Antigua and Barbuda: the little-known Caribbean islands off the beaten path.
From sun kissed beaches, turquoise waters to colonial history and outdoorsy activities, these two small islands provide an epic getaway.
Antigua and Barbuda, also known as the Twin Islands, is a Carribean showstopper. If you’re planning a trip, we got you covered!
In this ultimate Antigua and Barbuda travel guide, you’ll find all the helpful tips to plan your tropical vacation.
- Where is Antigua and Barbuda
- When to Travel to Antigua and Barbuda
- Things to Know Before You Visit Antigua and Barbuda
- Things to Do in Antigua and Barbuda
- Places to Visit in Antigua and Barbuda
- Getting Around Antigua and Barbuda
- Highlights of Traveling to Antigua and Barbuda
Where is Antigua and Barbuda?
Antigua and Barbuda are located in eastern Carribean at the southern end of the Leeward Islands. They lie between the Carribean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
It consists of two major islands Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua has an area of 108 square miles (280 square km), and Barbuda spans 62 square miles (161 square km) in area.
Barbuda lies 25 miles (40 km) north of Antigua.
When to Travel to Antigua and Barbuda
The best time to visit Antigua and Barbuda is from mid-December to mid-April, when the weather is perfect to escape the chilly winters in North America.
This is a peak season, so expect hotels, flights and restaurants to be bustling with tourist activities. If you are planning to visit during this time, book accommodation, flights and eco tours ahead of time.
The official hurricane season is from July to November. You may encounter some tropical storms, but it is very rare. Traveling during this time is perfect for budget conscious visitors.
To save money and beat the crowds, consider visiting Antigua and Barbuda in May or June. The wet season starts from mid June onwards, so plan your trip prior to that.
Weather in Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda’s coastline is surrounded by crystalline waters, and sandy beaches. It enjoys a tropical climate with warm temperatures.
Summer temperatures in Antigua and Barbuda range from 24°C to 30°C (75°F to 86°F), and is also a wet season.
Summer and autumn fall within hurricane season, so expect heavy rains during this time. Antigua gets around 1,140mm of yearly rainfall, with October being the most rainy month.
Winter temperatures range from 23°C to 29°C (74°F to 84°F), and it is a dry season, making it perfect for outdoor activities with clear sunny skies.
Things to Know Before You Visit Antigua and Barbuda
Before you pack your bags and hop on a plane, here are the current travel requirements for Antigua and Barbuda.
Traveling to Antigua and Barbuda
To get to Antigua and Barbuda by air, you can fly to V. C. Bird International Airport. It is located on the island of Antigua, about 8km (5.0 miles) northeast of the capital city of St.John’s.
There are nonstop flights available from the United States and Canada to Antigua.
Visa & Passport Requirements
Citizens of the United States, United Kingdom and Canada do not require a visa to enter Antigua and Barbuda, and can stay for up to six months.
The same goes for Commonwealth and European nationals.
For others, you will need a travel visa. Visa fees are $50 for a single visit (valid for three months from the date of issue), and $75 for multiple entry (valid for two visits within six months of issue).
You can apply for a visa by visiting the e-visa website, and it takes about 10 days to process.
All visitors to Antigua and Barbuda must have a return ticket, confirmation of accommodation and travel on a valid passport.
COVID update: According to the latest Antigua and Barbuda Travel Advisory 2021, all passengers arriving by air must present a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR test on arrival. This test must be taken within seven days of the flight’s departure.
It includes transiting passengers. They are required to stay overnight at a hotel or government designated facility to await departure.
Children 12 and below do not require a COVID -19 RT-PCR test. Passengers arriving by sea are subject to quarantine regulations as issued by Port Health.
Flights to Antigua and Barbuda
You can book a nonstop flight to Antigua from the United States and Canada. Flying from New York City to Antigua takes about 4 hours. Popular airlines offering nonstop flights from NYC include American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines with about 30- 60 direct flights between JFK and ANU monthly.
