This section includes information on getting around Grand Cayman, the largest island in the Cayman Islands.
Is it necessary to rent a car on Grand Cayman? It depends. If you want to explore the island, you can do so on a far less expensive organized tour. Many visitors prefer to settle into their hotels at Seven Mile Beach for the duration of their visit, perhaps taking one tour or venturing into George Town for a shopping expedition. If you fall into this category, you can easily depend on buses or taxis and save yourself the hassle and expense of a renting a car. However, if you wish to explore the island and don't want to depend on taxis, a rental car is an excellent idea.
The British tradition of driving on the left is followed in the Cayman Islands. A driving permit is mandatory if you rent a car. All car rental companies are required by law to issue this permit and collect the fee of US$7.50. Permits, which are valid for 6 months, are also issued at the George Town Police Station on Elgin Avenue (tel. 345/949-4222).
Car rental prices depend on the season, with the highest rates charged between mid-December and mid-April. In the off season, prices are often reduced by around 35%. Several car rental companies operate on the island, including Avis, which has a kiosk at the Grand Cayman Airport and several at resorts along West Bay Road in George Town (tel. 800/331-1212 in the U.S., or 345/949-2468; www.avis.com); Budget, Grand Cayman Airport (tel. 800/527-0700 in the U.S., or 345/949-5605; www.budgetcayman.com); Cayman Auto Rentals, 135 N. Church St. in George Town (tel. 345/949-1013; www.caymanautorentals.com.ky); Hertz, Grand Cayman Airport (tel. 800/654-3001 in the U.S., or 345/949-2280; www.hertz.com); and Thrifty, Grand Cayman Airport (tel. 800-THRIFTY [847-4389] in the U.S., or 345/949-6640; www.thrifty.com). Avis, Budget, and Cayman Auto Rentals require that reservations be made between 6 and 36 hours before pickup.
The speed limit is 48kmph (30 mph) in built-up areas such as George Town and along Seven Mile Beach, and 64kmph (40 mph) on most other island roads. The highest speed limit on the island is in the East End, where posted speeds go up to 81kmph (50 mph). All gas prices are published at www.planning.gov.ky. Stations charge more or less the same prices, ranging from CI$3 to CI$4 per gallon. The busiest stations include Jose's Service Center across from the airport (tel. 345/949-5500); Savannah Texaco across from Countryside Shopping Village (tel. 345/947-3660); and Texas 7-Mile Beach Star Mart at Seven Mile Beach (tel. 345/949-0175).
Renting a Car 101 -- All the major car rental companies maintain kiosks within walking distance of the airport terminal on Grand Cayman, although some visitors find it easier to take a taxi to their hotel and arrange for their car to be delivered there.
All major companies suggest that car rentals be reserved at least 6 to 36 hours in advance of arrival in the Caymans. In midwinter you should reserve several days in advance because of high demand.
There is definite age "discrimination" in the Cayman Islands. Always check the age requirement with the rental agency before cementing a deal. At Avis you can be 21 years old, but at Hertz, for example, you must be 25. Budget also requires that you be 25 years old and -- get this -- not above 75 years of age.
By Taxi or Limo Bus
Taxicabs, with drivers who are generally informative and friendly, are plentiful at the airport and in front of the cruise ship terminals in George Town. You'll also find them parked in front of the major resorts along Seven Mile Beach. For the most part, drivers are among the most honest you are likely to find in the Caribbean. Shirtless, wet, or damp passengers are frowned upon and may not be taken at all. If you're going out at night, a member of the staff at your resort will often call a taxi for you. Many cabs can be hired for a tour of the island.
The government sets cab prices and regulates the cabbies, so every driver should have the official government rate sheet. Inform the driver where you're heading and agree on the fare before getting into the cab. You may want to ask to see the official rate sheet. If you're paying in U.S. dollars, don't expect the driver to accept denominations larger than US$20. Tipping cabbies between 15% and 20% is the local custom.
The island's major taxi companies include Burtons Taxi Service (tel. 345/926-8294; www.burtons.ky) and A.A. Transportation (tel. 345/949-7222). If you're going to be out late, you'll have to make advance arrangements with either of these companies for pickup. Contact the companies from Monday to Friday between 7am and 11pm or Saturday between 7am and 6pm to arrange late-night pickup times.
McCurley's Tours, North Side (tel. 345/947-9626) provides transport to and from the airport in air-conditioned limo buses. Elite Transportation (tel. 345/949-5963) also arranges airport transfers and personalized sightseeing charters at US$100 per hour. It is the only transport service on the island that provides wheelchair transportation.
Buses are mainly used by islanders going to and from work, although visitors who have endless patience and plenty of time to get around also take advantage of them. George Town has had bus service since 1998. A modern terminal adjacent to the Public Library on Edward Street in the center of George Town serves as the dispatch point for buses to all districts. In total, there are 38 minibuses serving eight routes. The most useful line runs from George Town along Seven Mile Beach every 20 minutes during the day. Bus service runs daily from 6am to midnight, with most fares costing CI$1.50 to CI$3.
Buses serve all the main points on the island, including Seven Mile Beach, West Bay, Bodden Town, East End, and North Side. There is no central number to call, since most of the buses are independently operated. For complaints and feedback, call tel. 345/945-5100, though often you'll get only a recording.
By Bike or Scooter
Grand Cayman is one of the best Caribbean islands for biking, as its main arteries are relatively flat, decently paved, wide, and properly signposted. If you stick to the coastal route, you'll experience few difficulties except for unexpected downpours. Side roads, however, can be difficult, especially if you're attempting to venture a bit into the interior. You should avoid the morning and evening rush hours at George Town and along Seven Mile Beach if possible.
In spite of Grand Cayman's reputation for safety, bicycle theft is a problem. If you're going to leave your bike unguarded, perhaps while going for a swim on a beach, make sure that it's secured, just as you would in any urban area.
A reliable independent outfitter for bike and scooter rentals on Grand Cayman is Cayman Cycle Rentals, Coconut Place, West Bay Road (tel. 345/945-4021), which is open daily from 9am to 5pm, offering a fleet of scooters, 10-speed bikes, and mountain bikes. They also provide locks and maps. Some bikes have baskets. Bikes cost US$25 per day, and scooters are US$45 a day. A US$100 deposit is required for a bike and a US$200 deposit is required for a scooter. If you don't have a credit card, a cash deposit of US$500 is required for a bike or a scooter. Insurance (which is optional) costs an additional US$26 per day.
Before arranging a bike rental at Cayman Cycle Rentals, check with your hotel to see if they rent bikes -- many of them do. Cayman Islands law requires that all cyclists and scooter riders wear helmets.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.