it is most likely to be an Auto- YAY. Until we all go Auto electric with the Tesla model S this for us is as close as we get. If we were all loaned the 90k pounds to buy one we might get that money back instead of the Saudi ok Kuwait profiteering. I digress…
Cheap Rent a Car in Antigua
Hiring a car for a couple of days spread apart will allow you to enjoy some spectacular sights that you will get on a tour without the vendors and at your own pace. Petrol (Gasoline) is pretty cheap compared to the UK we estimated about half price. Coupled to the fact that distances are short will mean the bigger part of the car rental is the rental itself and any insurance needed. Don’t forget the temporary tourist license again. It is very much worth considering buying online CDW Collision Damage Waiver as it seems to be a false economy in Antigua. Buying it locally didn’t protect me from much at all when I enquired.
Staying in a Holiday Home or Vacation Rental | Duration 1-2 weeks
The difference with a holiday home is that you might probably be needing a car and in some cases a 4×4 to navigate a rainy season driveway that is common for a lot of properties. It is more common for vacation homes to suit bigger parties or families and here resorts get pricey also. So the cost of a car is also shared. You will need the car to go buy groceries and get to the beach or other destination. You might find it ok in Jolly Harbour to rent a golf cart as much more is in the area still walking gets tedious in the heat but you might do it for a week on a budget so long as you don’t have kids. Golf carts for rent in Jolly harbour are 20 USD per day – consider a budget car for less than 275 per week! Jolly Harbour will require a final cha ching with a car pass at least it is just 10 USD. I would just ignore it unless you get asked.
TIP : If staying for longer than a week consider strongly booking the second week in a different location.
Alternatives for getting around in Antigua.
Getting around by local bus can be fine for shorter journeys or lets say straight forward ones like from Dickenson bay to St Johns the capital a single route serves this and will cost a couple of US dollars only. But you may be waiting up to 45 minutes for the mini bus. Stick your hand out to catch it. A similar taxi fee is 12 USD each way you may negotiate fares though they say they cannot be. One of Antigua’s ‘mistakes’ is setting the fares too high IMO and people are staying more and more in the resorts – this is money running straight in and back out of Antigua if people stay in Resort.
Hitch Hiking in Antigua
You will see many people walking, I wouldn’t give a lift to anyone asking. You are on holiday it is not your place to be doing that and don’t feel guilty. 99% of the time things would go well I am sure here and the passenger would be grateful but you may get a farm worker with dirty trousers for example. Just be safe and let a local give a lift instead.
Motorcycles in Antigua are rarely seen and we discussed this as a ‘why not?’ I can only think the weather (in rainy season) as the roads would be well suited to bikes as opposed to scooters that may struggle up some gradients on fig tree. Maybe you can tell us?
Oh yes if you can remember to stay in resort on Cruise Ship Day when the vendors come out in force and you will get busy roads and beaches.
Please share this article if you got this far, you must have enjoyed it and sharing gives me some kudos and appreciation. I am available to give advice on car rental in Antigua just email me at email@example.com.
A friend of mine had a very good service while in need of a Tailor in Antigua he found Robert Jean Moise in Bolans Village, St Mary’s Parish Antigua.
You can email him or call. The work was professional and well done.
Tel 1(268) 7223170 email : firstname.lastname@example.org
if you want to find Robert then here is a handy map thanks to Canadian John (John Thng)
We will pay you for your trip report. It does depend on the quality and detail so please contact us to start discussions and it also depends on if we have a lot of similar reports. So please just try us. One thing it must not be used on other websites such as Trip Advisor Antigua.
Here are some handy links taking you straight to the Antigua areas and destinations you are looking at.
Villas in Antigua
Villas and Homes in Jolly Harbour
Thomas Cook have a service to Antigua and the prices look very good. The caveat is that it sits only from November to April (in season) currently so its not an option for Antigua Carnival. You might not consider Manchester the ideal airport but Aberdeen is also on offer.
Newsflash – ABERDEEN to ANTIGUA is now available
Take a look at the flight link below – pretty good no? And share this site as well to your friends for lots good tips especially if you go flight only as we are experts at helping you find a place suitable for your party. Oh yes the link Thomas Cook Flights Antigua
I will try and find out more but this is great news for those of us who live more in the north. Even for me it’s not much more of a drive to the airport in Manchester compared to ‘London’ gatwick 😉 this may also drive the other airlines to drop prices a bit. I feel a cheeky week in the planning! And speaking of planning here you can book your airport parking and stay the night before or after your trip to Antigua from Manchester.
Manchester Airport Parking and Hotel
Holiday Extras provide you with parking + hotels and other services designed to ease the trip to Antigua.
