Barbados is a paradise. Famed for its flawless white-sand beaches and calm cyan waters, you can see why this Caribbean island receives approximately 1 million visitors per year. I’ve been visiting Barbados for as long as I can remember, since I was just learning to walk. There’s a reason I have continued to return here. From the abundance of spectacular restaurants hugging the island’s west coast to the wild east where the waves are magnificent enough to surf, there’s just so much to do! Which brings me on to the question of today: to rent a car or not to rent a car?
I’ve done both. As you probably guessed by the title of this article, I’m all for hiring a car. So let’s get into the details. Why did I much prefer hiring a car than using taxis?
1. Hiring a Car Gives You The Ultimate Freedom to Explore
In my eyes, there’s nothing better than the ability to go wherever you want whenever you want. There’s so much to do in Barbados and the last thing you want to be doing is being tied in waiting for public transport at fixed times or lingering around for a taxi.
Furthermore, you have no idea how long you may want to spend at a particular location and pre-booking a return journey can be limiting.
Having your own car at your fingertips enables you to travel anywhere. I frequently find myself driving en route to a particular location and then being stopped in my tracks by the beauty of an unexpected sight. I have the freedom to change my plans and stop here. Whereas if you’re in a bus or in a taxi with a fixed fare to get to a booked location, it just isn’t possible. And trust me, Barbados is full of these unexpected gems that you are just itching to check out!
Alternatively, if somewhere you thought you’d like isn’t your vibe, you have the freedom to leave earlier than expected and scout out a new place which may be just up your street.
Yes, I really can go on forever about the benefits of freedom! This is your holiday; you don’t want to be strapped down by strict schedules.
2. Renting a Car is Surprisingly Reasonably-Priced
Something that has always made me question renting a car is price. Is it cheaper to hire a car than to use local taxis? I also believed that as Barbados is kinda an expensive location, the cars would match that. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Whilst researching car rental options, I stumbled across Drive-A-Matic Car Rentals. They have rental cars from as low as $37 USD per day which is pretty good! I like myself a bit of luxury so actually opted for a 4×4 but still this was only $53 USD per day. I’ve visited countries where you’ll find yourself forking out more like $60 USD for the basic models. Compared to this, Drive-A-Matic is ridiculously good value.
Driving in Barbados does require you to purchase a driving permit but it’s only $5 USD per person.
Remember, when hiring a car it’s always important to read the small-print as some companies may appear to be really cheap but the hidden costs can easily mount up. I always avoid mainstream companies like Avis, Hertz etc because these big-boys are riddled with hidden costs and low integrity.
This is another reason why I was impressed with Drive-A-Matic. It’s totally free to have your car dropped off at your hotel and all rentals already come with insurance (I would recommend reading up on exactly what it covers here).
My favourite aspect was that Drive-A-Matic Car Rentals operate on a full-to-full basis. You are given your car with a full tank of petrol (or gas as it’s called in Barbados) and you just need to return it with the same. That way you are only paying for the petrol you use. This may sound obvious but I have unfortunately hired from a company in the past that made you pay for a full tank up-front and even if you only used half, you still had to pay for that full tank. So always watch out for this!
Based on the fact that there are no hidden extras, just the car rental, driving permit and petrol, hiring a car with Drive-A-Matic is amazing value!
3. Hiring a Car is Stress-free!
I honestly think there’s nothing worse than landing in a new country after flying for hours and hours to then have to haggle for a taxi. After likely paying over-the-odds for one, as you are at the airport (airport taxis always cost an arm and a leg), you then have to make sure you give the right address and may have to assist with navigation. This isn’t exactly a relaxing start to your trip away! I know I always end up feeling exhausted from haggling and left questioning whether or not I was ripped off.
Picking your rental car up is, in stark contrast, a breeze. The Drive-A-Matic office is actually within the airport building (on the outside of it but still part of it). To pick up my car all I needed to do was approach a receptionist and give them my confirmation number. The staff were incredibly friendly and made me feel relaxed. After settling up the bill, my rental car was then driven right up to me, ready for me to hop right in!
I was pleased at how new the vehicle was and as expected, everything worked like a dream.
It was even easier to drop my car off at the end of my trip. I just needed to park it in the airport carpark and then hand the receptionist the car keys and parking ticket. That’s it!
4. The Roads in Barbados are Easy to Drive
One of my biggest concerns with renting a car is wondering what the roads will be like. I’ve driven in some interesting places! Perhaps the most challenging was when I hired a car in The Gambia, Africa and I constantly had to dodge cars pulling onto the road without indicating, donkeys in the road, cow crossings and much more. You’ll be pleased to know that driving in Barbados is a lot more relaxing! The roads are reasonably quiet and the drivers are careful.
It’s important to note that driving is on the left-hand-side of the road. If you are from the UK, like me, then this is perfect as it’s exactly the same as driving at home.
The only thing to be wary about is some of the roads have potholes in and some development means that there are some diversions set-up so follow those closely.
5. Hiring a Car Makes Things Super Convenient
Having your own rental car is convenient in many ways but one of the key benefits I noticed was the ability to easily transport lots of items. For example, I was keen to go to the beach. This meant that I needed to pack beach towels, snorkel gear, flippers or water shoes and a change of clothes. Being a camera-crazy individual I also had to take along all my camera gear. This is a large haul! I would have struggled to take all of this on a bus with me and would have been forced to carry it around all day.
Instead, this is what happened.
I was able to leave all my beach gear in the back of the car as I had some lunch and then later when I decided to swim, I was able to keep my camera gear and other valuables (phone, wallet etc) safe in the car. I just wouldn’t have felt happy swimming knowing that my valuables were unattended on the beach and I would have felt a bit like a lemming sitting at lunch accompanied by a mountain of beach gear!
Where is the Best Place to Hire a Car in Barbados?
Now that I’ve convinced you to rent a car (if I’ve not then I wave my arms in the air wailing ‘WHY?!?’), you now need to find the best place to hire your car.
As I’ve previously mentioned, I have been very impressed with Drive-A-Matic who provided me with a seamless car rental experience for an affordable price and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them.
Drive-A-Matic tick my very lengthy list of things to look for in a car rental company. For starters, they’re a local company. This is a big must! I’ve had nothing but grief with huge national rental companies. Local companies have continued to provide me with the best services and rates. Other bonuses include their affordable pricing, their amazing customer service, the awesome fleet they have (I absolutely LOOOVVVEED my Suzuki Jimny Sport! So many people actually stopped me and said ‘I love your car’) and the fact that there are no hidden costs.
Barbados is a beautiful island with so many exciting places to explore. Some of the best places are more off-the-beaten-path so be prepared to travel around this magnificent little island. That would be my recommendation!
I hope you enjoyed reading my top 5 reasons for car rental in Barbados. I’m definitely one of those people who loves to have freedom to explore and for that reason alone I cannot rave about self-drive holidays enough!