A first-timer's guide to holidaying in Anguilla
Anguilla is a small island nation in the Caribbean that lies just few miles north of St. Maarten. While it may not be on the top of the list when it comes to frequently talked about Caribbean isles, that just means you’ll have a better chance of enjoying it uninterrupted from the tourist crowds.
From a thriving foodie scene as the culinary capital of the Caribbean to amazing hospitality, fantastic festivals and some of the world’s most stunning beaches, Anguilla is an island that offers it all and then some – you just need to know how to make the most of it, and we’re here to help.
When to go to Anguilla
The peak tourist season in Anguilla generally falls around the winter months, December through mid- to late-April, a time when airfare and hotel rates are typically at their highest and crowds are thick. Unless you have to plan your escape during this period, there’s no reason to follow the herd. Temperatures stay about the same all year long, and even the “rainy” season doesn’t bring all that much rain. You can usually get the very lowest rates in September and October, peak hurricane season, at the few hotels that stay open for business, though many shut down, along with the restaurants, during this time. If you’re hoping to hit the “sweet” spot, meaning the best weather, the lowest rates and the fewest crowds, plan to visit from late April through July.
Weather in Anguilla
There are very little temperature variations throughout the year in Anguilla, with temperatures typically hovering in the upper 20s Celsius. Rainfall is quite minimal throughout the island as well as neighbouring islands, with the “rainy” season from about mid-May through mid-November. Generally, in this relatively dry Caribbean climate, even during this time the rain showers are brief, leaving just as quickly as they arrived. While hurricane season is officially from June through late November, the peak time for tropical storms is September and October.
Anguilla flights and transfers
There are no direct flights to Anguilla’s Clayton J. Lloyd International Airport (AXA) from the U.K. currently, with most travellers flying in via Antigua. Direct flights are available to Antigua via Virgin Atlantic and British Airways. From Antigua there are onward connections through multiple airlines to Anguilla. There are a few other options as well, such as flying from London to Paris with Air France, and then non-stop via the same airline to St. Maarten’s Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM). Air France flies into St. Maarten daily from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle International Airport (CDG), while other airlines like Air Caraibes, provide weekly flights only during peak season, typically from Orly Airport (ORY) in Paris. From Saint Maarten’s SXM Airport, you can easily hop on a boat at the pier located just a few minutes away. There are scheduled trips as late as 11:30 p.m., but you’ll need to book in advance.
While it may take a little longer to get to Anguilla as compared to some other Caribbean nations, the upside is that you’ll have the opportunity to visit other islands too. Anguilla is part of the Leeward Islands. Those islands also include:
• St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands
• Tortola, British Virgin Islands
• Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Islands
• St. Maarten
• St. Bart’s
• St. Eustatius
• St. Kitts
The Leewards are spread all over the place, which means there’s no real logical route to take, but about half of them can be easily visited by using St. Maarten as a hub. As St. Maarten is just a 30-minute boat ride from Anguilla, it makes it easy to squeeze time in on at least a couple of other islands.
British citizens who are travelling to Anguilla do not need to obtain a visa, provided they’re staying a maximum of three months. A passport that’s valid for at least the next six months from the date of entry into the country is required. You may also need to show proof of a return or onward airline ticket.
English is the official language of Anguilla, spoken throughout the island.
Driving: Hiring a car and driving is our favourite way to get around Anguilla, and arguably the best with the only other real option being taxi service. You’ll find multiple rental options available right at the airport, and if you prefer, hiring bicycles or mopeds is possible too, just be aware that you may run into quite a few unpaved roads. While speeds are slow, it’s a small island that’s generally easy to get around, with only a few scattered spotlights and roundabouts. Driving is on the left side of the road, so provided you keep left, give way to the right, and pay close attention, of course, there shouldn’t be any problems.
