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!
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 website
It is a good idea to hire a local cab driver. Negotiate your price up front, telling him where you wish to go, sights you want to see and how long you want to be gone. They are very knowledgable and friendly, will take you to off-touristy places and share many interesting facts, tips and customs about their home. Ask them anything and you will be pleased with the answer. It is a great way to see the island and learn to appreciate it and it's people all at teh same time.
If you wish to go to a beach, let them know. They will drop you off and pick you up again when you ask them to....honestly.
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
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.
There are plenty of tours and trips on offer through your travel companies, but we found one of the best ways of seeing the island (which is small, after all) was to join up with another couple and hire out a taxi for the day. We negotiated a private deal with the guy who had driven us to Shirley Heights and he was very happy with a hundred dollars for the day (split four ways made it cheaper than a tour!)
He picked us up early and drove us into St Johns and let us do an hour's shopping, then he took us to the English harbour and left us there for a couple of hours, we then had a tour of the middle of the island, looking at old windmills, before heading over to Devil's Bridge. He would answer all our questions, point out interesting things, stop to let us take photos whenever we said and was chuffed to be earning a lot more than he normally would in a day!
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.
The most remarkable fact about Antigua’s bus system is the lack of a system. Well, it’s not that bad, but surely not comparable with european/north american standards. If you have travelled on mini-buses in Africa or South America, you may surely find it easier to get used to the buses in Antigua. There are several bus-lines running across the island, although there is no place to find something like a line grid or a schedule. Watch out for the few signs on the two main stations in St. John’s or ask the drivers. Then hop onto the bus, take a seat and pay your fare (you may pay your fare also when leaving, but it is more usual to pay when you get in). As there’s no schedule, the bus usually leaves when it’s full. The line number of the bus can be found on the upper left corner (from the driver’s perspective) of the window. Believe me, it is not that easy to find at first. Prices start from 2.00 EC$, depending on route - US$ are not accepted. Before you get out, yell out the place where you want to be left (usually: “BUS STOP”). Please note that buses stop almost everywhere to drop out passengers, but you are only allowed to step in at the bus stops.
There are two bus stations in St. John’s, East and West. For tourists, the most important rroutes are 17 (St. John’s West station to English Harbour) and 33 (St. John’s East station to Willikies/Devil’s Bridge). Of course, depending on where you stay, other routes might be important too…
In Antigua, tourists are rarely seen on public buses, so it is a way to get in touch with locals. Especially when you are sitting in the rear and have to ask the people sitting in the alley to stand up for you to get out of the bus.
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.
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.
Buses cost minimum 1 USD or 2.50 EC. They do run most everywhere on the Island, but not on any time schedules of course. The West Bus Station in St. Johns is the central location where buses arrive and depart throughout the island.
When I was in Antigua I was a passenger in a car driving around the island. The problem was in Antigua you drive on the right hand side of the road (same as in USA). But strangely, most of the cars in Antigua also have the steering wheel on the right hand side (same as in Australia). This meant that I, the passenger, faced the oncoming traffic with little regard from the driver (himself new in Antigua) as he veered over the road. A scary & hairy experience.
Being an ex-British colony, they drive on the left in Antigua. If that's not bad enough, the roads are very narrow. So when no traffic was coming the other way, the driver would use the center of the road. When an oncoming car approached, the driver would move to the left half of the road. Each time he did this, it threw me for a loop and I knew my reaction in the same situation would have been to move to the right. Watching him turn corners in traffic also was unsettling. I'd have had a dozen accidents before I got to the resort.
In addition to the narrow roads and driving on the left, road signs were practically non-existent. Then there are speed bumps everywhere, although I never did figure out why they were placed where they were. There were people walking in the street, goats everywhere (more on them later), and the occassional cattle grazing along the roadside. So much concentration would have been necessary to drive, that I wouldn't have been able to see any sights while doing so and am sure I'd spend half the time being lost.
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.
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.
We hav stopped at the Rex Halcyon Cove for the our last 2 trips to Antigua. On our first trip the...more
Five Islands P.O. Box. 305, Antigua Island, ag
Good for: Business
Indian Town Rd, Saint Philip, Caribbean
Good for: Couples