San Francisco to Antigua takes 10+ hours with a layover. If you’re connecting to Antigua with a layover, you can opt to drive or fly to New York instead, and then continue to St. John’s Airport.
Nonstop flights are available from London to Antigua. It takes about 9+ hours.
Flights from other cities in Europe like Paris and Manchester take anywhere from 11 to 24 hours, with one or two stops. These flights connect via New York’s JFK International Airport.
Is Antigua and Barbuda Safe to Travel To?
Antigua and Barbuda are one of the safest islands in the Caribbean.
In 2018, Antigua recorded lower crime rates as compared to other Caribbean destinations. But petty crimes can still happen, especially in the capital city of St.John's.
Just like any tourist destination, exercise precaution. Try to travel in groups, and avoid venturing out late at night after drinking.
Avoid carrying valuables with you, and remain vigilant.
If visiting during the hurricane season keep yourself updated on weather warnings, and seek shelter when necessary.
What Language is Spoken in Antigua and Barbuda?
The official language in Antigua and Barbuda is English. Antiguan Creole is the local dialect, but it is not encouraged in schools or in day to day communication.
Spanish is spoken by 10,000 inhabitants.
Money in Antigua and Barbuda
The official currency in Antigua and Barbuda is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC), but the US dollar is widely accepted.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Currency
East Caribbean Dollars (EC) is permanently set at 2.70 EC to one US dollar.
Is Antigua and Barbuda Expensive?
Antigua and Barbuda is one of the most expensive in the Eastern Caribbean islands. Flying to the country is not expensive, but accommodation rates are very high.
This is due to the size of the island, and the very fact that it is frequented by wealthy travelers from the US, Canada and Europe to escape the winter blues.
Here are some prices to expect:
- 3 Star hotel room: $180- $220 USD per night
- 4 Star hotel room: Averages $360 USD per night
- Lunch/dinner: $22 USD per person
- Budget meal options: $8- $12 USD per person
- Transportation: $20 USD per day
- Watersports and Cruises: $50 - $150 USD per person
Tipping Etiquette in Antigua and Barbuda
Tipping is discretionary in Antigua and Barbuda, but like many nearby islands, it’s a nice reward if you’re satisfied with the service.
Tipping is generally accepted at 10-15% for restaurants. Some restaurants and hotels will automatically add a 10% gratuity, so do check the bill before paying.
You can tip 50 cents per bag for porters, and about 10-15% of the fare for the cab drivers.
How to Pay for Things in Antigua and Barbuda
It is best to pay for hotels, restaurants, and tours with a credit card.
For some small shops, and cafes you will require cash. Many of these places will take USD, but you will be given change back in East Caribbean Dollar (EC).
If you need cash, you can always visit an ATM in Antigua and Barbuda.
Dress & What to Pack for Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda are warm all year round, so pack breathable tops, shirts, flowy dresses, and shorts for day time wear.
When visiting in the summer months, expect rain. Do carry a lightweight waterproof jacket, and a shawl to cover up.
Being a tropical destination, you will be at the beach soaking the sun, so be sure to bring swimwear, sunglasses, sandals, and water shoes for activities.
Carry a hat and apply sunscreen for sun protection.
Hot tip: Carry sand free (quick drying) towel to the beach. Bring your Kindle or a book to enjoy!
Antigua and Barbuda Laws to Know
Know these laws and regulations before you take off on your trip.
- At the time of writing, travelers are required to wear face masks in public spaces throughout Antigua and Barbuda
- Tourists are also required to have medical or travel insurance, in the event they become infected by COVID-19 while in Antigua and Barbuda
- The legal drinking age is 16
- Antigua and Barbuda has a US$28.00 (EC$70.00) airport departure tax. It has to be paid in cash
- It also adds a room tax of 8.5% and service charge of 10% in lieu of tipping
- Antigua and Barbuda enforces severe drug laws. If caught using, or in possession of drugs lengthy jail sentences, and heavy fines are imposed
- Shockingly, homosexuality is illegal in Antigua and Barbuda, and same-sex marriage is prohibited
- Wearing camouflage printed clothing is illegal
- Use of offensive language and resisting arrest are offences in Antigua, and can lead to heavy fines.
