Antigua and Barbuda is a stunning country which is part of the Leeward Islands in the West Indies. It’s actually made up of two main islands called Antigua and (yes you got it) Barbuda.
But, did you know that there are lots of other islands including Great Bird, Green, Guiana, Long, Maiden, Prickly Pear, York and Redonda? Most people base themselves on Antigua and then take boat tours to explore the other islands.
So why visit Antigua? For starters it’s got 365 beaches to choose from, so you’re never short of new ones to explore, including some fun off the beaten path ones like Rendezvous Bay. It has the perfect combination of dry hot climate in the winter. The food is tasty, the nightlife is fun and the rum punch is, well…..extremely punchy!
What we love as a family is how welcoming the island is. Even if people don’t know you they’ll greet you as they pass with “how tings?” or “ wah a gwarn?” which are both ways of asking, how are you?
Nothing happens fast, or on time in Antigua - it’s called “island time” for a reason. It’s not a bad thing as it forces you to slow down and relax in the way that you do things.
Keep in mind that shop opening times can be flexible sometimes, and if there’s a religious holiday whilst you visit then the island tends to come to a halt. It's always worth checking holidays in advance, just in case.
The best time to visit is between December and April when it’s warm and dry. Outside of these months, it can be very stormy and it is also hurricane season.
There are local buses which are a cheap option for travelling around, however, they don’t tend to connect to all the destinations on the island.
I’d recommend a rental car as it gives you the flexibility to visit where you want to when you want to. You’ll also be able to reach the more hard-to-reach places such as Half Moon Bay.
There are two main ways of getting to Antigua - by water and by air.
When you arrive by plane there’s just one international airport in Antigua called VC Bird International Airport. At immigration, citizens of many countries do not need a visa to enter the country.
Just a heads up that the immigration queue runs on island time, so be prepared for quite a wait.
If you arrive by cruise ship then you’ll come into St John’s where the cruise ship dock is located and you’ll clear immigration on the ship.
Both have plenty of taxi drivers waiting to whisk you off to wherever you’d like to go - nothing is ever more than 45 minutes away.
The currency in Antigua is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar (XCD) or more commonly called “EC”. Most things will be priced in EC, and some such as tours and accommodation will also be advertised in US dollars.
Most shops accept US dollars and cards, however, it’s always handy to have local currency too for places such as roadside stops for fruit and drinks.
Antigua is one of the safest countries in the Caribbean. You should, like in other countries, be aware of things such as theft and pickpockets. ]
I’d suggest that you don’t leave valuables on show or in your bag on the beach. The tap water isn’t safe to drink so you’ll need to either buy water or use a filter.
Accommodation on the island can be very expensive, especially in the larger all inclusive resorts.
However, one of the fun (and less expensive) places to come and stay would be English Harbour which is a melting pot of locals, yachties and holidaymakers. Here, you’ll find some more affordable (quirky) options like the Admiral's Inn or The Waterfront.
As you can’t drink tap water in Antigua, you could potentially go through a lot of plastic bottles if you shop for water.
I use a water filter bottle when I’m out as it means that I can put tap water into it so that it becomes safe to drink. When we’re at home, we take our large plastic water bottles and top them up at a local water station. It’s cheaper and much more sustainable.
Antigua is a religious country and as such, lots of the shops and businesses do not open on Sundays or holidays
if you’re staying for more than a few days and want to use your phone out and about then a local Flow or Digicel sim card is a good call. Alternatively, there are e-sims available but they’re from my experience a lot more expensive.
Can you or can’t you? Well, marijuana was decriminalised in Antigua in 2018. In 2023 it was legalised for medicinal purposes which pretty much opened it up to be smoked publically and you will likely smell it around.
However, it’s important to remember that all other drugs such as cocaine remain illegal and carry hefty penalties.
Most people in Antigua are extremely welcoming and very friendly. You’ll notice it when they greet you in the streets or ask how you are in the shops. If you have kids, you should fully expect to stop for a chat as they love speaking to kids.
They’ll also honk their horns at each other as they drive by, so any honking you hear is more likely to be a friendly “hi” than a sign of aggression. You’ll hear lots of light honks on the streets. You’ll also notice that they randomly pull their cars over to the side of the road at the last minute to stop to start chatting with their friends.
I love how friendly they are!
Antigua has lots of mosquitos (I’m one of the lucky ones that they don’t seem to like!). If you are tasty, then, it’s super important to use mosquito repellent in the evenings.
There are often warnings of dengue outbreaks and quite a few of our friends have been unfortunate enough to get it.
As there are often shortages of mosquito repellent in Antigua, I suggest that you don’t rely on being able to buy it when you arrive. Make sure to bring plenty with you!
I enjoy people-watching and trying to catch the English words mixed in with the Creole. You’ll find that if you listen carefully you can pick up the gist of a conversation.
Most people in Antigua speak English, and won’t expect you to speak any Creole.
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Last Updated 9 January 2024