Why It's Best If Tourists Avoid Renting A Car At This Caribbean Country

Caribbean charms are intoxicating. The sand, the sun, the culture, and the natural wonders combine to lure us in for a stay. Sometimes that visit takes place entirely at a resort, while other times you want to get out and explore your surroundings. That may never be more true than when visiting the always busy and entertaining Jamaica — one of the largest islands in the Caribbean. However, if you're thinking of renting a car to reach those far off wonders, you might want to think again.

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The process of renting a car in Jamaica is the same as it is around much of the world. You can choose from major car rental companies such as Hertz and Enterprise, or you can go with a regional option like Island Car Rentals. Regulations require you possess a valid driver's license, insurance, and be 21 years of age. You must also have had a driver's license for at least two years. However, even if you're eligible to rent a car in Jamaica, the sketchy road conditions, left-sided laws, and questions of safety are valid reasons not to.

The cons of renting a car in Jamaica

Every destination has its quirks of the road, and Jamaica is no different. While the roads between the airport and the Jamaica's best and most famous beach resorts are likely well maintained, outside of the major cities there are some rough conditions to maneuver. Tight, windy roads and potholes are common. One hard sink into a section of eroded road can equal a flat tire and significant frustration. Jamaican drivers are well-versed in the mountainous terrain, however, and they swiftly navigate the roads, often swerving to miss potholes, entering the opposite lane as they pass bicycles, and facing drivers head on narrow roads.

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In addition, the previously British colony of Jamaica maintained some of the motherland's influence. Like the United Kingdom, Jamaicans drive on the left side of the road. Yes, that also means the steering wheel is on the right side of the car. For people who've never driven, passed, turned, and parked on the left side of the highway, the journey can be a treacherous experience. Add in inadequate signage and the risk of getting lost on the way back to your favorite Jamaican all-inclusive resort, and the idea of renting a car becomes even less appealing.

Set yourself up for success in Jamaica

Like all essential travel tips for a Caribbean vacation, the decision to rent a car in Jamaica after knowing the dangers requires a good plan. Start by finding a reputable rental company. Then ensure you have valid insurance coverage. This can be available through your own automobile insurance, your credit card coverage, travel insurance, or the car rental company. Also read and understand the rental agreement before signing.

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Before heading out, grab a local map. The mapping app on your phone won't work if you lose cell coverage or your phone battery dies. Also avoid traveling at night or traveling alone. Certain parts of Jamaica have high crime rates, including violent crimes. You don't want to find yourself in an unsafe situation, especially after dark.

As with any island, you'll want to understand the rules of the road before getting behind the wheel. Observe all traffic laws, such as not passing on a solid center line and obeying speed limits. Yield to pedestrians, wear your seatbelt, and never drink and drive. Also, drive like a local and sound your horn when going around corners on rural highways. This is common practice in order to let oncoming cars know you're approaching. Overall, it's best to avoid renting a car in Jamaica, but if public transport and private hires don't work out, employ these best practices to stay safe on the road.

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