Planning to rent a car in Jamaica? Renting a car will give you the freedom to get off the beaten tourist path. By planning ahead and following a few key tips, you'll likely save yourself a lot of stress later. Here are some special considerations to keep in mind:
Essential Tips for Renting a Car in Jamaica
Book from home. Don't wait until you get to Jamaica to rent a vehicle. It will be cheaper to book your car from the United States before you go. The further ahead you reserve your car, the better the chance of landing a deal because you can watch out for price drops.
You do not need an International Driving Permit. U.S. residents do not need to get an International Driving Permit to drive in Jamaica. All you need is a valid state-issued driver's license to rent a car for up to three months.
You'll drive on the left. Jamaica is one of a minority of countries where people drive on the left.
Pay for the rental in Jamaican dollars. You may have the option to pay for the rental in U.S. dollars, but this option will cost you more in the long run. Pay in the local currency to avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion fees. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is entirely unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.
Automatic transmissions are easy to find. No need to worry about driving with a stick shift if you're not used to it. Major rental car companies offer vehicles with automatic transmissions in many car categories.
Double check your credit card coverage. You're not required to buy car rental insurance in Jamaica as long as you're covered by your credit card benefits. Before you leave for Jamaica, contact your credit card company to see what coverage it offers on car rentals in Jamaica. When in doubt, it's better—though pricier—to be safe than sorry.
Inspect the car carefully before driving it off the lot. Make sure to protect yourself from potential false damage claims by carefully look over your car before taking it for a spin. Document every nick, scratch or dent. Your smartphone will come in handy for taking photos of any imperfections to ensure you won't have to pay for them later. Narrow, winding roads in Spain's small towns are notorious for leaving cars a little banged up, so you'll want to make sure you aren't blamed for any dings left by previous renters.
Don't wander too far off the grid. Cell phone coverage may not be available in all parts of the country, so map your route ahead of time so you won't get lost.
Be prepared for rougher roads. Jamaica has an older and more poorly-funded infrastructure than many other countries. Even streets in busy urban areas are prone to potholes and overcrowded lanes, and the island has many rural and beach backroads. Be prepared to drive on gravel, dirt, sand, and generally less-maintained travelways. Also, be forewarned that any damage this causes to your vehicle will be charged back to you—so drive carefully.