American Airlines to Antigua
Our choice of airlines for flying to Antigua was American Airlines. In 2012; we had a non stop flight at 6:40am out of JFK. We did leave two hours late from the airport due to a mechanical issue but we arrived safetly in Antigua..even though it was in the middle of Tropical Storm Raphael.
Our trip in 2013; was a non-stop out of JFK. We enjoyed a nice flight in business class and arrived to beautiful weather in Antigua unlike the year before.
My wife and I were staying at Sandals Grande Antigua in 2012 and they provided transport via shuttle van to the resort from the airport. The transport was clean and comfortable air conditioned. The fifteen minute ride to the resort provided a nice tour of some of the small island roads and rural areas.
Our second visit to SGA in 2013; we had an SUV transport us to the resort. We were the only couple in the truck and enjoyed a nice tour and conversation with our driver Clovis.
Sandals Arrival Desk
We arrived at V.C. Bird International Airport around 11am. After collecting our bags and going through immigration we proceeded out of the airport. Across the way from the arrivals area is the Sandals Welcome desk. Here is where you check in for the shuttle to the resort. Checking in was easy and they marked our luggage with our room number for transport. A large SUV pulled up and the driver loaded our luggage into the trunk as we hopped into our seats. Our last visit in 2013; we were the only couple in the vechile while the previous year we were one of several people.
V.C. Bird International Airport
V.C. Bird International Airport is located in the Northeast part of the island and was only a 15 minute drive from our resort. We arrived via American Airlines on a direct flight out of JFK.
The airport is a decent sized island airport and is currently undergoinging some big renovations and additions that are scheduled to be completed in mid 2014.. Hopefully by our next visit we will see the new runways and terminals they have planned. Inside the terminal are several duty free shops sellings jewelry, liquor, perfume and other souvenir items.
Arrival is easy but getting through customs and immigration can be lengthy. We arrived on Saturdays both times and it took at least 45 minutes from bag claim to our resort transport and we were one of the first offf the plane. We did arrive on their busiest day; Saturday which sees many flight from the US, Europe and other Caribbean islands. Arriving on Sunday or mid week provides shorter lines coming and going.
The minibus system in Antigua is perfect. Small vans ply the island from one end to the other on regular intervals. The only down side is that St. John’s is the hub and sometimes one has to make a detour to reach a place that seems much closer on the map. Even with this deficiency the minibuses are worth every penny for their flexibility and helpful staff. Some chauffeurs would even flag down a bus that goes towards your destination but is moving in the incoming traffic lane!
Taxis to and from the airport are regulated and prices are set according to distance. Halleluiah! Finally a government in the Caribbean is doing its job! There is a web site that quotes the price list so one can be well informed in advance. For example, the trip from the airport to the Five Islands area costs 20USD.Related to:
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The Barbuda Express is the way to go when travelling between ST. John and Barbuda. The 90 minute ferry ride leaves from St. John five days a week.
Ferry schedule can depend on weather conditions so check ahead of time before travelling.
Taxi's are plentiful especially in the downtown area. Even if you don't need one; you'll be asked 100 times if you need a Taxi.
Make sure to negotiate the price ahead of time before heading off to your destination.
Arrival Via Cruise Ship
St. John's, Antigua is a very popular cruise port in the Caribbean. My wife I took a 12 night Caribbean cruise on the Celebrity Silhouette and St. John's was one of our cruise ports.
I know many people look down on "cruising" but I enjoy it. It's a way to relax on the sea days and get a taste of each island you visit. Many time we have visited an island in port and have decided to return for a full vacation due to what we experienced.
The ship we sailed on was brand new; it first set sail in July 2011. It was spectacular both inside and out. We had an Aft balcony and loved the views we had especially at sea.
Local Taxi Guided Tours
We soon discovered that all the locals know exactly when & which cruise ships are arriving. Therefore it is relatively easy to find a local 'taxi driver' who will show you the highlights of his island for a very moderate sum as they turn up in droves at the port to welcome the ships! Sometimes you have to wait a while until they have filled their mini-bus making it more lucrative for them, but if you are fortunate enough, you will get the guide all to yourselves, as we did!
In Antigua, we were soon approached by Sean John - a local minister & family man with his own taxi! He was a lovely friendly man & kept us well informed throughout our trip. He knew the island inside out & took us on a whistle-stop tour cramming in as much of the island in 1 day as is possible! He knew we wanted to spend some time on a nice beach & left us at his recommended choice of beach relaxing while he went off to collect his daughter from school!
Based on trust, he returned to us in good time to ensure we were back to the ship for the specified departure time. We paid him accordingly at the end of the great journey! Thank you Sean John for a lovely day!Related to:
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Danger of Driving Motorcycles on Antigua
I would avoid renting a scooter or motor bike. The roads on Antigua are very poor, to say they are littered with potholes is an understatement they are more like craters.
If you hit one of these on a scooter of motor bike you are going to have an accident, in a car it will probably only result in a puncture.
