Many visitors to Dominica and other locations in the Caribbean prefer to let local taxi and bus drivers navigate the sometimes hazardous roads, which can also be full of aggressive drivers. Nevertheless, travelers who rent cars can drive defensively in order to keep themselves safe.
Drivers on Dominica stay to the left-hand side of the road, which will be new to visitors from North America and most of Europe. However, travelers may be able to rent cars that have the steering wheel on either side. Tourists who wish to drive on Dominica must have a valid home driver's license and must obtain a local driver's permit from the airports, car rental firms, or from the High Street Traffic Division office in Roseau. The cost of the permit, good for one month, is approximately $12(USD). Most rental car companies require travelers to be at least 25 years old, have two years of prior driving experience, and possess a major credit card.
Roads on Dominica can be simultaneously steep, thin, and twisted. Some roads may be lined with steep embankments, and many are without protective siding to prevent cars from sliding off. Rain is heavy in Dominica, particularly on the island's interior during the wetter summer months, and road conditions can deteriorate quickly under the assault of heavy rains. Traffic laws, such as speed limits and seat belt requirements, are not typically enforced, and drivers should exercise extreme caution while on the road because of this. Remember to bring with you the proper child safety restraint device if you are traveling with small children.
Many roads may be paved, though roads in remote, rural, and other areas that are not in good repair can be quite damaged. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are available from car rental firms on the island. Road signs may be non-existent outside of major areas, and most roads are not lit in the evenings. Travelers may wish to avoid driving at night, and should consider investing in a road map while on the island. Travelers should always exercise caution in order to avoid pedestrians and other aggressive drivers who may throw caution to the wind while on the road.
As previously mentioned, many tourists prefer to let locals to know their way around do the driving. If you'd rather leave this task up to someone else, Dominica has one of the most reliable public transportation systems in the Caribbean. Still, for Americans used to huge buses, it can take a little getting used to these 15-passenger vans. Taxis are also available and easily found by looking for the "H" or "HA" on the license plate.
The ability to drive on a vacation gives travelers the freedom to choose when and where they will travel. While road and driving conditions on Dominica should be handled carefully, travelers can experience the island on their own terms by driving from place to place.
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