Should you rent a vehicle or hire a taxi/driver service?
Renting a vehicle
The process for renting a car in St Lucia is similar to most other places you’ve usually visited – find a rental company, reserve the car, then fill out the paperwork and get the car after arrival. However, there is one notable difference. In St Lucia, many of the car rental companies will deliver the vehicle to your hotel/villa at no extra charge over getting the car at the airport. You may also return it to the airport at no additional fee. Also, every driver needs to purchase a St. Lucian driving permit, at a cost of about $20 US.
Many of our guests that rent a vehicle do not pick up the vehicle at the airport. They use our driver service to the villa, dine on the contents of our welcome basket for dinner that night and breakfast the next morning, then have the vehicle delivered late morning/early afternoon their first full day. This way, they don’t have to worry about having to find the villa – we don’t have a street address and our street isn’t even on Google maps, although we do provide a map and driving directions to you prior to your arrival. And they don’t have to worry about driving after dark in case their flight is delayed. The cost for the driver service usually balances out to be nearly the same as a day of car rental.
Taxi service (priced by the trip)
You are likely accustomed to taxi service where you flag down a cab in the street or use an app like Über to call a ride. There are no cab apps in St Lucia, and cabs don’t drive around looking for fares. If you want to go to dinner or the beach, for instance, you’ll call the taxi driver and they will come to the villa to get you and take you to your destination. You’ll have to use a taxi service that knows where the villa is located (we have two recommended drivers that do), as there are no street addresses in our neighborhood. Unless you tell them otherwise, the taxi driver will also pick you up when your activity is over and drive you back to the villa. They will give you their phone number or their card, and you call them shortly before you are ready to be picked up, or tell them when to be back to get you. They are usually paid in cash at the end of the trip, so be sure to get the price for your round trip before they pick you up.
Driver service (priced by the day)
Our driver also offers an all-day service, where you hire them for the entire day. They will show up at a pre-arranged time, drive you wherever you want to go, to as many places as you want to go for the day. They’ll either wait for you or come back at a set time or when you call, and take you to the next place. And “day” is not limited to daylight hours – a day is from the time you leave the villa in the morning until you return and won’t be going out again. This is a great way to get a tour guide at the same time as transportation. The drivers usually know the best out-of-the way spots for whatever it is you want to do. Please note that the driver service reserves the right to charge a cancellation penalty if you reserve a day and then don’t use their services.
Many of us think of a car that seats four people when we hear the word “taxi”. But in St Lucia, many of the taxi/driver services have several kinds of vehicles. Most of the local companies have cars they use for small groups or when you don’t have luggage or beach gear, and vans they use for other times. Here are pictures of one local company’s vehicles:
Do I have to decide before I arrive?
Not really, but there is a good chance you won’t be able to rent the vehicle you want at the price you want if you wait until you arrive – especially in the high season. The car rental companies frequently are sold out of the lowest cost vehicles several months ahead of time.
If you think you want to rent a car, but are a little hesitant because of the reports of the driving conditions, we suggest you read the cancellation policies of the car rental companies. Some of them do not charge any cancellation fee, so you can reserve a vehicle and then cancel with no penalty.
If you believe you want to use a taxi/driver service, we can find one for you after arrival if you do not wish to organize that ahead of time. She can also help you find a rental car for a few days if you decide you want to try driving after you arrive (subject to availability).
Which is best for us?