If you are still struggling to find the best flight to Antigua then Skyscanner can help.
Here is the skyscanner convenient link for SKYSCANNER ANTIGUA
An episode of Tales from the Tropics ™
Where : The Sea (Caribbean) and English Harbour Antigua.
What : One marlin only but king fish, tons of wahoo (yeah !), dolphin fish (not dolphins !) also known as mahi mahi and rainbow runners I think.
My time was getting short in Antigua and my heart was heavy. It has been a hell of a time for me and life was too good for the 3 whole months they were gracious enough to give me at the airport upon arrival. Little did I know at that time the people I would encounter and the friendships I would strike up. That’s the real essence of travel FOR ME at least. Sure places can be amazing but there is nothing like being away from home to bring out your real self. And this then counts for the people you meet often as well and hence why the best friendships I have struck up have been while on such adventures. Give it a go before it’s too late – but here this it’s never too late!
Well one mini event to make the mood less heavy was the fishing tournament’s weigh in. A fishing match open to anyone you just have to get up at stupid o’clock and keep flying on the rum rather than battle a hangover. On board you might try to keep the flow natural. But the main name of the game is trolling. You understand that I missed a trick and didn’t partake in the most fun part. I don’t have a boat * and the people that I know who do stuff on boats just work on them. I wasn’t about to swan in on their perk. So I just got to enjoy the festivities at the weigh in as did hundreds of others.
It was 3 in the afternoon and I had my last dip for the moment in pigeon point beach and set off around the corner for the harbour. Lord Horatio Nelson really did at one point preside over affairs here as the English established a base to strengthen the territories in the west indies. English harbour is a natural one that was selected with high lookouts and fort points from which to fire cannon down into any marauders. Today the flags were the surf kind that sponsors like and there were it has to be said a few too many. There were wine bars cocktail stands and BBQ’s a big set of digital scales allowed photographic opportunities for the fisherman great white hunters that some were 😉
The first boat came in shortly and then all of a sudden they all seemed to be in. Wifi was available and instagram got a rare spike of photos from me. Though I kept having to get close to the scales. Well done guys for getting wifi and not locking it off. So the fish were egressed from the boats into wheelbarrows and then taken to be weighed. Dolphin fish, barracuda, wahoo, king fish the pelagics that get around and have a turn of speed were the fishes most caught. After they were taken back to the boats for cleanup and subsequent gutting etc. Here is where you will see some of the more gory stuff.
To think a few hours ago these fish were cock of the walk in their world. Piers Morgans (@piersmorgans*) if you like – now there’s a tangential thought when faced with such a still end game. In truth I would have liked to escape the camera a bit more however the flip side will be me enjoying and reliving the afternoon from the photos. I met various people most I had known some new and it was a family affair. It got busier with boats families and the sun shone down – and I got my first coup du soleil after 3 months. Just a couple of hours running up and down the line of boats looking for the marlins and sail fish I had expected since my last fishing tournament. I decided that I was not going to hang round as Guinness were painting the town black and I had seen all I wanted. I also wanted to enjoy Fig Tree Drive on last time under the sun. I got to the end of the line of boats and kept walking around – I dare not look back as I may have stayed forever. I was going to blast my joyride riddim over the pass.
What lay before me on exiting I have never seen before in all my umpteen times here at the entrance to English Harbour. A sea of cars for as far as the eye could see. Is this what race week is like? All of a sudden Antigua fills up every year. I will be back reporting on this very different time of the year. Anyway Bashment Girl awaited to bury my thoughts and once more I flicked the rio into D for the last Fig Tree Drive I may ever do if my luck one day runs out – no chance no worries menawa leave.
Follow my life in photos
Boat* If it floats flies or fcuk’s its better to rent than buy. I seem to be on some really long term lease with the latter.
Piersmorgans* I say Piers whats your twatter name ? I think you will find its Twitter ! NO I think you will find your Twatter.
Bored in Antigua ? You’re not trying hard at all !
I tried to fit a bit too much into my day and missed the donkey sanctuary by about 30 minutes. It runs Monday to Saturday 10am to 4pm. I didn’t know what time it did close and this being low season of course it was taking a chance; on the one hand and always a sure bet on the other – adventure. This is Antigua.
I got my fig tree drive fix in on the way and all went ok it’s never fast! That fix starts as you round the tamarind hill developments after passing Jolly Harbour and approach darkwood beach. You get a fantastic view of the Caribbean Sea over arguably one of Antigua’s best beaches. More incredible vistas await rounding the points and bluffs that characterize this part of the isle. It does start to cut back in and until the beach at Curtain Bluff you have amazing views of the mountains to the left that cocoon the colorful villages here, an often overlooked feature of Antigua. The village here after the speed bumps has provided me with the following:
Abandoned cars just left it would seem for decades on the side of the road judging by the foliage and pillaging that has happened.
