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Communications, Transport & Weather
When you arrive in Antigua just switch on your mobile ‘phone. You should be able to roam automatically. Around 99% of the island is covered including coastal areas several miles out to sea. Check roaming rates before you choose your airtime supplier.
Almost all bars and cafés now have free Wi-Fi although there are a few internet cafes for those who do not have portable computers or internet enabled ‘phones. The marinas and some bars have secure networks which will require a pass code. If you are not moored in a marina, on-line access is available from a variety sources at reasonable rates. Certain local services are also available such as that provided by Image Locker in Nelson’s Dockyard. The internet can also be accessed through the mobile ‘phone network but take care to ensure you are using Wi-Fi and not the ‘phone system.
Also long gone are the days when the airways were alive with VHF traffic, replaced by the ubiquitous mobile ‘phone. Of course, there is still some traffic and in the Caribbean it is common practice NOT to use channel 16 for calling other yachts or shore based stations. Use Ch 68 and switch to another working channel as soon as contact is established. Avoid channels used by Race Committees during Sailing Week, the Classic Yacht Regatta, RORC 600 and Superyacht Cup. Channel 68 is also the emergency channel but is not extensively monitored. In an emergency a mobile ‘phone may be more useful. For a list of emergency telephone numbers see a list in this Guide on Page 80. A number to keep handy is that of the Antigua Barbuda Search And Rescue (ABSAR) +1 268 562 1234. Call ABSAR for all emergencies at sea and for medical assistance. ABSAR has a medical station and ambulance in English Harbour.
Channel 06 - English Harbour Radio - local and Leeward Islands Marine forecast, Monday through Friday (occasionally weekends) at 09:00. It is worthwhile to note that this forecast has been loyally produced and delivered by Jol Byerley and his team for many, many years on a volunteer basis. After the weather, notices of interest to yachtsmen are also broadcast.
These days there are numerous forecasts available on the internet. BBC give quite a reasonable forecast and CNN provide both weather chart and satellite images on their website. Check out several sites to get a balanced view of what might happen over the forthcoming days especially if you are planning an extended voyage. Daily weather forecasts are available from the Antigua & Barbuda Meteorological Services at www.antiguamet.com For an Atlantic crossing, Herb has been providing a ship routing and weather forecasting service since 1987 on marine HF/SSB frequency 12359.0 .
With a gradual improvement in the road system the number and quality of vehicles on Antigua’s roads has increased. At one time the vehicle of choice was a 4 x 4, often a pick-up, but now many saloon and sports cars can be seen on Antiguan roads. There are a number of good car dealerships on the island which mainly cater for Japanese and Korean vehicles however with the demand for good quality European cars, a Land Rover dealer has opened which also services high end European vehicles. Land Rovers, particularly Range Rover, Range Rover Sport and Discovery, seem to have become the vehicle of choice for many in the yachting community. In order to own a vehicle in Antigua you must possess a full Antiguan driving licence, not a temporary one. You need to have some form of residency to get a full licence. A general reorganisation of the number plate system identifying vehicles by their use allowed the introduction of personalised number plates. They are rented on an annual basis and cheap so you see some fairly strange plates around. The plate can only be displayed on the front, the vehicle has to retain the standard lettered and numbered plate on the rear.
This is the most popular way of getting around. Cars and four wheel drive SUVs of varying size are available and a few rental companies have larger seating capacity vehicles. A convertible jeep may seem like fun but consider a closed in vehicle with air conditioning. Hire a vehicle with decent ground clearance if you are planning to visit some of the remoter parts of the island where the road can be a bit rough. Rates are from about US$45 per day with a US$10 per day optional insurance. A temporary driving license is required, available from any Police Station at a cost of US$20 and is valid for 90 days. Some rental companies will supply you with your temporary licence. The English traffic system is in force so remember to drive on the left at all times. Most of the island has a 40 mph (65 kph) speed limit with a 20 mph (30 kph) limit in all villages and built-up areas. Many of the vehicles are Japanese imports and have speedometers calibrated in kilometres. Driving around can be somewhat of an adventure. If you get lost just keep driving, nowhere is very far from anywhere. Always make sure you have a spare tyre and jack in the vehicle before you set out. Cassie tree thorns are like nails and can cause punctures.
ATVs,Scooters & Bikes
Several companies offer ATVs and scooters for rental. You can also rent anything from a racing bike to a mountain bike. Although the island’s hills may look daunting the only way to visit many places is either on foot or by bike and, sometimes, an ATV . A driver’s license is needed for an ATV or scooter and usually you have to be over 21 to rent them..
There is no scheduled system on Antigua just numerous privately owned buses, many are the 12 seater mini bus type with some larger 28 seaters. Buses are easily identified by their licence plate. There are some designated stops but you can flag a bus down almost anywhere. To go to town from English Harbour the buses stop just outside the entrance to the Dockyard and outside the petrol station in Falmouth. The cost to town is EC$3.50. Buses operate between about 6:30 am until nightfall with a much reduced service in the evening and on Sundays and holidays. To travel to the north of the island you walk from the Market Place station to the East Bus Station. The driver will give you directions..
