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Caribbean Car Rental

How to rent, where to rent, and what to expect when renting a car in the Caribbean

 

By Lisa Mullins Bishop, Caribbean Edge Staff Writer

Exploring a Caribbean island on your own can be an exciting adventure, and often the best way to do it is to rent your own car. Many of the major car rental agencies such as Thrifty, Budget, Avis and Hertz have outposts on the Caribbean islands, but the islands also have smaller local car rental agencies that can provide a variety of sound cars. Most agencies offer a variety of cars from mini-mokes (dune-buggy like vehicles) and jeeps to minivans and luxury cars, and many are air-conditioned with automatic transmissions.

Many travelers prefer to rent cars from one of the well-known agencies because of their reputation for reliability and service. Some local agencies are excellent, while others may not be. So ask for recommendations when using a local agency. Keep in mind that on some Caribbean islands like Barbados there are only local car rental agencies. Check the web and ask your travel agent or other travelers for recommendations of reputable rental agencies.

There are a number of ways to book a rental car in the Caribbean. You can use a travel agent, book it directly with the rental agency, or online through a travel service such as Expedia.com, Priceline.com, Orbitz.com Travelocity.com, Cheaptickets.com, or Onetravel.com. Another option is to book a car through your hotel once you arrive on the island. This allows you flexibility because you can evaluate whether you really need a car for sightseeing. Be aware, however, that during busy periods this last option might leave you with no car if there is a huge demand for vehicles by other travelers.

Before renting a car, decide what size you need. Be aware that category classifications vary between agencies. One agency's "small" cars might be another's "compact". Prices will vary accordingly. Renting a minivan or luxury car will be more expensive than renting a jeep or mini-moke. You will also typically pay more for air conditioning and an automatic transmission.

Figure out the length of time that you will need the car. If you plan on spending only a day sightseeing on an island, you may not want to rent a car for your entire stay. Ask what discounts the agency offers. Some agencies offer discounted rates if you rent for an extended period of time such as a week or weekend.

Compare prices. Your travel agent can help with this or you can call several agencies on your own. Ask the agency if they have any special rates or discounts. Check the websites of the major agencies to see if they have any web only discounts.

Watch out for hidden costs such as drop-off fees or airport surcharges. Some Caribbean car rental agencies charge a fee if you drop off the car at a different site than where you picked it up. Some airports charge fees for airport use even if a rental company shuttles you to a site off airport grounds.

Ask about fuel fees because these vary from company to company. Some companies charge $10-$15 for a half-tank of gas when you pick up the car and require that you return the car with an empty tank. This is often the most expensive. Other rental agencies fill the tank before you take the car and then charge you for the amount of gas that you used. There are also agencies that do not charge a fuel fee for the initial tank but ask that your return the car with a full tank of gas. This is usually the cheapest. If you fail to return the car with a full tank, however, you will be charged for the gasoline at rental company fee, which is often much higher than at a local station.

You will also want to find out about any mileage fees. You are typically allowed a certain number of free miles, but if you exceed this allotment, You will be charged a fee. This fee can be a flat fee or cents-per mile fee.

Usually, your automobile insurance should be enough coverage. However, you should always make sure that a particular island does not require additional coverage. Also check with your insurance carrier to make sure that you have adequate coverage.

Once you pick up the rental car, inspect it. Then test everything before you leave the site. Record any marks, dents, or scratches on the form so that you will not be considered the culprit of such physical damage when you return the car.

Get a map before setting off on your island adventure. Some Caribbean car rental agencies supply them for free, while others charge for them. Children's car seats are also available from most rental agencies. As with road maps, some do not charge a fee; others do. If you need a car seat, specify that when you reserve the car because sometimes there is a limited supply, especially during peak season.

Be sure to check the driving regulations for the Caribbean island you will be visiting. Most islands require a valid drivers license from your native country but some require a temporary local driving permit as well. Below are general requirements for some of the islands.

Anguilla

Valid drivers license plus temporary local permit from car rental agency.

Antigua

Valid drivers license plus temporary local permit from car rental agency.

Barbados

Valid drivers license and credit card.

Cayman Islands

Valid drivers license plus temporary local permit.

Curacao

Valid drivers license.

Dominican Republic

Valid drivers license and major credit card.

Grenada

Valid drivers license plus temporary local permit from Central Police Station and some car rental agencies.

Jamaica

Valid drivers license and major credit card.

Puerto Rico

Valid drivers license.

St. Barts

Valid drivers license.

St. Kitts

Valid drivers license plus temporary local permit from police station.

St. Lucia

Valid drivers license, 25 years old, major credit care and international drivers permit or St. Lucian temporary drivers permit form car rental agency or Gros Inlet police station.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Valid drivers license, international drivers permit, or temporary local permit.

Trinidad

Valid drivers license.

Turks

Valid drivers license.

USVI

Valid drivers license.

Car Rental by Island:

Anguilla
Antigua
Aruba
Bahamas
Barbados
Bermuda
Cayman
Curacao
Dominican Republic
Grenada
 Grenadines
Jamaica
Mexico
Puerto Rico
St. Barts
St. Croix
St. John
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Lucia
 St. Maarten
St. Martin
St. Thomas
Tobago
Tortola
Turks & Caicos
Virgin Gorda

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Anguilla
Antigua
Aruba
Bahamas
Barbados
Bermuda
Cayman
Curacao
Dominican Republic
Grenada
Grenadines
Jamaica
Mexico
Puerto Rico
St. Barts
St. Croix
St. John
St. Kitts & Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Maarten
St. Martin
St. Thomas
Tobago
Tortola
Turks & Caicos
Virgin Gorda