Roadway Guidance in the Caribbean

When in the Caribbean, learn local driving customs before you take the wheel

Photo credit: © Jan Kranendonk |

Self-navigating the Caribbean is an ideal way to feel at home on your vacation island. What's more, you'll have the freedom to explore the Caribbean's natural beauty on your own schedule.

For the most part, public roads on the islands are in good shape, although they can be narrow and winding. You may notice the locals ignoring lane demarcations and casually driving down the middle of the road; you may also notice islanders stopping on the side of the road for a chat--simply stay alert and go with the flow. Give a honk on blind corners and be prepared to yield to the right-of-way quickly. Also watch for livestock, which sometimes roam into the roads.

While each island has its own particular driving laws, be aware of the following general rules of Caribbean driving:

  • On most islands, driving is English style; that is cars drive on the left-hand side of the road. Local car rental agencies have cars with steering wheels on both the left and right sides.

  • You will need a driver's license to operate a car in the Caribbean. Depending on the island, either your own driver's license will be valid, or you will have to purchase a temporary driving permit for a small fee, usually between $10(USD) and $30(USD), from a police station or car rental agency.

  • Don't be alarmed by unexpected honking horns, it's a Caribbean way of saying "hello."

Driving is not always necessary or even possible for everyone vacationing in the Caribbean. Fortunately, most nations have a combination of several other transportation options, including taxis, buses, and ferries. Taxis in the Caribbean vary between metered and unmetered, while buses are inexpensive but known for their constant tardiness. Every transportation option has its positive and negative points, and it is up to you to decide what makes the most sense to you.

Knowing these rules of the road will make for a much smoother ride. Just remember to obey posted signs, ask for directions when you need them, and take it slow, and you'll be just fine.


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