A Guide To Renting A Car In Antigua

Renting a car in Antigua is definitely a fun, easy way of exploring the island. Albeit small, this is really a place that deserves a road trip! At 173 square kilometer and 20 kilometers across, the island is very easy to explore on your own.

In fact, you can drive around it several times in the same day and still have time left over to hit the beach – though mind you, I don’t recommend it!

Antigua, which is the main island that makes up the country of Antigua and Barbuda, is a tropical paradise in the Lesser Antilles region of the Caribbean. The island is famously known for being home to a plethora of sandy beaches but it’s also known for its many historical and cultural attractions.

Nelson’s Dockyard and Museum, Devil’s Bridge National Park, Stingray City and Half Moon Bay are just some of the things you’ll see as you tour the island – best when driving yourself!

While snorkeling in the waters around the island, you’ll see coral reefs and many marine species. You can even hike to the top of Shirley Heights for some of the best views around (especially at sunset).

The island is also home to the biggest colony of frigate birds in the region and the capital city of Saint John’s is where you’ll find many restaurants serving local delicacies and charming neighborhoods with colorful buildings.

Although public transportation in Antigua is available, relying on buses to get around is not ideal especially if you’re trying to save time and see as much as possible. It is for this reason that I recommend renting a car in Antigua as the best way to explore this beautiful island.

It’s what I did when I visited, and while driving on the left-hand side of the road was a bit challenging for me, I certainly had a great time.

In this post, I will share everything you need to know about renting a car in Antigua, and some useful tips for making the most of your time while driving around the island.

No time to read the entire post, but want to have an idea of the prices of car rental in Antigua? Then, head over to Discover Cars. It’s my favorite site for car rental anywhere in the world. You can check them out here.

Traveling to Antigua soon? Make sure to read my posts The Best Things To Do In Antigua and The Best All Inclusive Resorts In Antigua.

Antigua all inclusive resorts

Should You Be Renting A Car In Antigua?

Renting a car in Antigua will provide you with the ultimate freedom to go wherever you want on your schedule. You don’t have to wait for buses, you don’t have to return on the schedule set by public transit, you can stop anywhere you like along the way and you can take any route you want.

You can explore the island in a few hours or you can take two or more days. Actually, if you really want to get the most out of Antigua, it’s recommended you take at least two days to explore it.

Having a rental car at your disposal gives you all this freedom. The only time a rental car is not recommended is in the city, where parking can be a pain and it’s more fun to explore the city on foot.

However, if you are staying in a resort (which is what most people who visit Antigua, including myself, do), you will want to use your car to drive to the capital. There is a large parking lot closer to the harbor from where you can easily get to the main attractions in town.

While guided tours are available around the island, it’s easy to get around on your own and see all the same things you would on a tour – but on your schedule. Being part of a guided tour takes away the freedom you get from a private road tripping experience.

When you have your own car, you can stay in the places you really like for as long as you want instead of having to leave when the tour leaves. You’ll also get to see many things, like off-the-beaten-path views, remote beaches and backroads, that you otherwise wouldn’t see on a guided tour.

Since the island isn’t very big, your choice of road-tripping routes are limited. However, there are some side roads that you can take to some off-the-beaten-path locations.

There’s one popular route that can’t be missed: Fig Tree Drive takes Antigua road trippers through beautiful rainforest with banana and mango trees and pineapple plants and across a hilly area to the highest point of the island at Boggy Peak.

Along the way, you’ll pass through several scenic villages and, if time allows, you can take a guided rainforest canopy tour. The road is steep and sometimes muddy and rough but it’s doable with care – if I was able to do it, anyone really can!

Now that you know why you should be renting a car in Antigua, let’s figure out what you need to know!

Want to have an idea of prices? Check out the prices of car rental in Antigua on Discover Cars here.

renting a car in Antigua

Everything You Must Know When Renting A Car In Antigua

How much does renting a car in Antigua cost?

It typically costs around US$50 a day to rent a car in Antigua but the price can be as low as US$12 a day depending on when you book, the type of car you book and how much effort you put into searching for a deal. It’s important to shop around because the prices won’t be the same across every company.

Prices usually include driving kits and gas mileage allowance. Some companies also include roadside assistance.

My tip is to use sites that allow you to compare the prices of car rental and the conditions across various companies. I recommend Discover Cars for that. They also have excellent customer service.

Want to have an idea of prices? Check out the prices of car rental in Antigua here.

Antigua holidays

What documents are needed for renting a car in Antigua?

Driving in Antigua requires a little more documentation than most places. Not only do you need to have a valid license from your home country, but you’ll also need to have an international driver’s license and a local license.

This local license can be literally purchased for $20 USD and you need to have your country’s license on hand to obtain it. This local license is valid for three months and can be purchased at the rental car agency right when you pick up the car – it’s what I did and completely normal.

Because the international license is only a supporting document, you won’t be able to obtain the local license with this alone.

What age do I need to be to rent a car in Antigua?

This is pretty important! You have to be at least 21 years old to be able to rent a car in Antigua. Some companies also have a maximum age policy too.

renting a car in Antigua all inclusive resorts

Rental car companies in Antigua

In Antigua, there are many rental car companies including Ace, Thrifty, Hertz, Budget Car and Avis. A compact car is your best choice if you’re looking to save money because they are usually cheaper to rent and use less gas.

Book in advance

To ensure a car is available when you need it, it’s best to book it in advance, especially if you’re traveling at peak times. Some rental car companies will even deliver your car to the airport so it’s there when you land.

