Driving is easy on Grand Cayman, albeit on the left (British style). Most visitors, especially if they're staying along Seven Mile Beach, are content taking taxis or a one-day tour to see the sights rather than renting a car. Traffic on the road from Seven Mile Beach to George Town then onto Bodden Town in Grand Cayman is terrible, especially during the 7 to 9 am and 4:30 to 6:30 pm commuting periods, despite construction of a bypass road. Fortunately, roads are generally well marked and well maintained. One major coastal highway circumnavigates most of the island (remember that no shortcuts divide the extensive East End), though you can get lost in the tangle of side roads in primarily residential West Bay. Exploring Cayman Brac on a scooter is fun and straightforward. You won't really need a car on Little Cayman, though there are a limited number of jeeps for rent; bikes are the preferred mode of transport.
In Grand Cayman, you can find gasoline stations in and around George Town, the airport, and Seven Mile Beach. Although times vary, most open daily with hours that extend into the evening; a few remain open 24 hours a day. There are two gasoline stations on Cayman Brac and one on Little Cayman. Prices are exorbitant, even compared to those in the United States and most of the Caribbean, especially on the Sister Islands.
Park only in approved parking areas. Most hotels offer free parking. Many airport, Camana Bay, George Town, and Seven Mile Beach parking lots are free, but increasing development has prompted some major shopping centers to charge a fee if you park for more than 15 minutes (about $2.50 per hour); however, if you purchase something, parking should be validated and free. There is limited street parking, but watch for signs indicating private parking (in lots as well). Private enforcement companies are employed to discourage interlopers, placing a boot on the wheel and charging CI$75 for removal.
Grand Cayman has well-paved roads that follow the coastline. A network of main highways and bypasses facilitates traffic flow into and out of George Town. Small signs tacked to trees and poles at intersections point the way to most attractions, and local people are helpful if you get lost. Remote roads are in good repair, yet lighting can be poor at night—and night falls quickly at about 6 pm year-round.
Cayman Brac has one major road that skirts the coast, with a shortcut (Ashton Reid Drive) climbing the Bluff roughly bisecting the island. Little Cayman also provides a coastal route; unpaved sections in less-trammeled areas can become almost impassable after heavy rain. Other than that, goats, chickens, cattle, and the occasional iguana have the right of way.
Each car-rental agency has a different emergency-assistance provider. In the event of theft, accidents, or breakdowns, call your car-rental agency and follow instructions.
Rules of the Road
In the Cayman Islands, drive on the left, British style. Be mindful of pedestrians and, in the countryside, occasional livestock walking on the road. When someone flashes headlights at you at an intersection, it means "after you." Be especially careful negotiating roundabouts (traffic circles). Observe the speed limit, which is conservative: 30 mph (50 kph) in the country, 20 mph (30 kph) in town. George Town actually has rush hours: 7 to 9 am and 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Park only in approved parking areas. Always wear your seat belts—it's the law!
To rent a car in the Cayman Islands, you must have a valid driver's license and major credit card. Most agencies require renters to be between 21 and 70 years of age, though the minimum age may be 25. Those over 70 may need a certified doctor's note indicating a continuing ability to drive safely. A local driver's permit, which costs $7.50, is obtained through the rental agency. Several dozen agencies rent cars, 4WD vehicles, and SUVs; rates are expensive—ranging from $40 to $95 per day (or $250 to $600 or more per week) in high season, depending on the vehicle and whether it has air-conditioning. Many firms offer significant discounts in low season, as well as reduced three-day rates. The rental generally includes insurance, pickup and delivery service (or shuttle service to your hotel or the airport), maps, 24-hour emergency service, and unlimited mileage. Car seats are usually available upon request.
The major agencies have offices to the left as you depart from the airport terminal in Grand Cayman; the closest, Andy's, is to the right. All require that you walk outdoors for a hundred yards. Make sure your luggage is portable, because there's no shuttle; if there are two of you, one can watch the bags while the other gets the car. Many car-rental firms have free pickup and drop-off along Seven Mile Beach (or second branches) so you can rent just on the days you want to tour. Consider security when renting a jeep that cannot be locked. Midsize cars here often mean subcompact.
Grand Cayman Agencies
Ace Hertz. 345/949–2280; 800/654–3131; 855/212–1713; 345/943–4378; www.hertzcayman.com.
Andy's Rent a Car. 345/949–8111; 855/691–3991; www.andys.ky.
Avis. 345/949–2468; www.aviscayman.com.
Budget. 345/949–5605; www.budgetcayman.com.
Dollar. 345/949–4790; www.dollarlac.com.
Economy. 345/949–9550; www.economycarrental.com.ky.
Thrifty. 345/949–6640; 800/367–2277; www.thrifty.com.
Cayman Brac Agencies
B&S Motor Ventures. Cayman Brac. 345/948–1646; www.bandsmv.com.
CB Rent-a-Car. Cayman Brac. 345/948–2424; 345/948–2847; www.cbrentacar.com.
Four D's Car Rental. Cayman Brac. 345/948–1599; 345/948–0459.
Little Cayman Agencies
McLaughlin Rentals. Little Cayman. 345/948–1000.
If you own a car, your personal auto insurance may cover a rental to some degree, though not all policies protect you abroad; always read your policy's fine print. If you don't have auto insurance, then seriously consider buying the collision- or loss-damage waiver (CDW or LDW) from the car-rental company, which eliminates your liability for damage to the car.
Some credit cards offer CDW coverage, but it's usually supplemental to your own insurance and rarely covers SUVs, minivans, luxury models, and the like. If your coverage is secondary, you may still be liable for loss-of-use costs from the car-rental company. But no credit-card insurance is valid unless you use that card for all transactions, from reserving to paying the final bill. All companies exclude car rental in some countries, so be sure to find out about the destination to which you are traveling.