Taxi: Taxis, though typically quite a bit more expensive than renting a vehicle, are another good option for getting around Anguilla. Many drivers can also serve as a personal tour guide, and you’ll have your choice of taxis from the airport or ferry dock. You can also call ahead for one, or have a restaurant or hotel arrange for a ride. The service is unmetered with set rates and fares must be paid with a credit card or cash.
The East Caribbean Dollar (XCD) is the local currency on Anguilla, though it’s U.S. dollars that are generally preferred, with most prices in restaurants, hotels and shops designated in USD. U.S. dollars are always accepted, and occasionally you might receive small change that’s a mix of XCD and USD. Visa and Mastercard credit cards are accepted at restaurants, hotels and just about everywhere else, though only a few places accept American Express, and some beach bars and small, local vendors only take cash. When you want or need cash, the best way to get it is from one of the ATMs on the island, just keep in mind that the fees are typically much higher for international transactions, so you may want to check with your bank before leaving home to prevent an unpleasant surprise. You can find ATMS conveniently located throughout the island but be aware they can sometimes run out of cash, especially toward the end of a weekend, so you may want to get a little extra on a Friday to keep you covered through Monday.
Electricity runs on 110 Volts AC, which means that if you’re coming from the U.K. where your standard voltage is in the range of 220 to 240 Volts, you may need a voltage converter and an adaptor to plug in your electronics.
Vaccination and health
Most travellers from the U.K. do not require any vaccinations for entering Anguilla, however, if you plan to visit a country with a high rate of yellow fever just beforehand, you may need proof of a yellow fever vaccination. Heatstroke and sunburn are the biggest health and safety concerns here, which means bringing items like a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen, as well as drinking plenty of water, is a must. The island is virtually free of petty crime, though following common sense rules like keeping your valuables locked in a safe place and other normal precautions is always a good idea. While mosquitoes and no-see-ums can be annoying, especially around dusk, they don’t carry diseases here.
Anguilla is -5 hours from British time, GMT – 4 hours.
Festivals & events
There’s almost always some kind of event, festival or party going on in Anguilla, though it’s biggest celebration of the year is the Anguilla Summer Festival, held around the first Monday in August for nearly two weeks. Somewhat akin to Carnival celebrations, it’s a great way to mingle with the locals and get to know more about their lives and customs. Boat races, Anguilla’s national sport, are a frequent occurrence year-round, but it’s the primary focus of the three-day Anguilla Regatta.
While not highly religious, general English customs prevail, with nude and topless bathing prohibited, and skimpy beachwear confined to resorts.
Food, drink and nightlife
Foodies who travel to Anguilla have often exclaimed something to the effect of “every restaurant is better than the next, from beach bar to swank.” It boasts unusually diverse offerings for a Caribbean Island, with everything from traditional local fare, which is influenced by native Caribbean, Spanish, French, English and African cuisines, to international delights, including Italian and Mexican. Local lobster and Anguillian crayfish make frequent appearances on the menus, and salt cod is a staple, eaten alone as well as in soups, stews and casseroles.
Anguilla is a place where you can find incredibly delicious and inexpensive cuisine in street stalls too, which serve everything from crayfish to plantains. For a romantic seaside dinner, head to Mango’s for seafood, Jacala for authentic French fare, Dolce Vita for Italian and Strawhat for gourmet Caribbean.
When it comes to nightlife, Anguilla is no Miami or New York City, but it does offer a lively music scene that’s great for hanging out with the especially friendly, welcoming music-loving locals. You’ll find most of the action down at the beach bars in Sandy Ground, like Elvis’ Beach Bar which was built from a wooden boat. The Pumphouse is also located in this area and is renowned as one of the island’s top bars, especially on Thursday nights, when the fun begins around 10 p.m. as the Musical Brothers hit the stage. Dancing the night away is a common thread no matter where you go, often not winding down until 2 a.m. Check the latest listings in Anguilla Life to find out what’s happening while you’re on the island or ask one of the locals.
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