Living in Antigua
Living in Antigua, you won’t feel too far from home. Discover what it’s like to live in Antigua.
Facts About Antigua
Antigua is a Caribbean island with a rich history and a unique culture that will make you feel right at home.
Here are some of the island’s essential facts:
- The twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has been independent since 1981. However, it remains part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. Europeans chanced upon the island in 1493 and the English settled it in 1632.
- The government is a parliamentary democracy system modeled after that of the United Kingdom and the official language is English. The current prime minister is Gaston Browne. As in the United Kingdom, people drive on the left side of the road and most people write in British English.
- The official currency is the Eastern Caribbean dollar (EC$).
- Like most Caribbean islands, the economy relies primarily on tourism. The most popular event of the year is Carnival, which attracts visitors worldwide and is held at the beginning of August. At the end of April, one of the top rated international regattas, Antigua Sailing Week, attracts participants from the global ocean racing yacht fraternity. Cricket is one of the most popular sports on the island—in fact, the International Cricket Association has approved AUA’s cricket field for practice matches. This, after all, is the home of Andy Roberts, Viv Richards, Ritchie Richardson, and Curtley Ambrose.
- The largest city in Antigua is St. John’s (with a population of 24,226 in a total population of 100,000). Barbuda is home to about 1,800, the majority of whom live in Codrington, the civic center.
Coming to Antigua
What to Bring
Here is a printable packing list for your convenience.
Antigua by Air
There are numerous ways to fly to Antigua. Flights are available from cities throughout the U.S, Canada, the United Kingdom and some European cities to V.C. Bird International Airport, located approximately four miles from campus.
American Airlines, Delta, Jet Blue, Air Canada, British Airways, Virgin Airlines, and Liat have direct flights to Antigua. All non-Antiguan citizens and residents need round-trip tickets, as well as passports valid for six months beyond the dates of departure on the return ticket. Citizens of countries outside the UK, Canada, the US and the EU should contact a New Student Coordinator (NSC) to learn whether visas or other documentation will be required for entry into the country.
Renting a Car
If you plan on renting a car during your stay, remember that you will be driving on the opposite side of the road than you would in the United States. Major car rental agencies are conveniently located at V.C. Bird International Airport. A temporary Antiguan driver’s license is a mandatory requirement to drive while on the island and may be easily obtained from rental agents or from a police station or from the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board by presenting a valid driver’s license from your home state/country.
Note: COVID-19 may impact air travel near you. Please consult your airlines.
The following hotels and accommodations offer a discount rate for AUA students and guests who reserve a room in advance.
Hodges Bay Resort and Spa
Sandy Lane, Hodges Bay St Johns, Antigua & Barbuda
Buccaneer Beach Club
Dickenson Bay St, John’s, Antigua & Barbuda
St James’s Club – Antigua
Mamora Bay, St. Paul’s
The Verandah Resort & Spa – Antigua
Indian Town Road Parish of St. Philip, Willikies
Pineapple Beach Club – Antigua
Long Bay, St. Phillips North, Willikies
Jolly Beach Resort & Spa – Antigua
Bolans Village, Bolans, Saint Mary’s
The following hotels and accommodations do not offer discounts or special AUA rates, but may be of interest due to their location and/or pricing.
PO Box 649, St. John’s
Sandals Grande Antigua Resort & Spa
Dickenson Bay, St. John’s
Blue Waters Resort & Spa Antigua
Soldier’s Bay, St. John’s
Trade Winds Hotel Antigua
Dickenson Bay, St John’s
All of the hotels reserve the right to change rates depending on season and demand.
*AUA has no interest, ownership or control in and/or over any of these facilities and will not receive any benefit as a result of a guest’s stay at any of them. AUA does not endorse or vouch for them in any manner and makes no representations about them.
Day-to-Day Life in Antigua
Antigua will be your home for the next two years. That is why our tips for living in Antigua include everything you need to reside comfortably – from grocery shopping to transportation. By the time you start classes, you will already feel at home. Discover all you can do in a day in Antigua.
AUA contracts an independent bus service to provide subsidized transportation to get you quickly and safely between campus and housing facilities. To access other locales on the island, taxi services are available with fixed fares to popular destinations. Local bus services also exist.
Renting or buying a car are also options. Numerous rental agencies can be found on the island. There are several in St. John’s and at V.C. Bird International Airport. Cars are available for purchase from dealerships, private owners, and other AUA students leaving for their clinical clerkships. To be permitted to drive on the island, you will require a local, at least temporary, driver’s license which may be obtained from any police station or from any car rental company or from the Antigua and Barbuda Transport Board. They cost USD20 for 3 months and are validated against your own valid driver’s license. Purchasing a car will necessitate a whole different set of documentation.
