International rental agencies are generally in Nassau, and you will rent from privately owned companies on the small islands. Be warned that you might have to settle for a rusty heap that doesn't have working seat belts. Check it out thoroughly before you leave. And assume companies won't have car seats—bring your own.
To rent a car, you must be 21 years of age or older in both the Bahamas and the Turks and Caicos, the latter of which charges a flat tax of $15 on all rentals.
It's common to hire a driver with a van, and prices are negotiable. Most drivers charge by the half day or full day, and prices depend on the stops and distance, although half-day tours are generally $50 to $100 for one to four people. Full-day tours are $100 to $200. It's customary to pay for the driver's lunch. All tour guides in the Bahamas are required to take a tourism course, pass a test to be a guide, and are required to get a special license to operate a taxi.
The cost of fuel in the Bahamas is usually at least twice that in the United States, and prepare to pay in cash. Stations may be few and far between on the Out Islands. Keep the car full. You can ask for a handwritten receipt if printed ones are not available. Gas stations may be closed Sunday.
There are few parking meters in the Bahamas, none in downtown Nassau. Police are lenient with visitors' rental cars parked illegally and will generally just ask the driver to move it. Parking spaces are hard to find in Nassau, so be prepared to park on a side street and walk. Most hotels offer off-street parking for guests. There are few parking lots not associated with hotels.
In case of a road emergency, stay in your vehicle with your emergency flashers engaged and wait for help, especially after dark. If someone stops to help, relay information through a small opening in the window. If it's daylight and help does not arrive, walk to the nearest phone and call for help. In the Bahamas, motorists readily stop to help drivers in distress.
Ask for emergency numbers at the rental office when you pick up your car. These numbers vary from island to island. On smaller islands, the owner of the company may want you to call him at his home.
Rules of the Road
Remember, like the British, islanders drive on the left side of the road, which can be confusing because most cars are American with the steering wheel on the left. It is illegal, however, to make a left-hand turn on a red light. Many streets in downtown Nassau are one-way. Roundabouts pose further confusion to Americans. Remember to keep left and yield to oncoming traffic as you enter the roundabout and at "Give Way" signs.
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