As you can see, the policies in these islands are much more conservative and strict than those of neighboring destinations in the Caribbean.
Things to Do in Antigua and Barbuda
While neither island has the bustling, lively city life that the more popular tourist destinations in the Leeward islands do, there’s still a decent amount to do.
- Visit a beach everyday: Antigua and Barbuda is home to 365 beaches (including one nude beach), so you can enjoy a new beach everyday.
- Watersports. Enjoy jet skiing, snorkeling, and kayaking or windsurfing in Dickenson Bay, Antigua.
- Snorkeling. Go snorkeling in Antigua’s southern tip of Half Moon Bay.
- Up close and personal with stingrays. Visitors can take a tour in Stingray City and check out stingrays gliding through the crystal-clear waters and even feed them.
- Haven for bird lovers. Barbuda is home to the world's largest Frigate Bird Sanctuary. The reserve is also one of the largest nesting colonies of frigate birds in the Caribbean, and it attracts 150 other species of birds.
- Limestone sinkhole: Darby Cave in Barbuda welcomes visitors to its unique natural landscape. Often described as a cave, this site is actually a sinkhole with lush greenery surrounding it.
- Hiking. Lace up and hit various hiking trails in Antigua’s National Parks.
- Visit a UNESCO Heritage Site. Visitors can explore Antigua's 18th-century British Naval Dockyard located in Nelson. Plus there are other colonial remnants in the capital city of St John’s.
Places to Visit in Antigua and Barbuda
Travelers visiting Antigua and Barbuda come to soak in the sandy beaches which are considered to be one of the best in the Caribbean. There are 365 beaches in the country. Most popular among them are Dickenson Bay, Fort James Beach, Fryes Beach and Pigeon Point Beach.
The capital city of St John’s is home to colonial structures like Fort Barrington, Fort James, Saint John's Cathedral and the Dockyard Museum.
Barbuda is a delight for eco tourism lovers. It’s home to hidden natural treasures such as the unspoiled 17 Mile Beach, and frigate birds colonies.
Along the rugged northeast coast of Antigua and Barbuda is the Indian Town National Park. This park’s highlight is the natural limestone Devil's Bridge which was created by pounding surf over the centuries.
At the park, you can also enjoy hikes and go bird watching.
Getting Around Antigua and Barbuda
Most tourists get around via rental car. You’ll need to get a local driver’s permit, which costs about $20, and is valid for three months.
You can pick up car rental at the V.C Bird International Airport when you land. Compact vehicles cost about $50 USD per day, and luxury sedans or SUVs cost double.
If you are not comfortable driving in Antigua and Barbuda, then taxis are an option. Taxi rates are fixed, and they are meterless.
Small group tours are always an option to explore more of the islands with a local expert.
Local buses are also available. They operate from 5:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily in Antigua, running between major tourist spots including the capital city.
Highlights of Traveling to Antigua and Barbuda
Some of the highlights of visiting include:
Going sailing: With 365 beaches, you can always do something unique in Antigua, like booking a sailing boat for the day and enjoying it with your loved ones.
Visiting the clothing optional beach: Hit the only clothing optional (nudist) beach in Antigua - Eden Beach.
Checking out this hidden gem: Locals will ask you to visit Shirley Heights for sea views. Try visiting in the evening to soak in sunset hues!
Joining an Antiguan cooking class: Learn to cook Antiguan delicacies like jerk chicken, fungie, seasoned rice, saltfish and lobster curry class, or a cocktail. You can enjoy freshly cooked local dishes with an expert.
With so many water activities and sun kissed days in Antigua and Barbuda, you must be eager to hop on the next flight and kickstart your tropical getaway.
In this travel guide, you have learned all about its unique spots, beaches and received practical information. So now it's time to start planning your incredible trip to the Twin Islands!