A guy pressing what appeared to be coconuts for oil by the roadside.
Meandering people – there are no paths and if there are Antiguan’s prefer to walk in the road. For black people in the dark this is either a) Suicidal b) Ignorant c) Macho d) Without choice. I have met all 4 on a single pass through here !
Friendly villagers who wanted their picture taken and for them to take mine.
It has left a lasting impression. In both directions this village signals a change in the road ahead. Today it was the start of the winding road up to the pass. The start of Fig Tree Drive. In one 10m stretch of foliage here you can find mangoes, bananas, bread fruit, figs (of course) and more. Otherwise it’s a sometimes potholed road to the extreme with the possibility of rolling off the edge into a Gully or worse down into a drop of certain write off and a possibility of serious injury. It charms one moment and scares the next. At night the former decreases in favour of the latter, Antiguans don’t help with full beams and fog lamps coming into your path. It’s not that bad though if you take it steady; Antiguans swerve a bit before finally at the last moment missing you. During the day you may find the locals washing their cars and trucks here in the natural streams that pass by, the canopy providing a break from the sun as they toil – Antiguan’s are not stupid. You will see the rasta plaques which speak of something profound nailed to certain trees, the size of dinner plates in various colours. On my next visit I will expand on these. A Rainforrest zipline tour tops close to the pass and signals my decent and a couple of speed bumps. Passing a couple of hikes on the right hand side just before the Gallery (often closed) you are approaching the end of Fig Tree Drive. Again another village a bit less crazy and you shortly arrive at the big pink church Our Lady of Perpetual Hope. I almost always turn right here otherwise (towards Falmouth) I don’t know why I would have taken as a tourist FTD. One notable church for its sheer beauty is the sole attraction until you arrive at Falmouth. I needed to talk to the car rental people in English harbour and passed through Falmouth where my Antiguan (mini life) began this time.
Time was ticking after doing something I may have achieved by phone if it were not for the fact that their phone is unbelievable soft and at best titi is hard understood, no that was a job in person. So time ticks by even if in Antigua they have time, where you come from you have clocks. And It was just taking me forever to get to the donkey sanctuary, was it really this far away from Falmouth – I should normally have taken a different route but drawn by FTD. [I love annoying those who say you can’t start a sentence with the word-and.]
And then it was winding bends on the other side of the island, we have crossed the whole of Antigua ! Past Willoughby bay some interesting construction (see images)and further on I saw the big sign not clearly saying you have arrived but that’s what has happened or have you ? I turned inland and started down a roughened road – it said 1 mile to the Donkeys.
I picked up a local lad who was going to work in the fields around here and I couldn’t understand him well at all ! We made very small talk. I wondered if he was a migrant worker I figured he was under 20, long pants cap and a dick Whittington type pack with what I figured was his supper as it was getting late to start a days work. After some really bad roads and the guy saying yes they did get worse and me knowing what a mile feels like I realized that I must have passed it and the guy knew it but he wanted the ride to last – Ok he said when I arrived immediately at his field. A woman 20 yards ahead informed me that I had passed it, the cute goats had distracted me (if ever you need a distraction take a cute goat. If your buying a used car make sure there are no goats around) as this was where the turning was. What goats you say oh yes on the way I saw a goat farm. A WAY TOO SMALL sign signals your arrival at the donkey sanctuary. On turning back I found the sign goats laughing at me and the road I had missed. Note to you – if the road gets real bad turn back. I was in the non 4×4 rio not at all ideal bring on a Top Gear challenge sketch ! But really it wasn’t all a waste (never is) some of the interior views of the fields were simply beautiful. So beautiful, annoyingly beautiful I had to keep stopping getting out and getting another green and blue polaroid. These won’t do justice to the air of peace and nature that sat there hugging me. See for yourself. So the Donkey Sanctuary was closed but I felt I had arrived. There was an awkward donkey in a paddock left of the gate, my daughter being only marginally harder to take a picture of. I was due to meet up at tradewinds hotel for a special happy hour and I hadn’t even got home to change ! Onwards Tonto, donkey or Rio.
My future wife and I began looking for a honeymoon destination in early 2012, our wedding was booked for November 2012. My wife is a seasoned traveller while I had never even flown before! As Cheryl had been to quite a few places, even in the Caribbean I was on the look out for somewhere very special but would at the same time feel ‘safe’ for me. One day searching on line we came across the Verandah Spar resort in St Phillips Antigua, it looked stunning!
