Martinique is a rather small Caribbean island, and renting a car is advised. But travelers need to prepare for difficult country roads and city traffic in Fort-de-France. Since Martinique is a French island, the driving laws are the same as they are in France. The ease of parking in Martinique and the good conditions of the road makes it fairly easy to drive in the country. Although the roads in Martinique are well marked and well-maintained, it can still be dangerous to drive on weekend nights for tourists, when the roads are more packed (people tend to be more aggressive drivers), and also to be traversing the rural or mountain roads.
Since Martinique is a French island, the driving laws are the same as they are in France and, if a traveler doesn't have a French license, they're required to carry an International Drivers Permit. The minimum age for driving in Martinique is 18 years old, and it is mandatory to have your insurance and registration on-hand in order to drive on the island.
Checklist for Driving in Martinique:
- Driver's License: Required
- Passport: Recommended
- IDP: Required
- Car Registration: Required
- IDP: Required/Recommended
- Insurance: Required
Rules of the Road
Luckily for American travelers, drivers in Martinique drive on the right side of the road, and there are no toll roads on the island. Visitors should note, however, that manual checks are frequent in Martinique and that the permitted alcohol level is 0.05 percent so one cocktail could put drivers over the legal limit.
- Speed Limits: In towns, the speed limit is 50 kph; on major roads, it increases to 90 kph; and on motorways, it is 110 kph. Make sure you stick to the speed limit, as there are speed cameras dotted throughout the island.
- Overtaking: Overtaking in Martinique is on the left side of the road
- Gas/Fuel Stations: There are petrol and diesel fuel stations located throughout the island.
- Seat Belts: Seatbelts are mandatory for both the driver and the passengers in the front and the back of the vehicle.
- Cell Phones: Mobile phones are prohibited while driving; hands-free systems and headsets are allowed
- Alcohol/Drug Use: The permitted blood alcohol level is 0.05%, which translates to 0.05g of alcohol in every 100ml of blood.
- Car Seats: Car seats are required for children under six-years-old, while children under the age of twelve are legally required to sit in the back seat
- On the Spot Fines: Manual checks are frequent in Martinique, and tickets can also be issued by speed cameras.
- In case of an emergency: 112 is the number to call for all emergencies in Martinique, including the police, the fire department, and the ambulance.
Road Conditions in Martinique
While renting a car is definitely the best way to navigate Martinique, drivers should be aware that the driving style in Martinique is quite fast, and could come as a surprise to visitors used to the more relaxed pace found on other islands. But, to a traveler’s benefit, Fort-de-France features several multi-lane roads that make getting around on the island more efficient. Fort-de-France features the A1 autoroute, the only member of the French autoroute system to exist outside mainland France and the road leads from the Aimé Césaire International Airport to the capital in Fort-de-France.
Other popular routes include that from Fort-de-France to Marin, which is roughly 27 miles (40 minutes), and Sainte-Anne to Trois Ilets, which is just over 21 miles (and has a duration of 35 minutes). While the conditions of the multi-lane highways are very well-preserved, the quality of the road can change when you’re visiting the mountainous regions of the country. Plan to rent a vehicle with four-wheel drive to account for the changes in road condition. These winding roads in rural areas can be difficult to navigate at night, so tourists are suggested to find alternate means of transportation in the evening. You can consult the front desk at your hotel for a shuttle, or call a taxi for transportation in the evenings.
Should You Rent a Car in Martinique?
The minimum age for renting a car in Martinique is 21, and the driver must have held their license for over a year. If you're renting under the age of 25, there will be additional fees. Renting a car is the most efficient way of getting around Martinique, as there are no ride-share apps and the small island is easily navigable with your own wheels. But travelers should be aware that the demand for rental cars is so high during the peak winter tourist season, that rental companies are known to sell out of vehicles. Travelers should reserve their vehicle in advance.
Driving at Night
Tourists aren’t recommended to drive at night, so plan on calling a cab if you have evening activities scheduled during their trip. The reason for this precaution is two-fold: The winding roads in the mountainous and/or rural areas of the country can be difficult to navigate during the day and are even more dangerous at night. Additionally, due to the frequent checks and on-the-stop fines, if you’re planning on drinking in the evening, then you should plan on having another designated driver to escort you home.
You are often able to park your car alongside the road in most places in Martinique. You should check with your hotel to see if there is additional secure parking for use. The parking is often free of charge, except for in the capital of Fort-de-France and in more heavily-packed tourist areas.