VISITING ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA
V.C Bird International Airport (VCBIA) is the international gateway to the Eastern Caribbean and beyond in particular Antigua, Barbuda and Montserrat. VCBIA is the largest Leeward Islands airport handling over 850,000 passengers per year and accommodates over 10 airlines with direct flights to and from Antigua and the rest of the world, including British Airways, Air Canada, Caribbean Airlines, American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways.
HEALTH, SAFETY AND SECURITY
Prior to visiting Antigua and Barbuda it is wise to get vaccinations and medications for vaccine-preventable diseases. It is best to visit your health care provider at least 4-6 weeks before you leave for your trip, in order for your vaccines to take effect.
Visitors sometimes have problems insects in the area. It is not a malaria area, however, there have been instances of Dengue Fever.
Travelers visiting Antigua often spend a lot of time outdoors. The sun can be harsh and it is important to take precautions to protect oneself from problems related to heat exhaustion, dehydration and over-exposure to the sun.
The security risk in Antigua and Barbuda is low. Risks include petty street crime, however, care should be taken when walking alone at night in urban areas. St Johns has a higher crime rate than the rest of Antigua and Barbuda. Keep valuables and documents safe - ideally locked in a room safe, never carry large amounts of cash and avoid wearing conspicuous jewelry. Keep a copy of document numbers and bank contact numbers for credit or debit cards in a separate place.
Antigua has a wide range of restaurants and eateries on offer from Cordon Bleu dining to take-aways.
Dining rules in Antigua & Barbuda are very relaxed, however, it is still nice to understand how the local people dine and how to behave in a restaurant or the home of a local. The first rule is that dining with friends or family is meant as a social occasion so take your time and get to know your fellow diners; meals can take hours and you should not make plans that force you to leave early.
Try to dress in a relaxed, but slightly more formal manner than you otherwise would in Antigua & Barbuda, although a tie or a formal dress is a bit overboard on almost all occasions.
If eating in a local's home you will most likely be shown a seat, but don't sit until invited to do so. Meals may begin with drinks or just the food and as the guest you may be invited to take your food first. Try to eat in the continental style (knife in the right hand, fork in the left) and keep your hands within sight by resting your wrists on the edge of the table.
As you finish eating, place your fork and knife together on your plate to indicate you have finished. If eating in a restaurant, call the server over by making eye contact; don't wave or call his/her name.
Plantains: often a side dish or an ingredient in the main course
Rice: a common base to meals or simply a side dish
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Duccana (or Dukuna): sweet potatoes, pumpkin, coconut, and cornmeal served with fish in a tomato stew
Fungie & Pepperpot: the national dish consists of cornmeal, saltfish or lobster, and rice in a vegetable stew
Goat Water: spicy goat stew with few consistencies and many varieties
When it comes to drinks in Antigua & Barbuda it begins with the local fruit juices, which are ever present. Raspberry, mango, passion fruit, guava, tamarind, and lemonade are all popular and readily available. Soft drinks are also common with both international and local varieties on the islands. Other non-alcoholic drinks like coffee and tea are available, but not really popular.
On the alcoholic side, rum rules as it does for much of the Caribbean. The best option is the local rums made by Cavalier which also form the base for numerous mixed drinks. Beer is also popular and the local favorite is Wadadli, although international beers are offered as well. Wine and other alcoholic beverages are available in the country, but not as commonly consumed by the people.
The tap water is generally safe to drink, but may taste heavily chlorinated. Confirm the safety of the water with your hotel or guesthouse, particularly during hurricane season as the water can be contaminated. Most visitors prefer to drink bottled water.
Renting a car is an ideal way to discover more of Antigua while on your vacation. In addition to a valid driver's license from your country of residence, or an international driver's license, a permit to drive in Antigua is required. The rental agency can assist you in getting this temporary license, which costs approximately US$20 and is valid for three months. Don't forget that driving is on the left side of the road!
Many roads are unpaved, and others have deep potholes and speed bumps. All of these can be particularly hazardous after rain. Drivers are reminded to always wear seatbelts (required by law) and to drive with caution.
Taxis are available throughout Antigua. Taxi drivers are also qualified as tour guides for sightseeing trips. Tour rates can be obtained beforehand through hotels.
There is a local bus service; schedules and routes can be obtained through the hotels.
Antigua and Barbuda’s banking sector is the second largest in the Eastern Caribbean region, accounting for one fifth of the region’s deposits, assets, and loans.
The currency used in Antigua and Barbuda is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$) but most shops will accept the US dollar, and other currencies can be easily changed at banks and Bureaux de Change. The EC dollar is tied to the US dollar, but you will find that exchange rates will vary depending on where you wish to change your money.
Automated Teller Machines (ATM's) are available throughout the islands, also in major resorts. Some machines dispense cash in both EC$ and US$.
Major credit cards (Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club) are widely accepted. Some merchants may charge additional fee when paying by credit card.
Traveler's checks can be cashed at banks and major hotels, some restaurants, larger stores and in casinos. Casinos will cash traveler's checks without a fee.
Banking hours are generally 8:00am - 3:00pm (Monday to Thursday) and 8:00am - 1:00pm (Friday). Some banks are also open until noon on Saturdays.
In Antigua and Barbuda the standard voltage is 230 V. The standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power sockets that are used are type A / B.
Most restaurants will include a service charge in the bill, but if not, add up to 10 - 15% for good service.
Hotels charge 8.5% room charge. Give porters and bellhops 50 cents per bag, and taxi drivers 10-15% of the fare.
Antigua and Barbuda have a pleasant climate all year round, with average minimum temperatures of 26° C and average maximum temperatures of 31° C in August, while in January the average minimum temperature is 23° C and maximum temperature is 28° C. The average annual temperature is around 27° C.
The average rainfall is 1,150mm, with rains falling during the months of August to November. Hurricanes or tropical cyclones can reach the islands during the months of June and November. The islands have a low humidity, which makes a particularly pleasant climate. The best time to visit the islands is during the dry season between December and April.
Antigua is said to have 365 beaches, one for every day of the year. All are open to the public. The islands also have hundreds of wrecks to explore and good shelf diving.
One of Antigua's most exciting and thrilling activities is Dolphin Fantaseas, swim with the dolphins program. This once in a lifetime adventure gives participants the opportunity to experience up close and personal playtime with dolphins, while gaining an understanding of these fascinating mammals and inspiring individuals to obtain an appreciation for marine life and the environment in which they live.
Antigua’s highest point, Mount Obama, begs to be climbed. It’s also worth checking out the island’s national parks and billowing blowholes, such as Devil's Bridge, which are caused by the colliding surf of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
The unspoilt, largely untouched, pink sandy beaches of Barbuda make this one of the best beach destinations in the Caribbean. Off-shore there is an abundance of charted shipwrecks (as many as 73) and coral reefs which makes Barbuda a haven for scuba diving, deep-sea divers and snorkelling in water as clear as glass. Deep-sea fishing or fly-fishing excursions for bonefish can be arranged.
Barbuda’s indigenous animals include wild boar, red-footed tortoises and a variety of sea turtles, plus the elusive fallow deer which is emblematic on the nation’s coat-of-arms. Natural sites include Spanish Point, Indian Cave and Darby’s Cave. Foot trails, treks and camping trips are available for the adventurous.