Taxi cabs are privately owned and the drivers are constantly looking for business. Standard rates apply throughout the island. Be sure to ask the price before the start of your trip and make sure you know if you have been quoted in EC$ or US$. To ensure you are getting a licenced taxi check the number plate. The plate should contain the letters TX followed by digits. If your trip is to some remote place or you need a pickup late at night be sure to arrange this beforehand and take the driver’s mobile number. All drivers are friendly and will gladly answer any questions you may have about nearly anything. The majority of taxis in the English Harbour area wait in the Dockyard next to the Admirals Inn and a few park at the Yacht Club Marina and by the petrol station in the road leading to the yacht club. Dockyard to the Airport is US$26 (up to 4 passengers), US$20 to St. John’s.
Most visitors to Antigua arrive by air and a variety of airlines fly from the U.K. and U.S.. Virgin Atlantic and British Airways fly from the U.K., departing from London Gatwick. Caribbean Airlines fly from London Heathrow. The main airline serving the U.S. from Antigua is American Airlines which operates out of Miami from where many other U.S. destinations can be accessed. Delta has direct flights to and from Atlanta and Continental fly from Newark. Air Canada serves Antigua from Toronto and Montreal. Several airlines depart from Antigua to serve other Caribbean islands. LIAT is the largest carrier serves most islands with very regular scheduled daily flights. Barbuda is accessed by SGV Airlines and Montserrat Airways fly the Antigua/Montserrat route. Antigua airport runway has recently been extended and further improvements are underway to both the departure and arrival facilities. Opened last year is a new VIP/Executive Lounge for First Class and Business passengers. For a fee any traveller may use the lounge where all drinks and canapes are included. For arriving and departing private aircraft FBO 2000 provides an excellent service with access direct to yachts from the nearby Shell Beach Marina.
FFor many years Antigua was like many other Caribbean islands, its cars were surviving relics from the colonial days with a mixture of Japanese and American cast offs but the dramatic improvement in the economy in the 1990s and early 21st Century has been accompanied by a surge in new vehicle sales. For a population of around 100,000, Antigua has a surprisingly large number of vehicles, around 40,000, of which about three quarters are cars or SUVs and many of these are less than five years old. Main dealers for Japanese brands such as Nissan, Suzuki, Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi have been established for many years but European brands are beginning to find a market particularly Land Rover, Jaguar and BMW. Korean cars have been in Antigua for some years but even China is now exporting to Antigua although that is mainly for the pick-up and truck market, however, with the growing car manufacturing base in China and close ties with Antigua, saloon cars will soon follow.
A lot of nearly new Japanese cars are also imported as Japan, like Antigua, drives on the left. Japanese left hand drive cars sold to the U.S. are cheaper than right hand drive cars and some, therefore, are also imported. As new car sales grew each year there has been a steady movement away from the 4 x 4 towards saloons and even sports cars as the roads have improved. At the top end of the market there is still a demand for high specification off-roaders and some inclination for the less capable but more flashy American models although these come with the disadvantage of left hand drive. Of the top end 4 x 4s, Range Rover are beginning to show a predominance. Like every western economy, Antigua has suffered a downturn in new car sales in the past few years but, as with everywhere, high end cars sales seem to be less affected.
Personally importing a vehicle is not difficult but the cost, with taxes, shipping and brokerage fees, will about double the original purchase price. Think carefully about what you import as spares and servicing can prove difficult with exotic models. Even tyres for some models are not readily available on the island and can be a special order. There are some specialist importers of used vehicles particularly from Japan. Tax free importation and other concessions are available to new businesses which are investing in the country. For further information on duty free concessions check with the Antigua & Barbuda Investment Authority.
Petrol (gas to Americans) and diesel is relatively cheap, just a little above average U.S. prices but about half U.K. prices. Import duties and other taxes on vehicles does make vehicle purchase prices rather on the high side, about equivalent to the U.K. but double that of the U.S..
Road Tax and Car insurance is required by law. Insurance is expensive when compared to the U.K. but about the same as the U.S.. Fully comprehensive insurance is available for newer cars but older vehicles will only qualify for third party cover. Most insurances will cover any driver. If involved in an accident always report it to the police. The insurance companies require a police report before they will pay out. The annual vehicle tax, based on engine size, is about the same cost as the U.K.. The period of the road tax is tied to the expiry date of the insurance certificate. On first registration, an imported vehicle with an engine capacity of over 2.5 litres incurs a one time only luxury tax of 7% of the value in addition to other import duties. A Transport Board test is required on a vehicle even when it is new and before it is first registered and every year thereafter. It has often been suggested that if your vehicle can make it down the unmade road to the test centre then it qualifies to pass the test. The wearing of seat belts is mandatory and you can be fined if caught not wearing one. Almost anywhere you drive is considered part of the public highway even car parks therefore, just presume that the traffic laws apply everywhere..