Jamaica is one of the most picturesque countries you can visit. Unfortunately the country is difficult to explore on foot or using public transportation, particularly if you want to do some independent sightseeing. This leaves car rentals as the only option. Frauds and fakes however are rampant and a big concern among this industry.

Car arrangements made in advance have their rental cars delivered at the airport directly and not the hotel. You can also book car rentals as part of a tour package. Some hotels also offer care rental desks but the prices are considerably higher than those from car rental firms. Most car rental firms offer unlimited mileage on their cars.

Where to rent
Budget car rental firms have branches at the Montego Bay Airport, 800/472-3325 in the U.S., 876/952-3838 and in Kingston, 876/924-8762. Budget requires daily collision damage waivers and costs US$10 to US$20. You can also book online.

Hertz can be contacted via tel. 800/654-3131 in the U.S. and Canada or online at www.hertz.com. It also has local branches at Montego Bay airport, tel. 876/979-0438, and in Kingston Area, tel. 876/924-8028.

jamaica tours

Jamaica Car Rental, located at 23 Gloucester Ave. has tel. 876/952-5586 and can be reached online via www.jamaicacarrentals.com. They also have a branch at Sangster International Airport at Montego Bay which can be reached at tel. 876/952-9496.

United Car Rentals, in 49 Gloucester Ave. with tel. 876/952-3077 rents Mazdas, Toyotas, Hondas, and Suzuki jeeps, costing from US$48 per day for a standard, US$64 for automatic.

If you are in Kingston Area, you can try Island Car Rentals at 17 Antigua Ave. with tel. 876/929-5875 or online at www.islandcarrentals.com. It offers Hondas, Nissans, Toyotas, Suzukis, and others for rent at prices rates beginning at US$50 daily in winter and US$44 in the off season.

In any case of auto breakdown, call your car-rental agency for assistance. Car-rental facilities, however, are not available at Jamaica’s smaller airports.

If you’re having second thoughts about your rental, you can visit Expedia.com (www.expedia.com) and Travelocity (www.travelocity.com) if you want to compare prices and locate bargains in Jamaica.

The coastal route encircling Jamaica is well marked and easy to follow, designated by an A plus number contradictory to Jamaica’s secondary roads, urban streets, and feeder roads, whose markings sometimes are infuriatingly unclear. Get Discover Jamaica, a map containing a detailed overview of the entire island, as well as blowups of Kingston, Montego Bay, Negril, Mandeville, Spanish Town, Port Antonio, and Ocho Rios. There’s also a very useful street index to Kingston from any Jamaica Tourist Board office or car-rental agency. Or you can just use google maps for your convenience.

When Driving
Always drive at the left side of the road. Exercise caution especially at night, most drivers here are a bit reckless for comfort. Speed limits in towns are 50kmph (31 mph), and 80kmph (50 mph) outside towns and gas is measures in imperial gallon which is about ¼ more than the US gallon. Your local driver’s license is valid for short-term visits.

Moped and Motorcycle
Hotel front desks can arrange moped or motorcycle rentals for your convenience. Daily rate for a moped would be an average of $50 and $70 for a motorcycle. A deposit of $100-$300 is also generally required.

Most cabs in Jamaica are older vehicles and might not have running meters particularly in Kingston. Always ask for the price before getting in the car. There are also special taxis and buses for visitors that are operated by JUTA (Jamaica Union of Travellers Association) and have the union’s emblem on the side of the vehicle. Look for a red Public Passenger Vehicle (PPV) plate.

Taxis can be flagged down or called from phone. Taxi rates are per car, not per passenger and 25% additional rate is added to the meter at hours between midnight and 5am. Cab fares are posted inside the taxi; if you don’t see them, request a copy from the driver. A 10% to 12% tip is usually added. Avoid pirate or unlicensed taxis. Not only are they not metered — they are illegal and rarely carry insurance.

Travelers enter Jamaica via Montego Bay or Kingston (American Airlines and Air Jamaica only) via plane. If you want to fly domestic, you can use Air Jamaica Express with tel. 800/523-5585 in the U.S. and Canada, or 888/FLY-AIRJ in Jamaica. You can also book tickets online via www.airjamaica.com or through a travel agent or American Airlines.

Air Jamaica Express offers seven flights a day from Kingston to Montego Bay, two flights a day between Kingston and Ocho Rios, and two flights between Montego Bay and Ocho Rios — each about US$90 per leg.