Driving is an excellent way to explore most of the islands. You have the liberty to create your own schedule and you can travel to places the public transport doesn’t cover. However, on some of the islands the driving in on the left side and sometimes because of the weather it can be a bit dangerous, so driving in the Caribbean is not for everyone. In such cases, you should check other means of transportation in the Caribbean .
Prices and Cars
Although it tends to be expensive for a long period of time, renting a car is a good option to explore a particular region or if you want freedom. The insurance is included in the price and if you rent online you cannot do it unless you’ve got a credit card.
If you choose to rent when you arrive, remember that the highest prices are always at the airport. So, take the public transport to the city, check into the hotel and then rent a car.
Prices do depend on the island you are visiting. And it’s slightly more expensive to rent a car during the high season. For example, renting a compact car in Barbados starts at $50 per day, while you can rent for just $26 per day in Aruba. Likewise, in Puerto Rico prices start at $24 per day. If you plan to book a car during Christmas, New Years or other major holiday on the islands, do make sure to book way in advance.
Watch out for hidden fees, such as drop-off fees or airport surcharges. Some companies add a fee if you drop off the car in a different site than where you picked it up. You should also check the mileage fees. You are typically allowed a certain number of free miles but if you exceed the number you’ll be charged a fee. Also, be careful that not all companies require the car to be returned with a full tank.
Some of the car rental companies in the Caribbean are:
While these large companies have offices on most of the larger islands, on smaller island you’ll have to use the smaller local car rental agencies. Most agencies offer a variety of cars, from compacts to jeeps, to minivans and luxury cars.
Driving in the Caribbean
Be sure to check the driving regulations on the island(s) you’ll be visiting. Most islands require a valid driving license from your native country but some also require a temporary driving permit. Here is some general information for some of the major islands:
- Antigua: valid driving license and local permit from the car rental agency
- Barbados: valid driving license and credit card; drive on the left
- Dominican Republic: valid driving license and major credit card
- Jamaica: valid driving license and major credit card; drive on the left
- Puerto Rico: valid driving license
- St. Kitts: valid driving license and local permit from the police station; drive on the left
- USVI: valid driving license
When it comes to driving in the Caribbean, do some research ahead of time. For an American it’s easy to tackle Puerto Rico and/or USVI, while Brits and Aussies will find it easier to tackle Barbados and Jamaica, for example. If you are use to driving on the right but the traffic drives on the left (and vice-versa) you’ll need time to adjust. If you are used to an automatic car, don’t start experimenting during vacation (you’ll be nervous and frustrated until you figure out how to use a stick shift).
Be aware of the speed limits as they can vary from island to island. On St.Croix the speed limit varies between 10 mph (downtown) to 35 mph and 55 mph (highway). In Jamaica the speed limit is 30 mph in the cities and 50 mph on highways. In Antigua and Barbuda the speed limit is 40 mph but it’s reduced to 20 mph in build up areas.
However, knowing the international signs is important. A Stop sing or a Give Way sign is the same all the over the world (just need to the careful which side the traffic comes from).