Although there are always exceptions, the following table may help you make your decision:
|Rent a vehicle if…||Hire a driver/taxi if…|
|You seek adventure. The worse the road the better – you love off-roading!||You want to just relax|
|You want to explore independently||You prefer having a tour guide|
|You don’t mind stopping to ask for directions or will use our directions, bring your own GPS, or use Google maps (offline or international phone service)||You don’t like driving in unfamiliar places where the roads don’t have street addresses, and the idea of being lost in a foreign country sounds intimidating|
|You are going to be out and about every day, or don’t mind paying for a vehicle even on days when you stay at the villa||You want to spend a lot of time at the villa and having Doxie cook for you, and won’t need transportation except for a few days|
|There are four or less in your group (our recommended vehicle only seats four average-sized people but is ideal for narrow roads and is reasonably priced)||You have four or more people (larger cars are more challenging on narrow roads and can get expensive quickly)|
|One person will be the designated driver and will abstain from drinking then driving||No one wants the responsibility of being the designated driver|
|You prefer to make your plans for the day while you eat breakfast (or lunch….)||You like to plan ahead a bit on what you’ll do and when|
|Anyone driving will be between the ages of 25 and 65||The driver is under 25 or over 65 (more difficult/expensive for those age groups)|
|You are comfortable driving on the left-hand side of the road||You have not driven on the left side of the road and you don’t look forward to it!|
|Your whole group will be on the same schedule||You want the flexibility of splitting up for at least part of the time|
|You are comfortable maneuvering through tight spaces||You are worried every time you pull into your garage that you’ll side-swipe the door|
|You are carefully managing a budget and want to know your full transportation costs prior to arrival and pay via credit card in St Lucia||You are comfortable paying us with a credit card or PayPal account before your trip for the taxi/driver services, or don’t mind paying with cash after arrival|
So what about the cost?
Please note that these prices are presented to aid you in understanding the range of prices for various options, and are not firm quotes.
Rental car prices: Start at about $50 per day for a Suzuki Jimny (seats four adequately) during the low season (e.g., September). In that same time period, a Hyundai Santa Fe (seats seven) is over $110 per day. In the high season, the rates are 30%-50% higher. (Prices exclude the cost of gas and insurance). We strongly recommend you rent a vehicle with high ground clearance, as small cars run a high risk of damage on the roads to the villa from potholes in the roads.
Taxi prices: (by the trip, up to four people, round-trip and in US $ unless otherwise noted):
|Anse Chastanet or Soufriere:||$40|
|A full day in the Soufriere region:||$100|
|Villa to/from the airport:||$80 (one-way)|
The price for five or more people is generally higher by a few dollars – please ask for specific pricing.
Driver services by the day: Our driver also offers a flat daily price for as many trips as you want in the Soufriere region. The only limitation on this is that it includes one driver and one vehicle (the vehicle will be large enough to seat your entire group comfortably). The daily price for four or fewer people is $100US; it is $120US for five or six people.
You can’t switch back and forth between the options (by-the-trip vs by-the-day) during your stay, although you don’t have to select the program until after your arrival.
Discounts: ask for a quote for discounts on driver services if you hire them on the by-the-day basis and hire them for more than four days.
Our driver currently only accepts cash, but we do offer a pre-paid option where we invoice you through PayPal and you can pay using your credit card and we pay the driver for you. If you pre-pay for more services than you use, we will refund the unused monies promptly after your stay is over. We do charge a 4% convenience fee for this service, to cover the costs charged by the financial institutions.
We tried to get the ability to pay by credit card at the villa, but the local bank wanted to charge 20% as a service fee, so we created the PayPal option to keep costs reasonable. Before you decide whether to pay cash after you get there or pre-pay, you may want to check with your card provider to see what charges you will incur and what exchange rate you will get if you have to withdraw money from the ATMs in St Lucia. Our experience is that the banks can charge some pretty high fees.
If you decide you would prefer taxi service, we can help you arrange for that, either before or during your trip.
If you decide to rent a vehicle, we strongly recommend renting a vehicle with four-wheel drive and high ground clearance . The road to the villa is rough, and we’ve damaged a car before (a rock dented the bumper of a car that was low to the ground when we hit a big hole). Check your credit card before you leave – if you have rental car insurance included as a benefit, check to see if they cover international rentals. But most won’t cover an open-bed vehicle, such as a pickup truck, so be aware of that when you select a vehicle.
When deciding on taking or not taking the rental car company’s insurance, be aware that you will most likely get some very minor scratching on the side of the car (from vegetation brushing against the car) when driving the road from Soufriere to the villa. The car rental company might charge you for the scratches if you’ve waived the insurance, even though the scratches polish out easily (a few dollars’ worth of polish and 20 minutes work and they are gone). And some rental companies will have you give them a significant deposit if you waive the insurance (we rented once with Sixt and they placed a $1000 US hold on the credit card when we waived their insurance.)
We’ve found a Suzuki Jimny is a very good choice for two people, and seats four acceptably (it is only a two-door). It is rather shy on luggage space for more than two people, but you may find it more economical to use a taxi service between the airport and villa to handle your luggage instead of renting a larger vehicle than the Jimny for your entire stay.
