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Two little dots of paradise in the Caribbean, the charms of Antigua and Barbuda are immediately obvious. Antigua is a place where you go to enjoy the beach, the water and the reef. Simple but very sweet. This is every cliché associated with a tropical island, but clichéd or not, the recipe works.
On Barbuda, an island slighly smaller than Antigua and boasting a population of around 1100, the attractions are a little less clichéd: Barbuda is best known for its bird sanctuary, renowned among bird watchers everywhere. Others may simply be drawn to the opportunity to enjoy solitude amongst nature's beauty - Barbuda is not nearly as popular as Antigua.
Antigua was first settled by pre-agricultural Amerindians known as "Archaic People", commonly referred to as Ciboney, which means "stone people" in Arawakan. The earliest settlements on the island date to 2900 BC. The Arawaks were the first well-documented group of Antiguans. The bulk of the Arawaks left Antigua about 1100 A.D. Those who remained were subsequently raided by the Caribs. The indigenous West Indians made excellent sea vessels that they used to sail the Atlantic and Caribbean. As a result, Caribs and Arawaks populated much of South American and the Caribbean Islands. Relatives of the Antiguan Arawaks and Caribs still live in various countries in South America, notably Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia. The smaller remaining native populations in the West Indies maintain a pride in their heritage. According to A Brief History of the Caribbean (Jan Rogozinski, Penguin Putnam, Inc September 2000), European and African diseases, malnutrition and slavery eventually destroyed the vast majority of the Caribbean's native population. The island of Antigua was named Wadadli by these natives and is today called "Land of Wadadli" by locals. Christopher Columbus landed on his second trip in 1493 and named the island Santa Maria de la Antigua after a church in Seville, Spain. Early settlement by the Spanish was replaced by English rule from 1632 (British rule from 1707 Acts of Union), with a French interlude in 1666. Slavery, established to run the sugar plantations on Antigua, was abolished in 1834. The islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth of Nations on November 1, 1981, with Elizabeth II as the first Queen of Antigua and Barbuda and the Right Honourable Vere Cornwall Bird became the first prime minister.
Antigua and Barbuda lie in the eastern part of the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles, separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. Antigua is 650 kilometres southeast of Puerto Rico. Barbuda lies 48 kilometres north of Antigua, and the uninhabited island of Redonda is 56 kilometres southwest of Antigua. The largest island, Antigua, is 21 kilometres across and 281 km². Barbuda covers 161 km², while Redonda encompasses a mere 2.6 km². Antigua and Barbuda both are generally low-lying islands whose terrain has been influenced more by limestone formations than volcanic activity. The highest point on Antigua, however, is Mount Obama, the remnant of a volcanic crater rising 399 metres. This mountain is located amid a bulge of hills of volcanic origin in the southwestern part of the island. The limestone formations in the northeast are separated from the southwestern volcanic area by a central plain of clay formations. Barbuda's highest elevation is 44.5 metres, part of the highland plateau east of Codrington. The shorelines of both islands are greatly indented, with beaches, lagoons, and natural harbours. The islands are rimmed by reefs and shoals. There are few streams, as rainfall is slight. Both islands lack adequate amounts of fresh groundwater. Redonda has no significant elevation.
Although there are many places on earth where you can come up close with stingrays, there are options of very enjoyable trips from Antigua as well. You will feed them when possible and even go swimming with them. Although they can sting, usually they are not agressive at all if not threatened and should always be approached with respect and care. For more information try the Stingray City Antigua website.
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Betty's Hope was the first sugar plantation in Antigua. It was built by Christopher Codrington in 1674, and named in after his daughter Betty. Ruins of the two stone windmills and a distillery can still be seen on the site and there is a small visitors centre. One of the windmills has been restored. There are informative tours with historical insights about this the sugar plantations in Antigua and Barbuda.
Go and celebrate one of the best Carnivals in the Caribbean at the island of Antigua. It is probably the biggest event that takes place on both islands and although it is not as impressive as a Rio Carnival, the people here sure know how to get dressed up, party, drink and have fun. And all without the problems of Rio.
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Antigua and Barbuda have a pleasantly warm and tropical climate with generally hot and humid weather. From June to October is both the hot and wet season with temperatures around or above 30 °C during the day and still above 25 °C at night. The cooler but drier period of December to May averages around 27 °C during the day and just above 20 °C at night. Most rain falls from July onwards, but even in the dry season showers are possible. Hurricanes can strike from August onwards.
Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT) is the national airlines of Antigua and Barbuda based in Saint John's. It serves many islands in the Caribbean from the V.C. Bird International Airport (ANU). Destinations include Anguilla, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Other airlines are Carib Aviation to and from Barbuda, Montserrat and Dominica, and several airlines fly directly from Toronto, New York, London and Frankfurt.
The MV Fjortof is operated by Twin Islands Ferry Service Ltd (TIFS) and commenced regular ferry services to Montserrat from Antigua in December 2009, with a one-way trip time of approximately 90 minutes. The fares for the ferry service are EC$125.00 for a one-way-trip, EC$250.00 for an adult return trip and children under 12 pay EC$120 (US$1 = EC$2.65). Each passenger is allowed 2 pieces of baggage free of charge and any additional baggage is charged at EC $50.00 per piece.
