Many tourists observing endless beaches, palm trees and banana groves in Antigua keep wondering: “How is it possible to live here?” In reality, the international expat community and experienced locals introduced certain adjustments to the way of living here, thus, making it quite suitable for residence. There is nothing ‘extra’ in Antigua, but still it has all you need for life.
There are several public schools on the island, mostly local children and some expats study here (those who live nearby). The most advanced Antigua’s school is called Island Academy. Seventy five percent of students are expats’ children. Teachers from the United Kingdom and North America come to Antigua to work with them.
The curriculum in Island Academy is something between the UK and Canadian educational systems. One has the opportunity to receive the international diploma of bachelor that will facilitate the process of getting into one of the Commonwealth countries colleges. A child’s education starts at the age of 5. Fifty percent of children finish the education and receive a diploma of bachelor aged 16-17. The remaining fifty percent finish secondary school in Antigua (aged 12-13) and go to the UK, the USA or Canada to continue education and improve their knowledge before applying to college.
One can receive higher education on the island, with the American University of Antigua (medical school) accepting students from all over the world. There is also a special department of East India University in Antigua.
Antigua’s main hospital is located in the capital city of Antigua and Barbuda, St. John’s. Although it was fully reconstructed only several years ago, it is hard to call this hospital modern.
There are a couple of private medical facilities, including Belmond Clinic. You can also find numerous offices of general practitioners conducting outpatient treatment. Some of them are brilliant doctors having foreign education and vast experience. The treatment is quite close to the western medicine: you will not likely be asked to apply herb to a sore throat, but will be immediately prescribed antibiotics. Still, a good doctor will share the information about the healing powers of ginger and coconut water.
To receive a more serious medical treatment, you will need to travel to Miami. Local insurance companies even add the following point to insurance policies: regular or medical transportation to the USA in case of health emergency that cannot be addressed in Antigua.
There are a lot of drugstores on the island. You can buy basic things like ibuprofen, allergy medicines and band-aids almost in any shop. But for more serious medical supplies, especially prescription drugs, you will have to go all the way to St. John’s.
We have to disappoint all those who expect from the Caribbean fruits and vegetables in abundance just like in South-East Asia, and a lot of fish and seafood like in the Mediterranean.
Agriculture is not Antigua’s strength. The island is rather arid, that is why farming requires a lot of hard work and investment in it. Small shops with fruits and vegetables are scattered across the island: you can buy here sweet potato, yams, beetroot, cabbage, etc.
Tips from insiders:
Spring and summer are the seasons of mango. It is the main and probably the only thing that helps one reconcile with the extreme heat! Meanwhile, avocado is our winter hit! These fruits are much more delicious here than the Israeli ones you buy in your favorite supermarket chain. Bananas grow everywhere in Antigua, almost like weeds.
Another sensitive issue is fish and seafood. The Caribbean Sea is not actually abundant in living creatures, if we compare it with northern seas and even the Mediterranean. In addition to this, many locals cannot swim and do not really want to engage in the hard and dangerous fishing activity. As a result, shops sell frozen tuna from Chile and tilapia from China. Restaurants serve fresh local red snapper and lobster, you can find plenty of those here. If you want to buy fresh local tuna, marlin, dorado (they call it mahi-mahi), you will have to find your ways with local fishermen.
As you have probably guessed, the majority of products on the island are imported from the USA, Canada and Europe. Cheap and inedible imported foodstuffs can be bought anywhere. Still, if you want delicious but quite costly products, you will need to go to one of the Epicurean supermarkets or to small grocery stores with exclusive goods.
There are many American foodstuffs in supermarkets, but you can also find European brands, like Waitrose British groceries. Thanks to the enormous Italian diaspora in Antigua, it is easy to buy good pasta, prosciutto and prosecco.
When you purchase a car in Antigua, you will literally have to pay double price for it. Import surcharge imposed on new autos corresponds to 100%. Add a dealer’s fee and here it is. Driving a used car from Japan to Antigua will not be a good solution, since the tax is even higher for used vehicles. In general, if you do not plan to remain for a long time on the island, it is recommended to rent a car. An economy auto like Suzuki Swift will cost you US$1,000–1,200 per month and a medium-size SUV will cost at least US$1,500. It is worth noting, that you will not have problems choosing between gasoline and diesel: the price for one liter of gasoline is over US$1.30.
A perfect car for Antigua is a reliable SUV or pickup. The roads are mostly in a terrible state, so small cheap cars become useless scrap metal very quickly.