We recommend Drive A Matic Car Rental and Cool Breeze Car Rental. We also recommend reserving the vehicle as soon as possible, especially if you are travelling in high season and decide on the Jimny, as there are a limited number of vehicles available and the smaller 4-wheel drive ones are very popular with tourists.
Both car companies will deliver the car to the villa at your requested time and will bring the paper work (and temporary St Lucian Drivers Licenses) to the villa. Just give them the name of the villa (Villa Grand Piton) and tell them it is near Anse Chastanet, Soufriere and our telephone number 758-457-1263.
Age restrictions: We know of only one company (Best Rates) that will rent to you if you are over 70. If you are over 65 but not yet 70, Drive-A-Matic will allow you to rent if you have a certified doctor’s note that you are medically able to drive safely. (If you are 70, contact Drive-A-Matic, or ask us to contact them for you, to see if you can still rent – their information is a little unclear on whether the cut-off is 70 or 71). You may bring that note from your own doctor, or we can help arrange a doctor’s visit in Soufriere after you arrive. Cool Breeze does not rent to drivers over 65. Neither car rental agency rents to drivers under the age of 25.
Local driving permit or international driver’s license? You will need one or the other to drive in St Lucia. We recently confirmed that an International Driving Permit/License is acceptable instead of purchasing the St Lucian driving permit. Have the permit stamped at Immigration when you present your passport. Getting the permit was easy – we are AAA members here in the US, and we stopped at the local AAA office and purchased an international license that is good for one year. However, the fee for the picture for the license was $9, and the license itself was $15, so the total cost was $24. The St Lucian permit is $20US and is good for three months, and the car rental company will issue you the permit. You will need to have your valid driver’s license from your home country with you and present it to the car rental company representative in order to receive a permit.
Drive A Matic Car Rental (www.drivestlucia.com)
1-758-452-0544 (St Lucian number)
They have a good price on the Jimny, and have a more sophisticated web site than Cool Breeze. The Jimnys are automatic transmission – a big plus for those driving on the left side of the road for the first time. They do not require a deposit in order to accept a reservation.
Cool Breeze Car Rental (www.coolbreezecarrental.com)
St Lucia Reservatons – 758-459-7729 Fax 758-459-7729
Located in: New Development Soufriere
Read their website carefully – some of the vehicles are described as manual transmission. They require a one-day deposit to accept your reservation.
To rent a car, use the car rental company’s website, or call them. You can also call Loretta (832-808-3757) and she will help you figure out what to do.
Here is an example of a typical completed on-line reservation form for rental of a Jimny from Drive-A-Matic. If you want the vehicle brought to the villa, when you are presented with the “Delivery Location Selection” drop-down, choose “Other”. In the Contact Information form, in the “Deliver To” box, type in “Villa Grand Piton, Soufriere”. If you have an international cell phone plan, enter your cell phone in the “Telephone (St Lucia)” box. Otherwise, use the villa phone (758-457-1263)
Thank You for choosing Drive-A-Matic Car Rentals. Your booking details are shown below. Our Reservations Department will send you your booking confirmation number by email. Please note, your booking is not confirmed until you have received your Booking Confirmation Number. Should you require further assistance, please feel free to contact us via one of the following methods:
|B2 Vehicle Group|
|Suzuki Hard-Top Jimny|
|1300 cc Engine Size|
|2 Small Suitcases|
|TOTAL (USD)||$440.00 (Price Varies Seasonally)|
|FULL NAME:||Your Name|
|NUMBER:||Your contact information|
|COMMENT:||Tell the car rental car company that the car should be delivered to the Villa Grand Piton. (Located up near Anse Chastanet area) they know where the Villa is located. The owner B&B Associates, Ltd Phone Manager; Doxie (Manager) 519-9495. Car rental is for Villa Grand Piton Guests (your name) phone located in the villa is 758-457-1263|
|DELIVER TO:||Private Residence|
|LOCAL TELEPHONE:||VILLA TELEPHONE 758-457-1263|
|LOCAL ADDRESS:||Villa Grand Piton P.O. Box 215 Soufriere, Saint Lucia WI Your cell phone (if it works internationally)|