Trip advisor had many glowing reports so we made further enquiries. The Verandah staff were really helpful, answering all our questions and really putting themselves out to make sure our special trip was just that. The flight from London Gatwick with BA was a very long one on the 777 aircraft, not a great deal to see but sea LOL, that was the worst part on the way out really. Arriving over Antigua I and many other passengers eagerly looked out to catch our first glimpse of the promised paradise island! What we saw was a lush green island with very character filled bays surrounded by a most beautiful blue sea! Here is my video of our flight and arrival!
Once we landed on the runway and stepped off, the warmth hit us all, and the informality of being disembarked onto the runway was very novel after the military precision of Gatwick! However, not realising it and eager to catch holiday snaps I took a photo of our 777 aircraft and was politely told not to do so by a security guard, so watch out for that! Customs and immigration was no worse than Gatwick, in fact its air-conditioned and did not take too long at all! The staff were efficient but welcoming and we were soon outside waiting for our taxi. Now, the roads might be a little bit of a surprise to EU guests LOL lets just say they are fast and cheerful, just hold on, ha-ha but in reality we never came to nay harm. Arrival at the Verandah was wonderful, we were met by very friendly reception staff and handed our first rum punch! OH wow! Soon we were on a golf cart heading for our little cottage style accommodation and taking in the sights and sounds as we went. We had arrived around 17:00 local time so the sun was already getting low in the sky as we checked out our room and then made our way onto the balcony overlooking the little bay directly towards the setting sun. Here is a compilation of what we saw:
The warmth and sounds was nothing like I have ever encountered, so relaxing so very beautiful! The sounds of the tree frogs and cicadas and the gentle lapping of the sea together with a stunning sun set made our honeymoon perfect and this was only our first night! Once we had gotten over the amazement of it all we headed off to meet the ‘management night’ and to get our first taste of Antiguan hospitality, now dark the charming clean pathways were lit with subtle lamps, but I had a little torch with me all the same. We were stunned to hear the sounds of a steel band wafting on the breeze as we neared the main pool and location of the Sea Breeze restaurant! How amazing to arrive in the Caribbean to a real steel band, just perfect and a memory never to be forgotten. The next few days saw us exploring our little slice of paradise and saw me setting about capturing on video as much of the local wildlife as I could. Here is my video:
We loved to natural history of this place, helped of course by the fact that the Verandah is located on a nature reserve! Diverse, amazing and colourful, we were treated to small lizards, humming birds and the tiny, tiny tree frogs that have a very loud voice at night 🙂 Of course, the sea and water sports are very much a part of a holiday in Antigua and what really made it for us was the complementary water sports equipment offered by the Verandah! As a non swimmer, I never felt pushed or unsafe and they really took care of me.
To my amazement this holiday would see me not only paddling off in my own Kayak, but also sailing a Hobby cat and even snorkelling! All under the watchful eye and guiding hand of my very proficient swimmer wife 🙂 We also headed over to Long Bay beach which is just down a little road from the resort, not as sheltered as our two bays but very beautiful all the same.
We took a trip to St Johns and then joined the Eco Boat tour! Another amazing experience as we were spirited along the azure blue sea to Hells gate, Bird Island and many other interesting locations! Lunch on the boat accompanied by more rum punch!
Here is my video featuring my snorkelling first time experiences including some views of Hells Gate!
Back at the Verandah we spent our days being looked after and gently exploring more of the resort, even taking a trip to the close by Devils Bridge to see a very precarious stone causeway that is pounded by the sea, a blow hole and much more. Highly recommended this location. All too soon it was time to think about heading home and so we spent our last day at this friendly resort being very spoiled until it was time to make our way to the airport! It was raining quite hard! But we were quite safe in the airport, passport control was very easy going and we eventually boarded a rather delayed BA 777 flight for home, that had come from another island! This was the only real down point of the honeymoon for us! We had specifically booked a night flight in the hope of catching up on some sleep.
This was not to happen due to a truly dreadful screaming baby for 75% of the trip! Very late on the BA staff ushered it and its highly stressed out mother to
the back of the plane and we all breathed a sigh of relief. Not being a seasoned traveller the sense of taking what had to be only a few weeks old baby on such a trip with just one parent seemed madness to me but I guess you can’t plan for such things. Well, we loved it so much that we are heading back in 2013 for an early 2nd honeymoon 🙂 we really can’t wait and plan to visit a few more recommended locations this time. I’ll be putting up my experiences on my YouTube channel so please feel free to browse in and see how we got on this time.
We are flying with Virgin this time and taking two of our dear friends with us! The Verandah has a facebook page if you want to have a look at the resort
Hope this encourages others to give Antigua a chance, you really won’t regret it.
All the best from Mike of Mike’s Movies.