No advance ticketing is required, as travelers can purchase their tickets upon check-in. To facilitate ticketing, check-in and other clearances at the point of sale at the ports, passengers are asked to check in 90 minutes in advance when travelling from Antigua and 60 minutes before the scheduled time for departure in Montserrat. In order to ensure continuity of service during the busy upcoming winter season, TIFS will have a backup ferry available to provide cover as may be required.
Travellers coming to Montserrat for the winter 2010-2011 period will benefit significantly from an expanded ferry service to the island from Antigua. From December 1st, 2010, the MV Fjortof ferry will operate the following schedule:
For further information on the service contact Twin Islands Ferry Service Ltd by phone at (268) 464 8474 or email email@example.com. Additional information on the ferry service, updates, as well as general tourism information can be found at Visit Montserrat.
There are numerous car rental agencies, both international and local, on the island of Antigua. Most of them can be found at the airport and some in smaller resort areas or in St. John's. Driving is on the left side of the road and you need to buy a temporary driving permit, valid for 90 days which you can buy for 20 USD at the rental agencies or nearest police station.
On Barbuda, there are no larger official rental agencies, most cars that can be rented are from individuals or resorts.
The bus system is not really extensive and most services are erratic. Still, buses from St John's to Falmouth and English Harbour are plentiful, cheap, and take about 30 minutes. There are no buses to and from Dickenson Bay and the northern coastline but taxis are plentiful, albeit much more expensive of course. Still, prices are fixed by law and tips are not expected.
On Barbuda, there are no public buses or taxis whatsoever, but you can do day trips to Barbuda from Antigua, including air tickets and transport as part of a day tour.
The Antigua to Barbuda Ferry takes 1hr 30mins and the ferry departs at 8:30am on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays from Saint John's, arriving at River Dock, Barbuda. The return service from Barbuda departs at 3:15pm on the same days. On Tuesdays and Fridays the service departs Antigua at 4:45pm and returns the following day from Barbuda at 6:30pm. Reservations can be made by phone (001 268 464 9453). Or check the Antigua Ferries website.
Nationals of the following countries can enter without a visa:
Albania, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Cyprus, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, South Korea, Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom (including overseas territories), Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
All other need to apply for a visa the nearest embassy or consulate of Antigua and Barbuda.
For further information and requirements, check the official Antigua and Barbuda website.
See also Money Matters
The currency of Antigua and Barbuda is the Eastern Caribbean Dollar, or EC$. It has existed since 1965 and is used by 7 other states of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States as well. Only the British Virgin Islands (the nineth member) doesn't use it, but uses the US$ instead. The EC$ is subdivided into 100 cents and has been pegged to the United States dollar at US$1 = EC$2.7 since 1976. The EC$ comes in coins of 1, 2, 5, 10 and 25 cents and a coins of 1 dollar. There are notes of 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 dollar.
Working longer than three months requires an official working license, to be filed with the employer. The employer also has to pay for it. There might be good jobs at the tourism sector and the entertainment industry (esp. on-line casinos and sports betting).
English is the official language of the islands. There is also an expanding Spanish-speaking migrant population.
The national dish is fungie (pronounced foon-gee) and pepper pot. Fungie is a dish very similar to the Italian Polenta being made mainly of cornmeal. Other local dishes include ducana, seasoned rice, saltfish and lobster (from Barbuda). Local confectionaries include sugarcake, fudge, raspberry and tamarind stew, and peanut brittle. The various restaurants around the island sell both local and international food.
Lunch might be anything that can be easily bought from a nearby shop, especially a bakery. Dinner will typically be rice,macaroni or pasta, vegetables/salad, a main course (fish, chicken, pork, beef etc.) and a side dish like macaroni pie, scalloped potatoes or plantains.
On Saturday be prepared to find many drive-by barbecues at important road crossings all over the island. They are serving rice and chicken, dumplings, soup, and alike. Sometimes they even have a sound system for entertainment.
Sunday is the day when the culture is most reflected in the food. For breakfast one might have saltfish, eggplant, eggs, bacon, sausages, or lettuce. Dinner may include pork, baked chicken, stewed lamb, or turkey, alongside rice (prepared in a variety of ways), salads, and a local drink.
There are many hotels in Antigua so finding one should not cause too much of a hassle.
Local drinks are mauby, seamoss, tamarind juice, mango juice, coconut water, Cavalier rum, Wadadli (Beer) and Oasis (Desalinated water).
See also Travel Health
There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Antigua and Barbuda. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering Antigua and Barbuda) where that disease is widely prevalent.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Antigua and Barbuda. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.
Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Though Antigua is generally a safe place, secure your purses and wallets. Walk only with the necessary money, avoid street urchins and vagrants and don't be afraid to ask for help. If you rent a car, park in a well-lit area.
Homosexual acts between consenting adults are illegal in Antigua and Barbuda, punishable by 15 years' imprisonment. Discretion is advised for LGBT travelers.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Antigua & Barbuda is: 1268
To make an international call from , the code is: 011
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