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Sun beating down, reggae beats on the radio and glimpses of white sand beaches around every corner. Nothing compares to the freedom you feel driving around the Caribbean island of Antigua.
If you want to venture beyond your resort and get to know the island more intimately, there’s not better way to do so. You’re going to need a car. Although Antigua is a small island with regular (and very affordable) public buses, nothing will give you the same freedom as having your own wheels.
Luckily, car rental in Antigua is as straightforward as you want it to be. There are just a few things you’ll need to know before you go ahead and book your rental car.
Renting a car is the best way to see Antigua
Hands down, nothing beats driving around the island with the wind in your face and sun on your skin. Nearly all of my favourite moments from Antigua wouldn’t have been possible without a set of wheels.
Although there are plenty of tours you could sign up to, nothing will give you the same experience as renting a car. You’ll be completely free to soak up the local culture, stop by as many of the island’s 365 beaches as you can and stay for a chat with the friendly locals when they inevitably strike up conversation.
You’ll need a local driving license
Anybody who wishes to drive in Antigua needs an Antiguan driving license.
Before you start thinking a rental car is off the table, worry not. As long as you own a driving license from somewhere, you can get an Antiguan driving license. It will cost you $20 and will be valid for 3 months – which should be more than enough for your trip.
Your rental car company can take of this for you when you collect the car. There’s no need to organise in advance – just turn up with your regular license (no need for an IDP) and drive away with your new Antiguan license and a car to call your own for a few days.
Find a rental car in Antigua:
Know the national speed limit
Antigua and Barbuda may just have one of the slowest national speed limits in the world. At just 40mph, it can catch tourists off guard.
In towns and residential areas, the speed limit drops to a measly 20mph. Although it can seem incredibly slow – especially when you’re excited to see everything Antigua has to offer – it’s not worth breaking the law. The locals can be seen driving at all kinds of speeds, but this is one time you don’t want to try and blend in.
The traffic comes in clusters
One of the best things about driving around Antigua is that you can go miles without seeing another vehicle. The island has a modest population of just over 80,000, and only half the number of cars.
That may still sound like a lot, but a large part of the island is rural and untouched. That means that you’ll only really come across vehicles near the towns and, when you do, they’ll comes in clusters.
Be prepared for small patches of congestion before you find yourself alone on the open road again. And no matter what happens, remember to be patient – you’re on a beautiful Caribbean island, after all!
The roads are busier at night
Just as certain patches of road are busier, so are certain times of day. We had our rental car in Antigua for an entire week, and drove around at all times of day. Nights were by far the busiest times for driving.
That said, the roads still wouldn’t be considered busy by most country’s standards. In a 20-minute drive, you’re likely to encounter 20-30 other vehicles at most.
The roads can be unpredictable
Generally speaking, the roads in Antigua are pretty good. However, since many of Antigua’s roads see little use, it’s no surprise that some aren’t as well-kept as you might hope.
We hired a 2-wheel-drive and took it down some pretty bumpy roads – including some I didn’t think we’d make it out of. With a little caution, it was completely fine, but you might want to hire a 4×4 if you’re worried about access.
Stay connected wherever you go with SkyRoam pocket WiFi. This handy little device will give you unlimited data for your trip to Antigua and Barbuda, so you’ll never be without maps, emails and a way to contact home.
Watch out for donkeys!
The donkey sanctuary was one of my favourite places in Antigua, but it doesn’t have a happy story. Many of the donkeys who now call the sanctuary home were hit by cars or other vehicles while roaming the island.
The island of Antigua has a significant population of feral donkeys, many of whom can be found grazing near the roadside. If you see one, always slow down. We found most drivers were good at warning others when there were donkeys around.
Don’t be afraid to explore
Antigua doesn’t have loads of roads, so it’s pretty hard to get lost. Still, it’s certainly fun to try!
Many of the island’s 365 beaches can be found in secluded spots and at the ends of small roads. You’re not going to get lost – it’s an island, after all! – so don’t be afraid to see where your wheels take you. You never know what you might find.
Know the law
Before renting a car in Antigua, it’s good idea to get clued up on basic driving laws:
- Like in the UK and South Africa, you should drive on the left in Antigua and Barbuda.
- While you can have up to 80mg of blood alcohol content, it’s best to not drink and drive.
- Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers.
- The legal driving age is 18, but you’ll need to be 25 to rent a car.
- It is illegal to use a phone while driving in Antigua.
Antigua car rentals are easy…
Antigua is one of the easiest countries in the world when it comes to car rental. You can pick up a car at the airport, rent directly from your resort or arrange for a resort drop-off once you arrive.
We opted for the latter, and had our rental car delivered on our second day in Antigua. It gave us enough time to get our bearings, adjust to the heat and plan our excursions.
We actually decided we’d like to take one full day in the resort before heading out. On our first day in Antigua, we called the rental car company to ask if we could delay our booking for a day. Instead, they said they would still drop off the car on the second day but not charge us until the third. It’s a great example of Antiguan hospitality and the great experience we had throughout the week!
…But they’re not particularly cheap
Car rental in Antigua isn’t as cheap as you might expect. At around $55 per day, we hired a smaller vehicle than we usually would and still paid more than our average rental car prices.
Even though Antigua car rental is on the pricey side, it’s still well worth splurging for. You won’t get a luxurious vehicle, but you’ll get to see as much of the island as you like – including many spots you wouldn’t be able to reach without a car. And that easily justifies the cost.
Before you go…Have you got insurance?
Even though you hope you’ll never need to use it, travelling with insurance will make sure you’re covered if anything goes wrong. I use World Nomads because it’s the most comprehensive cover I’ve found – they even cover the more adventurous activities that other insurers won’t. Find out more about them in this post or get a quote right here:
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