Why do you need to read this post about driving in Antigua?
For two main reasons.
First of all, because you will enjoy Antigua way more if you rent a car and drive around, as you will be able to reach all the so renowned Antigua beaches go out to restaurants and different places in freedom.
The second reason is that in order to enjoy driving in Antigua and feel comfortable with it there are a few things you must consider and understand about driving in Antigua.
Therefore, here I am, giving you all the info you need to rent a car and drive your way around this beautiful island.
If you think that renting a car is expensive, try to hire a taxi…
First thing first, let’s get the financial question out of the way.
It is a fact that Antigua is a relatively expensive destination. I say relatively because if you come from New York or London you might find it extremely cheap. It all depends on what we are comparing with.
In general, though, Antigua is not a cheap destination.
Renting a car in Antigua is up to the standard, BUT so are taxis.
It’s also rare to find regular cars as taxis as they are mainly minivan so their rates are based on a party of 4 people, and prices actually look like they are made for 4 and if you do the math you will see that renting a car is much more convenient than hiring a taxi.
Besides, it will be much more fun to be able to go wherever you want at the time you want without having to pre-schedule a ride.
That’s a no brainer.
Imagine you are on a beach and you suddenly decide you had enough sun and want to go explore the area or find a nice restaurant for lunch and then continue to explore and find another beach or go for a walk. It’s much easier if you have your own car than having to call a taxi every time you want to move not to talk about how costly it would be.
Spoiler alert: I have to say on the taxi defense, though, that many taxi drivers also have a guide license so they can also provide interesting information on the island, such as cultural aspects or historical facts. However, if you decide to hire a taxi, make sure you agree on how much you pay, for how many hours and to go where, before boarding. You don’t want any surprises.
I still believe it’s much better to get your own car, and you might want to purchase one or two boat tours as well to see the island from a different angle.
So, are you still with me?
Ok let’s get into the car rental business.
How to find the best Antigua car rental
The first thing you need to know is how to chose the best Car rental in Antigua. Differently from many other destinations, in Antigua, the best car rental deals that you can find are at the airport.
There you can find locals and internationals car rentals competing to give you the best price.
Also, take into consideration that renting a car for 7 days it comes much cheaper than per day, and totally worth it.
In the high season (From December Through the first week of May) it is advisable to prebook in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises such as not finding availability.
I partner with Discover Car Rental which is convenient because it shows different price for different companies so that you can compare prices.
Another great site to find deals is Auto Europe, same system.
Mind though, that the full coverage they offer, is not completely full and it’s not with the car rental, but with them, which means it’s not convenient at all. I suggest that you should only book your car online and when you pick it up, you purchase the full coverage directly with the car company. You would get the best deal and better coverage.
And that leads to the next tip.
When renting a car always make sure you get full coverage insurance.
I will never stress it enough, always purchase the full coverage when renting a car, because it gives you peace of mind for anything that can happen, especially in a country that you don’t know very well. No matter how careful you are, you never know who or what (see donkeys) you can find on the road.
Full coverage means zero deductible, which means that whatever accident you have no matter whose fault it is and how big is the damage you don’t pay a cent.
Mind, though, there are a few things that are not included in the coverage, normally the car keys (if you lose them), tires and windscreen. But that always depends on the Car rental.
Therefore make sure you read all the policy details and ask questions to your dispatcher. I have rented so many cars in my life, and many in Antigua as well, so trust me on this.
Spoiler alert: if something happens just call your car rentals. They must give you a phone number that’s accessible 24/7.
Your international driving license is of no use in Antigua
Yes, you have read it correctly. In Antigua, regardless of what kind of driving-license you have, you will ALWAYS need to purchase a local one.
It’s a temporary local driving license that costs 20USD or 50 ECD and it lasts 3 months.
You can purchase from the rental car company, or at the police station or the Transport Board it would be the same price and must be paid cash.
However you need to show your own regular driving license from your country in order to purchase the local one and if stopped by the police you must show both of them.
Stick to the left
If you are not used to it, it can be a little intimidating but I assure you that you can get used to it very easily. What I do is to focus on having the middle of the road (that is not always marked) on my right-hand side. That’s all you need to remember.
Trust me it’s not difficult. You will get used to it on day two. My word!
Use google map to find your way around
When I was living in Antigua smartphones were just starting to make their first appearance and I didn’t have one yet. So no Google Map. It took me about a week to figure out Antigua roads. I know I may sound dumb but if going towards Jolly Beach and English Harbor is easy, when I was driving around downtown and the airport I was constantly getting lost. Ok It’s not Los Angeles, I get it, but if you use a navigator it will definitely make your life easier.
Mind the potholes
Although I was told that there are fewer potholes than when I was living in Antigua, and the roads are much better, they are still a thing, together with the speed bumps. So mind those and drive slow.
Nights can be pitch black
The roads are rarely lit in the night and you might find people and animals walking on the sides of the roads so, be extra cautious when driving at night.
Look out for donkeys
Night and day those sweet animals are quite a population in Antigua, and it’s not rare to find them roaming around both on the sides of the roads or just hanging out in the middle, carless of any possible danger.
So please drive slow in order to avoid running over one of them.
Also, stay on the lookout for stray dogs, mongoose, goats, and kettles when driving. So that you won’t kill them and mush up your rental.
But this is also part of the reason why speed limits are so low in Antigua
Know the speed limits and go by the law
You might not believe it but speed limits are so low in Antigua that you are tempted to ignore them. In fact, it’s a whopping 20 km/h in the city and villages and 40 km/h in the countryside.
There aren’t cameras but more and more often you will find the police checking with speed guns. And tickets can be ridiculously exorbitant. You don’t want to pay that one!
Even if I am stating the obvious, I must remind you, make sure you wear your seat belt and you don’t text or call while driving.
Also don’t get distracted by the gorgeous landscape. I know it’s a difficult one. Just stop the car and look around. Much easier and safer! 🙂
Parking in Antigua
With the exception of St. John’s, the capital city, parking in Antigua is very easy. Every hotel has a free parking lot and so the beaches and places of interest.
Finding parking in St. John’s is trickier but not impossible. Maybe choose to leave the car a few blocks away from the very center and take a walk.
It’s not always very clear where you can park or not in St. John’s. For sure it’s not allowed when you see a yellow line on the edge of the street. Maybe ask the car rental if they have any suggestions on where to safely park in St. John’s.
- Normally in St. John’s there are one-way streets, make sure you are driving in the right direction.
- Never leave any valuable in the car or bags.
- Always lock the car
Is 4-wheel drive necessary?
It depends where you want to go. I wouldn’t consider it necessary because all the most renowned and beautiful beaches are accessible by a regular car. However, a big 4 wheel drive always feels safer…and more comfortable!
You are close to everything
Antigua is tiny but even if attractions are scattered all over the islands and you are always at 45 minutes from the farthest place, with the exception of Half Moon Bay, my favorite beach in Antigua (don’t miss it!) which is at about 1hr from St. John’s.
Gas stations are pretty much everywhere but because I am always scared to be left stranded on the road without gas, I always make sure I have at least 1/3 to 1/2 of tank or more of gas, just in case.