If you are a first time visitor to Jamaica, renting a car is not recommended, especially when you're headed to Blue Mountains where the road conditions are spotty at best. Not everyone will heed the warning and others don't have a choice but to rent a car. Either way, it is best to learn all you can about car rentals before you depart for your vacation.
In order to rent a vehicle in Blue Mountains, you must be between the ages of 23 and 75, though some rental agencies will allow visitors as young as 21 to rent a car for an extra fee. You must have a valid license from your home country that was issued at least one year prior to your trip, plus a valid credit card. Make sure you find out how much of a hold the rental agency plans to hold on your card. Reports of $1500 to $2500(USD) holds are common, and if you are planning on using your credit card for all of your vacation spending, this can really set you back.
There are nearly 50 registered car rental agencies throughout Jamaica. However, not all are near the Blue Mountains.
Check this table for contact information.
|Avis Kingston Central||(876) 906-2847||Knutsford Boulevard - Downtown Kingston|
|Budget Main Office||(876) 759-1793||53 South Camp Road - 2.4 mi. (3.9 km) South-Southeast of Kingston|
|Garmack Car Rentals||(876) 920-1119||1 D Norwood Avenue - 0.9 mi. (1.5 km) Southeast of Kingston|
|(876) 996-9514||Cross Roads Main Street - Annotto Bay|
|Metro Car Rentals, Ltd.||(876) 978-5468||47F Old Hope Road - 2.8 mi. (4.5 km) East of Kingston|
Always make sure to thoroughly read through your contract when you arrive to pick up your rental so you can ask about any additional rules or fees you were not aware of, and won't be surprised by anything when it comes time to pay. On that note, make sure to go over your vehicle and discuss any damage or messes before you leave the premises so that you are not responsible for them later on. If you have the knowledge to do so, make sure you check under the hood as well. There have been reports of missing parts on rented vehicles in Jamaica.
You can expect to spend between $35 and $250(USD) a day on your rental, depending upon the size and quality of the vehicle you rent, any add-on amenities you desire, and the cost of insurance (which is a requirement in Blue Mountains). Rates are typically higher in the high season and lower in the low season, and prices go down the further away from the airport you go. Make note that some rental agencies charge an additional mileage fee on top of the daily rate. Always ask if this is the case.
It is required that you pay for a 24 hour rental, even if you only keep the vehicle for a few hours, and the longer you have it, the cheaper your overall rental will be. When you inquire about pricing, most companies will quote you a price that includes the cost of the rental, the Value Added Tax (V.A.T.), and the insurance, but make sure to ask if this is the case so you are sure. Many rental agencies in Blue Mountains have extras like car seats and roof racks, but they must be reserved in advance and will cost extra.
Although you can rent pretty much any type of vehicle you'd like to drive, modern Japanese sedans are favored because of the island's narrow, winding roads. Because you'll be driving through Blue Mountains, however, make sure you ask for a vehicle with four wheel drive so that you won't have any issues driving along the bumpy, unpaved roads.
Like in most of Europe, driving is done on the left side of the road in Blue Mountains, however this isn't the biggest obstacle when it comes to driving in Blue Mountains and the rest of Jamaica. The roads in Blue Mountains are narrow and overgrown with foliage, hugging the mountainside. While you'll find a decent amount of roads to be paved, they have not been paved well, and suffer from pot holes, no traffic control, and hardly any road signs. The corners are blind, so it is important that you always honk your horn to warn other drivers as you round them. Likewise, listen for other drivers honking their horns. Jamaican drivers are known for their speed and aggression.
To get to Blue Mountains you'll likely travel from Kingston. Follow Hope Road up to Papine, where you should stop and get gas, because there are no gas stations in Blue Mountains. From there follow Gordon Town Road (B1) uphill until you reach Blue Mountain Peak. Note that the road forks left near Irish Town at the Strawberry Hill Resort and near Newcastle, winds east through the Hope River Valley, and is steep from Gordon Town to Mavis Bank. As you drive through Hagley Gap, you'll know you're almost there.
If you're traveling from the north coast, you'll travel to Buff Bay (again, get gas before you leave Buff Bay) where you can connect with Gordon Town Road and follow the same path detailed above. The connection from Buff Bay is known to close due to mud during the rainy season, so make sure to ask around before making the journey. Flash floods are common and can be life threatening.
Due to the fact that there are only a few gas stations near Blue Mountains, be sure to take a look at the chart directly below for some locations.
|(876) 996-9395||Top Bay - Annotto Bay|
|--||1.8 mi. (2.9 km) North of Kingston|
|--||1.7 mi. (2.7 km) North-Northwest of Kingston|
If you have an issue with your vehicle as you're driving to Blue Mountains, you may be forced to get out and walk until you find help. Breakdown services are almost non-existent in rural areas, and if you can find someone to help you, it will for sure pricey.
Those who plan to make use of their rental and tour other areas of Jamaica should know about the road conditions throughout the island. The main highways are labeled as the A1, A2, and A3. These roads serve as the links between Jamaica's major cities. Like the roads in Blue Mountains, most suffer from poor repair, lack of signs and signals, and hazardous conditions. The B labeled highways lead to rural areas, such as the main road you drive on to get to Blue Mountains. Almost all are as narrow and dangerous as the B1. Speed limits in towns are typically around 30 miles per hour, but 50 on the highways.
With stories of such bad roads and aggressive driving, one would assume that local driving laws are lax, however, that is not the case. Police are vigilant in making sure road laws are followed so that no deaths are caused as a result of conditions. Drivers and anyone riding in the front of the vehicle is required to wear a seat belt (though all passengers are wise to do so), and motorcyclists must wear helmets.
While most people report that it is stressful to drive on the island, they still return home unharmed, so it can be done. If you insist on renting a vehicle in Jamaica, you must be prepared for anything that may come your way.
Help us improve! We welcome your corrections and suggestions.