What to Expect from a St. Kitts Rental Car

We agonized over booking a St. Kitts rental car.

On one hand, it’s always nice to have your own wheels, especially when parking is abundant. You can get off the beaten path, save yourself the taxi fares and go wherever you want, whenever you want. On the other hand, part of the fun of being in the Caribbean, on a tiny island, is that cars aren’t necessary. Everything is within close proximity, and when you do want to do something further afield, there are plenty of guides and drivers to take you.

Up until the day we arrived in St. Kitts & Nevis, we were torn about the car rental situation. Do we or don’t we? And if we do, for how long and with what company?

Save yourself the trouble and the headache. Here’s everything we learned about renting a car in St. Kitts.

What to Expect from a St. Kitts Rental Car

What to Expect from a St. Kitts Rental Car

Book in Advance

Ok, this may not be required during low season, but we visited during what is apparently the ‘very high’ season of late winter, and were met with many companies that just didn’t have any cars left. We waited until the very last minute (same day or next day pick up) and only found two St. Kitts car rental companies on the island that still had economy cars available.

Run the Numbers

The base rate for renting an economy-size car on these islands is $45/day (USD, all figures in USD as it is one of two recognized currencies in the area). There is a $10/day required collision insurance and a $1.50/day ‘Island Improvement Fee’ that are both tacked onto your bill. Add onto that the normal sales tax.

Then there is the one-time only fee of $24 which you pay to obtain a temporary local drivers’ license at the rental facility. It is little more than a piece of paper with your name, license number, and local address, but you face fines upwards of $1000 if you do not have one and are stopped by the local police. The good news is that the license is valid for 3 months, meaning you only have to pay the license fee once if doing multiple rentals. Taking into account these fees, a one-day rental can cost upwards of $80, two-days are $150, etc.

Given the deals we normally get on rental cars, all of these fees seemed to us to be quite steep.

Despite the high prices, taxis can be even more costly, if used frequently. The taxis do not have meters, and the base cost seems to be $20 to go just about anywhere. Our taxi from the airport to our Airbnb, located a whooping 2.5 miles away, was $20. So figure on at least $40 minimum for a round trip to any destination. That adds up quickly.

We decided to do a two day rental, during our six days on St. Kitts. We figured that would give us enough car-free Caribbean time, and also allow us a couple days to explore the other sides of the island. When we got to the car rental facility, we learned of a deal to add a third day for $10 dollars more, so our total daily fee for three days was about $52 or so. Not great, but not horrible. We made the most of it, that’s for sure.

Although, is it really a good use of time in the islands to spend a bunch of time in the car? Again, such a tough decision…we’re still agonizing over it.

What to Expect from a St. Kitts Rental Car

Honestly, Choose Any Company

Every St. Kitts car rental agency uses the same fee structure. There is no rock-bottom discounter that we could find, and we searched all of the big brand rentals as well as the local companies. The big brands (Avis, Thrifty, etc.) have counters at the airport for car pick-up, as well as smaller offices in the capital city (town?) of Basseterre. The smaller, local, companies have one office, but offer the same rates and will frequently tack on an extra feature like car drop-off and pick-up.

With our last minute rental, we found the smaller companies were more likely to have availability because their rentals aren’t available on Expedia or any of the major online search engines. We simply called them or submitted an online reservation request. We ended up using Island Auto Supplies, since we could book online instantly, compared to waiting a few hours for a confirmation from the other local agencies. As an added bonus, it was only a 20 minute walk from our apartment, making the transaction even easier.

Pro tip: If you have tons of points on one of the car rental loyalty programs, the Caribbean would be a good time to cash some of them in.

What to Expect from a St. Kitts Rental Car

What to Expect from a St. Kitts Rental Car

The Lineup of Cars Is…Interesting

Do not expect a huge parking lot of shiny, new vehicles like in most large cities. Unlike in larger countries where new cars are the standard, we found that many rentals in the Caribbean have higher milage than we’ve ever seen. Our car had over 75,000 miles on it!

Our particular car was interesting in that it was an older Mazda imported from Japan. How do I know that, you ask? Well, the touchscreen display was entirely in Japanese. Occasionally, while driving, the system would beep and start speaking Japanese to us. Considering the radio/display was turned off (I know that thanks to the word “off” being shown in English), I don’t know how or why that was happening, but we just shrugged it off.

Many of the St. Kitts car rental companies also offer more fun vehicles like Jeep Wranglers, ideal for driving along the beaches dotted around the island. Many of the access roads to the beaches are not paved, and can range from gravel to grass. While a Jeep may not be necessary (we were fine with our compact car on the unpaved paths), it would be a ton of fun.

Of course, that fun comes at a cost, as a Jeep will cost you closer to $100/day, not including taxes and fees.

What to Expect from a St. Kitts Rental Car

They Drive on the Left (See What We Did There?)

Vehicles drive on the left in St. Kitts, so if you are coming from the US or Canada, give yourself a little time and space to adjust. Thankfully, we have spent the last three years in London, and I have a UK drivers license, so driving on the opposite side of the road isn’t an issue for us.

St. Kitts car rentals are available in both manual and automatic, so if you have yet to experience driving on the left, it may be best to stick to an automatic to lessen the complexity.

We found the roads around St. Kitts to be perfectly adequate. There are no stop lights (famously, not a single one), just numerous roundabouts along the island’s main ring road. As we mentioned, some of the access roads to the beaches are not paved, but they weren’t in terrible shape and perfectly drivable, even in a small vehicle.