Groceries & Food
St. John’s is home to the Epicurean, a large and extensive supermarket like major chains in the United States. Epicurean mixes a wide range of global brands with local produce and baked goods. In addition, a weekly farmer’s market provides opportunities to browse the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables grown on the island. Epicurean also has a second location with a pharmacy in the Jolly Harbour commercial area.
First Choice, Chase Distributors, and Cost Pro in St. John’s, with the Gourmet Basket just about a mile from campus, provide a variety of products and price ranges to the list of supermarkets on this side of the island.
There are over a hundred restaurants on the island, offering everything from fine dining to fast food. You will find familiar franchises such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Subway, and Fred’s Ice Cream, but also a number of excellent restaurants that fuse local ingredients in West Indian and international cuisine.
Cell Phone Services
Unlocked cell phones work very well in Antigua. For students who want a local number, a local SIM card and service plan can be obtained from any local mobile phone company in Antigua. A SIM card costs approximately $10. Phone unlocking service is available.
Online Grocery Service
There are several online services that will shop for your groceries and deliver them to you, usually within a working day. Students can utilize supermarket apps and delivery service agents via cash, check, or debit card.
Students should arrive on the island with enough funding to cover living and personal expenses. These include food, cabs, and other costs. We recommend a budget of about US $2,000-$5,000 per student, per semester. You will need to bring cash with you to cover your expenses before your financial aid arrives.
The safest way to deposit money into a bank account is with traveler’s checks, debit, or credit cards. A debit card that functions as a Visa or MasterCard is an excellent way to transfer money from an account abroad to your account in Antigua. It is a good idea to set up a joint bank account that family members at home can contribute to and you can access with a debit card while you are at AUA.
Wiring money takes a few days to clear and the fees are usually high. Personal checks can be deposited into your account but will not be available until the checks have cleared. This takes about three weeks. Students must present a passport and a matriculation letter from Residential Services stating their place of residence in order to open a bank account.
Banks in Antigua include First Caribbean International, the Bank of Nova Scotia, the Royal Bank of Canada, and the Eastern Caribbean Amalgamated Bank.
Although all necessities are available on the island, most large internet retailers will ship to you (contact the vendor for details on government duties). For luxury shopping, there are a variety of upscale stores close at hand in St. John’s.
St. John’s hosts a number of clubs and live music venues for students looking to unwind. The island observes Sailing Week in late April or early May, Carnival in July/August, and AUA holds the Freedom Fest every semester to celebrate student diversity and raise funds for local Antiguan charities. There is also a movie theater on the island featuring the latest releases.
Activities and Fun Things to Do
There’s more to medical school than just studying. You need to take time to unwind. Sail through crystal blue waters or relax on the beach, take a kayak through primeval mangroves, spend a day shooting clay pigeons, explore sunken shipwrecks, join a service club, learn to water ski, or swim with the stingrays. Antigua has something for everyone.
The 365 white-sand beaches of Antigua line its shores. Some are social hotspots while others remain all but undiscovered, providing an oceanside retreat for all temperaments. The neighboring island of Barbuda has pink sand beaches, making it a unique excursion from the beaches in Antigua.
While AUA has its own fitness center there are also numerous fitness centers throughout the island.
English Harbour’s waters play host to elite racing and luxury yachts. It is one of the few Caribbean deep-water ports, allowing super yachts to moor. Antigua’s internationally recognized Sailing Week and the Classic Yacht Regatta cap off an intensive competitive season with a gathering of racing, recreational, and vintage boats. English Harbour is also home to the historic Nelson’s Dockyard National Park, once an 18th-century British Naval base.
The curious can find tours of every nook and cranny in Antigua to match any interest. Whether an exploration of colonial plantations and fortifications, a quad-bike trek through the undergrowth, a soaring helicopter ride, or a kayak-and-snorkel journey along the coast, these expeditions uncover a treasure trove of history and beauty.
Off Fig Tree Drive, a series of zip lines hang over the forest canopy, providing breathtaking views while on a thrill ride.
Much of the appeal of the natural environment in Antigua and Barbuda is the multitude of bird species to be found here. The Frigate Bird Sanctuary on Barbuda, though accessible only by boat, is the largest bird sanctuary in the Caribbean and contains over 170 species. Long Island and Great Bird Island also offer outstanding opportunities for birdwatchers.
Steady trade winds make for excellent windsurfing and kite surfing. Rentals and instruction are available near campus, and related activities and rentals are available at oceanfront spots across the island.
There are two golf courses on Antigua: an 18-hole, 70-par course at the Cedar Valley Golf Club and another course at Jolly Harbour.
Several stables and miles of trails give the casual rider plenty of opportunity to explore from horseback. Riders should check ahead to ensure the stable is insured and licensed.