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 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 about 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 MIDDAY SUN.
But seriously speeds are low due to the road surfaces..
Antigua Pot (Holes)!
I have even seen potholes 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 potholes 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 uses the public roads notably the car mechanics where there is frequent gridlock. Instead of spending more money on a yard or place to jack up cars and work on them, they fill their business premises up with junk and 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 Antigua’s 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…
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 with the fact that distances are short, the bigger part of the car rental is the rental itself and any insurance needed. Don’t forget the temporary tourist license again (20USD). It is very much worth considering buying an 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 need a car and in some cases a 4×4 to navigate a rainy season driveway which 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 destinations. You might find it okay 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 let’s say straightforward 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 minibus. 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 the Resort. Bus route 20 goes between Jolly Harbour and St Johns which is another straightforward route if slow way.
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 you a lift instead.
Motorcycles in Antigua are rarely seen and we discussed this as a ‘why not?’ I can only think of the weather (in the rainy season) as the roads would be well suited to bikes as opposed to scooters that may struggle up some gradients on Fig Tree Drive. Maybe you can tell us?
Oh yes if you can remember to stay in the resort on Cruise Ship Day when the vendors come out in force and you will get busy roads and beaches.
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