Also be very wary about visiting remote beaches, there has been a big increase in crime on Antigua and recently a girl from a cruise ship was murdered on a remote beach, so be warned.Related to:
A lot of tourists come to Antigua for the day by cruise ship
In 2010, our ship (Celebrity Mercury) backed in to the dock. Next to us - bow in- was Ocean Village, and on the next pier over was NCL Gem. The photos taken from the helicopter show all three of them. In 2007 when we came on the NCL Pearl, there were three other ships in port with us. One was the Astoria.
According to BBC News, "Antigua and Barbuda is one of the Caribbean's most prosperous nations, thanks to its tourism industry and offshore financial services." Local vendors complain that different cruise ships bring different passengers and different types of spenders. Some days the beach can be full and only a hand full of sales are made. Other days there can be just 50 persons and you make more on that day than the rest of the week.Related to:
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Taxis and Tours
We took a taxi from the cruise ship dock to the heliport, but it was part of the excursion. On our first visit in 2007, we saw a list of approved fares for taxi tours and there was also an hourly rate. There were folks hanging around the cruise ship dock waiting to take people on tours. Taxi license plates are yellow with black letters (photos 3, & 5)
A tour to Nelson's Dockyard was $72.00 (US) or $18/person.
Hourly rates for not less than 2 hours are $24.00 U.S./hour
Each additional person over 4 people is – 25% of full fare or U.S. $6.00
Waiting time $5.00 U.S. per ½ hour
N.B. Baggage 1 – 4 pieces free - $2.50 E.C. each additional piece
You can also book a tour like we did from the cruise ship (photo 4) with a tour operator such as:
Scenic Tours Antigua
Tours and Transportation
P.O.Box W1639, St. John's
Phone: 1 (268) 764 3060/720 4020
NOTE: I have not used this tour company and cannot vouch for them. They were listed on the Antigua & Barbuda websiteRelated to:
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Getting Around on the Ground
There is some local bus service; schedules and routes can be obtained through the hotels. You can rent a scooter at the cruise ship docks (photo 5).
You can also rent a car which will cost about US$40-50 per day. A permit to drive in Antigua is required. The rental agency can assist you in getting this temporary license, which costs approximately US$20 and is valid for three months. Don't forget that driving here is on the left side of the road! Rental car license plates are white with red letters.
Here is a listing of rental agencies:
Budget Rent A Car
Capital Car Rentals and Tours
Tel: 268- 462-0863/461-2165
Carters Rent A Car
VC. Bird Int Airport
Dions Rent A Car & Taxi Service
VC Bird Int Airport Coolidge
Dollar Rent A Car
VC. Bird Int Airport
Tel: (268) 462-8802
Hertz Rent A Car
Airport Branch (268)481-4455
Royal Antiguan Branch 268-481-4457
Jolly Harbour (268)2481-4456
Huntley Car Rental
English Harbour Branch (268)460-6551
Lunar Park Branch (268)463-2012
Ivor's Car Rental & Taxi Service
Jacob's Rent -A-Car
VC.Bird Int'l Airport
Jeeps R US Rentals
VC.Bird Int'l Airport Branch (268)462-9296
Lion's Car Rental
English Harbour Branch (268)460-1400
Airport Road Branch (268)562-2708
National Car Rental
VC.Bird Int'l Airport Coolidge
Paradise Car Rental
Rawlins Supreme Car Rental
Airport Road (268)462-9970
Slane's Supreme Car Rental
Thrifty Car Rental
Airport Road St. John's
VC.Bird Int'l Airport Branch (268)462-8803
Village Car Rental
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By plane to Antigua
If you are not doing a cruise trip or are on your own boat, the obvious choice to get to Antigua is the aircraft. VC Bird International Airport, named after the country's first president, is one of the larger airports in the east Caribbean. Unfortunately, it is only large in terms of traffic - the buildings are rather small and not fitted out for the number of passengers it handles. So, the airport building is often overcrowded and especially in the departure lounge it is quite difficult to find seats at certain times. With this comes a long queue for security area - please plan some extra time as you might still stand in this queue while your flight is departing...
Antigua has flights to many airports in the USA. Air Canada connects Antigua with Toronto while British Airways, bmi and Virgin Atlantic have the only scheduled services to Europe (London and Manchester). Beside that , regional services are flown by LIAT, Caribbean Airlines and some smaller carriers. Some seasonal charter flights from other european and US airlines are also available.
Taxis are available until the last flight arrives. A trip from the airport to st. John's may cost you around If you have some time to kill at the airport, check out my tip (Off the beaten path) about the Stanford park.Related to:
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Taxis are associated with day-tours around the island in Antigua. But of course, there are also taxis driving you from one point of the island to another. These are the same vehicles, so it may be harder for you to find a taxi when one of the cruise ships is arriving and all taxis are tyring to get some of the lucrative day-tourists. But it is not impossible, as on other islands like Guadeloupe, for example. A taxi drive from St. John’s to the airport takes you around 9 US$ or 30 EC$. Higher fares are expected for longer routes or at night.Related to:
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