Over years of booking vacationers into the Caribbean this couple have learned a lot about what to do and not to do when renting vehicles. Here are their tips…
1. Book your vehicle at the same time you book your accommodations. Not all classes of vehicles are available at all times.
2. Book your vehicle through your travel agent. They know the rental car suppliers on the island. You do not. You might end up stranded at the airport or get an unacceptable vehicle.
3. If the name of the rental car company or even the logo is the same or similar to a major company in the States, it may be unaffiliated. We found one which had the name of a major and it was nothing other than a “chop shop” operation with terrible vehicles.
4. Never, ever “wing it”. There may be no vehicles of any kind available at the airport. Then you are at the mercy of a taxi driver who may have no idea where you are going.
5. Independent travel is great but when you pick up your car you may not find anything like a 7-11 handy. Make plans about food in advance.
From time to time we had guests in our cottage who came begging because they declined a car upon arrival and ordered no food.
6. Unless your booking agent can assure you that you can easily find your accommodations, get a transfer and have your car delivered the next day. Remember it gets dark around six P.M. and there may be no street signs.
7. Bigger is not always better. European cars which are set up for the French peage or an autostrada do not necessarily perform well on steep hills or small roads. The small class B cars offered on French island are peppy, highly maneuverable and sip $5 per gallon gas.
8. Don’t rent the smallest class of vans. They are unbelievably cramped, have no luggage space and are dangerously tippy.
9. If you have a larger party, consider renting two cars rather than overloading a van. The transfer drivers have powerful vans. You are unlikely to be able to rent one.
10. If you are going out of the United States you really need a travel agent to help you rent a car. Doing it yourself is chancy. Take guidance from your travel agent. They know things you can’t possibly know.
Roger and Mala Burt ran a travel business focused on the Caribbean for many years. Their first romantic mystery, A Dream Across Time, has just been published and is set in the Caribbean.