The only unique twist to driving in St. Kitts is to be on the lookout for monkeys, goats, or the occasional mongoose crossing the street. Yes it happens, and yes, it’s as adorable as it sounds. Baby goats!

Guide to Rental Cars in-min

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  • March 4, 2017

    What a great post! I’ve never thought about hiring a car in the Caribbean before, I’m not the most confident driver so always worried that the roads won’t be in the greatest condition.
    How did you find the locals driving?

    • March 5, 2017
      Julie

      the locals are not that bad, compared to some others places we’ve been (Bari, Italy might have been the worst, and that was after a month driving on the backroads of Bosnia, Serbia, and Macedonia). There is a fair amount of overtaking, but haven’t seen any crazy dangerous drivers. The roads are a bit bumpy, but fine to drive on.

  • March 4, 2017

    I’m just back from Bonaire and we also chose to rent a car there for some of the same reasons that you mention. The car itself was a bit worse for the wear, but it worked. And the car allowed us to explore the island at our own pace.
    Carol from Wayfaring Views recently posted…11 Best Photography Spots in San Francisco: A Photo Lover’s Guide to Galleries, Museums and Shooting LocationsMy Profile

    • March 5, 2017
      Julie

      Our current car is definitely a bit worse for the wear too here in Nevis. Never a good sign when your rental car comes with one of those pine tree-shaped car scents…

  • March 5, 2017

    This is one thing we debate and just don’t do enough of, that is renting a car. Sometime we just don;t think of it and we just take public transit but there have been times that I have thought after we left a destination that we should have seen more and sometimes the only way is to rent a vehicle. We haven’t been to the Caribbean in years although we were in Cozumel we did rent an old VW bug, that was quite an experience, but we had a great time and saw more of the island than most people.
    Rob recently posted…4 Ways Full Time Travel Fast Tracked Personal Growth for MeMy Profile

    • March 5, 2017
      Julie

      we are usually really hesitant to rent a car too, unless we are venturing far from our accommodations where public transport isn’t an option. We tend to always rely on buses, trains, metro, etc…So far, we have really enjoyed having a car in St. Kitts and now Nevis. So much to see than just beautiful beaches. Fantastic hiking that is really only accessible by crazy expensive taxis or by a rental vehicle.

  • March 5, 2017

    I can absolutely relate to this! Considering when to rent a car is always on the forefront when figuring out transportation logistics. Especially when we’re on a cruise and arrive at port cites for the day, we prefer to have our own wheels to get “off the beaten path”.
    I had to chuckle about your comment of the Lineup of cars, we’ve had some interesting vehicles that we rented on the islands as well.
    Thanks for the comprehensive breakdown of costs, this will be very handy when traveling to St. Kitts!

  • March 6, 2017

    I already had rented a car in Caribbean and it was really strange driving in the left! But using a car is the best way to explore a place.

  • March 6, 2017
    Megan Jerrard

    Interesting … lol laughed out loud when I read that the car started speaking to your in Japanese 😀 It sounds similar to the car rental experience we had in Cancun – the base rate was reaonsbaly cheap but then they tacked on all the mandatory fees and the rental become reasonably pricey. I think you made a good choice going half the holiday with your rental and then enjoying the rest car free 🙂

    • March 13, 2017

      We did a tour with the St. Kitts tourism authority and the van they drove us around in did the same thing all day. I asked what it meant, and the driver had no idea. Said it just starting speaking in Japanese a random times throughout the day. Very weird indeed!

  • March 6, 2017

    I love renting cars whenever I travel.I dont like being confined to one area so I always make it my goal to rent one. I havent driven in the Caribbean yet but I feel like I’ll have trouble driving on the left side lol
    Janna recently posted…Experiencing The Lights FestMy Profile

  • March 6, 2017

    Those prices seem very high especially if in American Dollars and I’m on Canadian Dollars. Also, as a person who owns and drive a Jeep Wrangler I think my Jeep and myself would upset that i spent 100 dollars a day to drive a Jeep in another country. Its like I’m having an expensive affair lol. I like the balance of renting a car for a few days though…

    • March 13, 2017

      there isn’t a lot of competition, so prices do tend to be high. Our rental cars in St. Kitts and Nevis were fine, but certainly not in the best shape. Unfortunately, it is really the best way to get around the island efficiently…

  • March 7, 2017

    Thanks for this. It can be so hard figuring out rental cars abroad. Your experience in St. Kitts sounds very similar to my rental car in Seychelles. They rented me an old jeep type vehicle, Kia I think, with over 100k miles on it. I wasn’t sure she was going to make it up the hills!
    Mags recently posted…*Guest Post* A Three Day Sydney ItineraryMy Profile

    • March 13, 2017

      same thing happened to us in the Seychelles! Our hotel was at the top of a crazy hill, and our car BARELY made it up. We had to shift our automatic to low gear! First time we ever had to do that!

  • March 9, 2017

    I have to say, almost every time we rent a car this some sort of issue. On my trip to LA we were lucky that there was such a big issue with the booking that they upgraded our basic car to a convertible Mustang. Talk about silverlining… 🙂
    Pedro recently posted…Top 10 Things To Do in New ZealandMy Profile

    • March 13, 2017

      that works! What a lucky break!