If you decide to book after you arrive, you can do so at the airport, through your hotel, or at one of the agencies located in Saint John’s.

Before you leave with your car, make sure you’ve read the fine print and know what’s included and get the agency’s contact information in case of emergencies.

Make sure to do a walk around the vehicle to take photos of any scratches or dents that are already on it so you won’t be billed for damage you didn’t do.

Rent a car at the airport

The easiest way to rent a car anywhere in the world, including in Antigua – not to mention, cheaper – is to pick up your car from the airport (there is only one on the island anyways). Rental cars at hotels can be a bit more expensive, if anything because there will only be one company to pick from.

I recommend using a comparison site to check the prices of car rental and the conditions across various companies. I recommend Discover Cars for that – they have all the best deals and an excellent customer service.

Want to have an idea of prices? Check out the prices of car rental in Antigua here.

Pick up a car from a rental car agency at your hotel

If you didn’t think of renting a car directly at the airport, you can do that at your resort in Antigua.

The only downside is that resorts will only have one agency they work with, so prices can be more expensive than you’d hope. And if you decide to go back to the airport to pick up your car, you will have to pay for the transport there.

Check out the prices of renting a car in Antigua here.

Antigua beaches

Insurance requirements

Just as it’s necessary in most places around the world, insurance is needed to drive a rental car in Antigua. Although the most common type of insurance is Third Liability Insurance, which covers medical expenses and minor repairs should you get in an accident, it’s recommended that you go with something more comprehensive to ensure even more coverage.

An accident abroad can be costly and not being covered properly can easily derail your trip and your finances. While the Collision Damage Waiver and Personal Accident Insurance are better for covering more extensive vehicle damage and personal injuries, they still might not be enough to adequately cover you.

The best way to get the best coverage is to first look into the car rental insurance that might be available through your credit card company. You might already have full coverage available. If not, they may allow you to purchase more coverage.

The alternative is to check with your own vehicle insurance to see if it covers you for a rental car in another country. Again, you might be able to add additional insurance if you don’t already have it.

Acquiring insurance through means that are already available to you is the cheapest way. You’ll likely pay more if you buy insurance through the rental car company. Whatever way you choose to get insurance, make sure to read all the fine print to ensure you are covered for the things you expect to be.

Antigua holidays

Driving And Road Conditions in Antigua

The road conditions around the Saint John’s area are quite good. Once you leave the city and travel into more rural areas, you’ll be met with deteriorating conditions.

The main highways can be bad but the side roads are much worse as many of these roads are gravel. Potholes and rough patches are common but if you drive with care, it shouldn’t be a problem.

Other hazards include narrow highways, secondary roads with poor visibility, a lack of street signs and animal crossings. It’s common to see goats and donkeys on the road.

Driving at night is not recommended because the roads are not adequately lit and there’s actually more traffic. If you must drive after dark, watch out for pedestrians who often have to walk on the road in places where there are no sidewalks.

So what about the drivers in Antigua? Well, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn that the driving here is likely more relaxing than what you’re used to! The speed limits are quite low, even on the highways.

Most people drive the posted limit and many drive under the limit. Local drivers are very courteous. The courteous nature of the locals also comes in handy when you find yourself lost as they are quick to help out and guide you in the right direction. Besides, English is the official language so it’s easy to communicate with the locals!

Antigua holidays

The rules of the road

Although driving in Antigua is quite easy and laid back, there are some things to take into consideration to ensure you have a safe journey and that includes knowing the rules of the road.

The first thing you need to remember when driving in Antigua is that driving is on the left, like in the UK, South Africa and Australia. For those of you coming from the UK, driving in Antigua will be easy-peasy.

For the rest who – like me – are accustomed to driving on the right hand-side of the road, it takes some getting used to, but it is doable. And locals are very patient with tourists who appear to be obviously confused.

Many of the rules in Antigua are common in other places around the world. Don’t talk on your cell phone unless it’s with a hands-free device, don’t drink and drive, wear your seatbelt at all times and give pedestrians the right of way. Speed limits are strictly enforced and cars coming from the right have the right of way at roundabouts.

Some of the signs around the island might be unfamiliar to you so it’s a good idea to study the signs before you get behind the wheel. When you pick up your car rental in Antigua, make sure that it’s equipped with warning triangles and a reflective jacket as these items are mandatory to have in your vehicle at all times.

Antigua holidays

Parking concerns

Parking is fairly straightforward outside of the capital city but it’s in the city where you’ll run into some issues, particularly when trying to park during the day.

No matter where you park, make sure it’s a safe area, don’t leave any valuables in your car and lock the doors. After 5:00 pm, you can park anywhere along the street as long as there are no “no parking” signs.

During the day, it’s much harder to find a place to park because there are limited spaces and, despite not being properly marked, many are off-limits at that time.

Patrols are out in full force and give out many parking tickets! There’s plenty of parking available until 6:30 pm by the cruise ship terminal -that’s where I parked when I went to St. John’s – but you’ll have to pay a small fee to park there.

Useful Apps to help you along the way

Besides standard navigation apps, such as Google Maps, there’s a fairly new free app being promoted to tourists in Antigua and it focuses on self-guided tours. The app named “Explore Antigua” works in coordination with the Antigua and Barbuda tourism department and the mobile GPS travel technology Geotourist.

The main goal of this GPS-enabled app is to assist visitors who wish to explore the island independently and visit the various attractions, including museums and historic sites, that are scattered all over the island. It does this by allowing users to follow a map that is accompanied by an audio tour featuring a personal tour guide. Isn’t that neat?

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Find out what you must know before renting a car in Antigua - via @clautavani

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