Driving in St. Lucia- What You Need to Know
If you are traveling to the beautiful island of St. Lucia for your next getaway, you likely have numerous questions.
These are all very common and important questions, and they are among the many things that we will address here. St. Lucia is an exciting destination with many things to see, do, and experience, and if you want to make the most of your trip, you will certainly find it more economical to rent a car than to consistently take taxis all over the island. But before you make a booking with the first agent you find and show up to pick up your car, there are a number of things that you should know. Whether you want to drive up the majestic mountains or cruise along the coast, choosing the right rental car and understanding the basics of driving on the island can make a world of difference both in price and in the overall quality of your trip.
The Basics of International Driving in St Lucia
Before we get into the benefits of utilizing a rental car to drive in St. Lucia, we should cover the basics of who can do so and how to go about it. First, you will want to visit the immigration station at either airport or utilize the services offered by police stations and rental car companies to obtain a temporary permit to drive on the island. The cost is $20 USD or $54 EC. The permit is good for as many as three months, but is a necessity to drive on the island even if you only intend to do so for a day or two. If you already possess an international driving permit, you will still need to have it stamped at either Hewanorra International Airport on the southern end of the island or George F.L. Charles Airport, located in Castries.
In terms of renting a car, most companies require that drivers be over the age of 25 for insurance purposes. This is not the case with all companies, however. For example, our recommended rental car company, Islander Cars, offers a young driver policy that enables younger drivers to get behind the wheel of their own rental car. As long as you are eighteen years old and have the proper skills, you will find that you are able to rent a car to help you explore all that the island has to offer.
Road Conditions in St. Lucia
Driving in St. Lucia is certainly a great way to see and explore the island, but understanding the road conditions is certainly important. Drivers from countries like the United States should be aware that in St. Lucia, drivers STAY to the left hand side of the road like they do in the United Kingdom. It is also important to realize that St. Lucia is home to mountains and many changes in elevation that do require caution. There are main roads along both the Atlantic and Caribbean coasts that offer beautiful scenery and that are paved with two lanes, but due to storms that have hit the island, it is critical that drivers take care to avoid potholes, especially along the shoulders of the road, in order to prevent tire damage or even an accident. When visiting populated neighborhoods, it is also very important to keep an eye out for local dogs who often decide to take up a piece of warm asphalt on the road’s shoulder for a nap. It is also important to note that the highways are only two- lanes, which means that any accidents or traffic can delay your trip. Because of this, it is highly recommended that you ensure that you leave in time for any flights, tours, or other departures.
Beyond the two coastal roads, there are a number of other roads that are important for navigating to the many thrilling sights and attractions on the island and it is important to realize that not all of them are paved or flat. Because of this, if you are intent on really adventuring and exploring, it is highly recommended that you rent a four wheel drive vehicle. This can help immensely with ascending higher elevations and making it through tougher areas of road. From the rain forests to the mountains and even a drive-in volcano, St. Lucia has many things to see, do, and experience, and you want a vehicle that is capable of taking you wherever you wish to go.
Navigating From Hewanorra International Airport
While writing a comprehensive guide to and from every destination on St. Lucia would be next to impossible, knowing how to get to your destination from Hewanorra International Airport is important, as it is where most visitors to the island both arrive and depart. From here, you have two primary highways to choose from, depending on your destination. The good news is that both highways head north along the coast (one Caribbean and one Atlantic), making it very hard to get lost on the way to most of the island’s most popular destinations.
The first highway is the Vieux Fort-Castries Highway, which goes along the Atlantic coast of St. Lucia to Castries as well as Rodney Bay and other northern island highlights and is a fast and simple trip. The other highway, the St. Jude Highway, follows the island’s scenic Caribbean coast and is the perfect way to get to Soufriere, the island’s historic and adventure packed capital.
While it is possible to rent cars with GPS, it is highly advised that travelers looking to drive in St. Lucia purchase a quality road map of the island. This can prove invaluable should you find yourself lost or without a signal. You can find maps in locations on the island, but it doesn’t hurt to pick one up in advance through a major retailer or travel company.
Picking A Rental Company and Choosing the Right Car
It goes without saying that the right car and rental company can make a huge difference in your trip. After all, you want a car capable of handling what St. Lucia has to offer but that won’t break your budget. For this reason, we recommend Islander Cars, as they provide a wide range of four wheel drive vehicles with a bevy of options and amenities for a price that won’t set your vacation budget too far back. While you can find rental car companies based at either airport, near cruise ship terminals, and near most of the island’s tourist areas, you will find that the Islander team can meet you wherever you need to be picked up with a vehicle that meets your needs. Likewise, they will gladly meet you at the airport when your trip is over so that you can return your car easily and conveniently without having to take a taxi from the rental company back to the airport or to pay the high prices of rental companies based at the airport.
In terms of the right car for you, there are a couple of things to take into consideration. The first, of course, is the number of people in your party. Additionally, however, you will want to consider whether you will be sticking to the two main highways or taking off to see some of the amazing sights that are a little more off the beaten path. If exploration and adventure are in store for you, we highly recommend selecting a vehicle with four wheel drive. This will ensure that you can ascend the heights, navigate unpaved roads, and generally get where you need to be safely and comfortably.
Pricing for a quality rental car depends on the season. During the peak season, a quality four wheel drive with all of the things you need to safely drive around St. Lucia will run you around $55-$75 USD. While amenities and services vary from one company to the next, vehicles offered by Islander are always impeccably maintained and serviced and all vehicles are air conditioned- a must when travelling the Caribbean. While you have many options, it is important to note that some local companies do not offer a high level of service and maintenance, while some of the bigger name chains that you are used to off of the island tend to offer vehicles that are less well suited to the island’s terrain and prices that can leave your wallet hurting in a hurry. Other things to look for in a quality St. Lucia car rental are things such as unlimited mileage and complimentary airport pickup and dropoff service.
Ultimately, you will find that you have many choices when it comes to rental cars. From big brand names with their big prices and extra fees to smaller, local companies that offer varying levels of quality. It is up to you to find the company that you feel is the best fit for you, but you want to make sure you are getting the best deal for the money you pay. This means looking for things like weekly discounts, free cell phones in case of emergency, quality, safe cars that are regularly inspected and maintained, and a company that is willing to go above and beyond to provide you with the highest level of service and quality possible. With the right rental car, you will find that driving in St. Lucia is more than just a way to get around- it is your key to adventures and experiences like you’ve never even dreamed of!