Are you considering driving in Antigua? If so, you’re in the right place! Driving in Antigua offers more than just a way to get from one place to another; it allows you to explore the island at your own pace. From the picturesque coastal roads to the bustling streets of the capital, St. John’s, renting a car is a great way to experience the charm of Antigua. However, you should know a few essential things before you book your rental car. So, let’s dive into everything you need to know before hitting the road in Antigua.
Car Rentals Cost
At first glance, car rentals may seem expensive in Antigua. However, taxi fares can quickly increase, especially if you plan to take multiple rides or visit remote island areas. The government has standardised taxi rates; each ride costs between USD 12 and USD 31.
Know Your Vehicle
Antigua has good roads that can be navigated by most vehicles. While most of the streets in Antigua are paved, the lesser-travelled roads outside St. John’s may have dirt roads. Although you don’t necessarily need a 4x4, avoiding rental cars too low to the ground is advisable. This is because there are dips on the side streets in St. John’s, which can be hazardous for low cars driving over the sewer covers. A Kia Vitz is an excellent car to rent for getting around Antigua. However, an SUV or 4x4 would be better if you want a more comfortable ride.
If you’re planning a trip to Antigua and looking to rent a car, the prices can be pretty high. However, there are ways to find the best car rental deals. Here are some tips to help you save money:
1. Book your car rental well in advance to get the best selection and pricing.
2. Check prices from multiple rental companies to find the best deal.
3. Consider renting smaller cars, which are often less expensive.
4. Avoid travelling during peak seasons, such as winter and holiday weekends, when prices are typically higher.
Buy the Extra Insurance
Renting a car in Antigua can come with unexpected hazards on the road, especially outside the capital. Therefore, buying additional insurance is a smart move to ensure a safe and stress-free driving experience while exploring the island. This insurance provides peace of mind and covers unforeseen damages, so you don’t have to worry about a repair bill. If you have good car rental insurance on your credit card, you can use that, but ensure you are covered to avoid unwanted expenses.
An International Driver’s Permit
You don’t need to bring your International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to Antigua since it is not accepted there. Instead, you will need to obtain a temporary Antiguan permit to drive. Fortunately, your rental car company will handle this for you, and you can pay for it when you pick up your vehicle. The permit costs USD 20 and is valid for three months, so you’ll still be covered whether you plan to stay that long or return within that period.
Driving On The Left
In Antigua and Barbuda, drivers drive on the left side of the road. However, if you are used to driving on the right side, like us Canadians, it could be challenging to get used to it. Therefore, it is essential to stay alert, especially at intersections and roundabouts.
St. John’s has specific lanes for right turns at major intersections. When it comes to roundabouts, you should enter on the left, going clockwise instead of counterclockwise. If you are unsure about anything, it is best to follow the car in front of you. We found it much easier to drive outside of St. John’s, and we got the hang of it before our one-week trip was over.
If you are not used to driving on the left side, it is advisable to get an automatic vehicle to avoid having to learn two things at once.
One of Antigua’s most important driving rules is to adhere to the speed limit. The speed limit is 20 mph (32 kph) within towns and 40 mph (64 kph) outside town areas. The streets are narrower, and the roads zig-zag, especially in St. John’s, making the roads quite busy in the towns.
When driving in Antigua, being aware of the road conditions is essential. Some roads, especially those in less-travelled areas, have plenty of potholes. There are even dirt roads in places like the Donkey Sanctuary and Stingray City. While most potholes are small and relatively harmless, others are large and can cause damage to your rental car. Therefore, keeping an eye out and maintaining a safe distance from other vehicles is advisable to have more time to react and navigate around the potholes. Our driving motto is simple: take your time, enjoy the scenery, and mind the potholes.
Sidewalks are uncommon in Antigua, particularly outside of downtown St. John’s. The sidewalks in St. John’s are elevated, uneven, and challenging to walk on. It is essential to be cautious of pedestrians, particularly when driving through towns or around corners, as locals and tourists often walk on the roads.
Driving at Night
Driving at night in Antigua can be a challenging experience due to the lack of street lighting. It gets pitch black and makes it difficult to see what’s ahead on the road. To be safe, it’s recommended that you drive slower than usual, use your high beams (when there is no oncoming traffic), and stay alert for unexpected obstacles such as pedestrians, parked cars, and potholes.
It’s best to drive the same route during daylight hours before attempting to do so at night. This will allow you to familiarise yourself with the road and be better prepared for potential hazards.
It’s worth noting that driving back from Shirley Heights on a Sunday night may feel longer than driving there during the day, so it’s essential to take all necessary precautions to ensure a safe journey.
Wildlife Is All Around
When driving in Antigua, watching for donkeys and other animals on the road is essential. These creatures can unexpectedly cross the road, creating a hazard for drivers. If you encounter donkeys, cows, or cats, it’s recommended to stop and wait for them to pass before slowly proceeding. We once saw a herd of cows crossing the road near Fort James, and we waited patiently for them to cross. If you’re interested in spending time with donkeys, you can visit the Donkey Sanctuary, where you can pet and feed them.
Don’t Rely On App Maps Too Much
While using Google Maps to navigate Antigua, it is essential to note that the app’s accuracy may only sometimes be dependable. Some places may be marked differently, which can be confused with directions. However, don’t be discouraged if you get lost; the right place may be nearby.
Everything is Less Than An Hour Away
Driving in Antigua is a delightful experience as everything is nearby. You can access beaches, historical forts, and even a rainforest within 30-45 minutes of driving. This is particularly great for adventure enthusiasts who need more time or want to try multiple activities in one day. If you wish to scuba dive in English Harbour, relax at Dickenson Bay, swim with stingrays, or explore Nelson’s Dockyard, your next adventure is just a short and scenic drive away.
Cash for Gas
To match the island’s relaxed, traditional vibe, most gas stations in Antigua only accept cash. So, you should have some money before starting your road trip adventure. However, don’t worry because US and East Caribbean Dollars are accepted. Although a gas attendant mentioned that one gas station in St. John’s accepts credit cards, I couldn’t locate it. Also, fuel stations are scarce in rural areas, so fuel up when possible.
Parking in Antigua can be unique. Although hotels and beaches have parking lots, most parking on the island is street parking. You can park anywhere, in front of any restaurant or business. However, with most streets only wide enough for two vehicles, driving can become challenging. Nevertheless, all parking is accessible on the island, which is a plus. While driving, you must yield to oncoming cars if the parked car is on your side.
Traversing the picturesque landscapes of Antigua while driving is an exhilarating experience. When you drive in Antigua, you can explore the island at your own pace, allowing you to discover hidden treasures, immerse yourself in local culture, and make impromptu stops along the way.
While some challenges exist, such as potholes and winding roads, the overall driving experience is manageable and comparable to other Caribbean destinations.
Exploring Antigua in a rental vehicle offers a unique, unrestricted adventure worth the effort.