Shall I rent a car in Punta Cana?

Many people planning their vacation in Punta Cana are only booking their resort and an airport transfer, but are hardly thinking about a rental car, even it might be a good option. Others go straight ahead and book a car rental immediately, even it might not be a good idea, considering the conditions in the Dominican Republic. But how is the situation in Punta Cana and beyond, does it make sense to book a rental car when planning a holiday in the Dominican Republic? Is it safe to drive in Punta Cana? Let me explain to you a few basics and provide you with some individual guidelines so that you can better evaluate if it makes sense for you to explore Punta Cana by rental car.

This article answers some questions about what to take care of when renting a car in Punta Cana and if it is a good idea. You also get an impression if it is safe to drive in Punta Cana. Instead, if you are looking for itineraries and road-trip ideas, you can check out the following articles:
Dominican Republic 1-week itinerary from/to Punta Cana – beaches, culture and mountains
Samaná 3-day itinerary from/to Punta Cana – the most beautiful region in the Dominican Republic

Is it safe to rent a car in Punta Cana?

 Many people ask if it’s safe to rent a car in Punta Cana. While the general answer on this is yes, it is worth to have a detailed view on this question.

Renting a car in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic: the rental car company

 First, check your rental car company. Usually, you don’t have to expect any problems here. While in some countries it might be a true hassle to find a reliable company, most of the rent-a-cars in the Dominican Republic offer convenient and customer-oriented service. From that perspective, renting a car in Punta Cana is perfectly safe.

 The only thing you have to take care of is your insurance. While I know that some travelers have rental car insurance included in their credit card, I recommend booking full insurance with collision damage waiver (including a deductible of 0 USD) and liability insurance beforehand. If you have booked this with your rental car, you can decline all additional insurance offers the rental car agent might have for you when picking up your car. Otherwise, they will try hard to sell you additional insurances you might not need. I usually use price comparison websites such as Car del Mar* and Holiday Autos* to book my car with full insurance and coverage included – see below for more details about possible options where to book.

 Besides that, the rental car pick-up here in the country is a smooth process. With more than twenty cars already rented in Punta Cana or other parts of the Dominican Republic, I never had a company trying to trick with the damage protocol, the amount of fuel or other sneaky issues. Therefore, avoid signing in for unnecessary insurance is the only thing you have to take special care of when renting a car in Punta Cana.

TRAVEL COACHING

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Do you need help planning a customized vacation in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic? Is it difficult for you to decide what and where to book? Would you like to take advantage of someone with years of experience in the tourism industry (knowing all the travel hacks 😉 ) and living right in the place where you would like to spend your holiday?
That’s what my personal travel coaching is for. I will design your tailor-made itinerary, tell you how to save money on your trip and send you the best insider tips and recommendations. All the information I send you are crafted with love and passion – and are coming with a money-back guarantee. Let me know how I can help you (check my packages here) and send me a request here!

The author Chris in the Dominican Republic

Driving a rental car in Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic: road rules

 When it comes to safety, road rules and driving behavior is the next issue we have to discuss – and it’s probably the toughest one. While the quality of roads in the Dominican Republic is in general more than acceptable – especially considering that we are speaking about a developing country – the behavior of its participants isn’t a reason to start excessive celebrations. Usually, road rules are more considered to be recommendations than a firm law and especially in bigger cities, traffic can be chaotic. On the other hand, driving in Punta Cana and the neighboring areas is not as aggressive as in other parts of the Dominican Republic, but you still need to exercise caution and be passive, especially in your first days.

Road-Trip through the west of the Dominican Republic with views on the Sierra de Neyba

 If you have never rented a car in a foreign country, you should not start with doing so in the Dominican Republic. On the other hand, if you have some experience and it is not your first country to drive, you can easily rent a car in Punta Cana.

Exploring Punta Cana and the Dominican Republic by rental car: safety and crime

 The Dominican Republic is often considered to be a country of street crime and safety issues so that one can ask the questions if it is safe to rent a car in Punta Cana. And while there are these kinds of crime in certain areas, it won’t be a major problem during your road-trip. Most of the crimes committed in the Dominican Republic are not targeted on tourists – that’s why you don’t have to be concerned about it. While Santo Domingo is a hotspot of safety incidents and I would not cross the city with open windows of my car for example, you don’t have to worry about this in Punta Cana or other parts of the Dominican Republic, which are generally a lot safer. Once you get used to the driving conditions in the country, you can fully enjoy your trip. Just don’t get careless and act as you would act in any other country in the world (don’t leave any valuables in the car, hide your luggage, don’t stop at night to help strangers, etc.). 

For your Dominican Republic vacation

Travel resources

Punta Cana Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
Santo Domingo Airport Transfers: Info | Book It*
All-Inclusive Resorts: Info | Book It*
Guesthouses & AirBnBs: Info | Book It*
Excursions: Info | Book It*
Rental Car: Info | Book It*
Road-Trips & Self-Drive Tours: Info | Plan It
Travel Insurance (incl. covid-19 coverage): Book it*

 If you consider these tips and recommendations, it is absolutely safe to rent a car in Punta Cana. I have done so over 20 times and enjoyed all the different road-trips we made so far in the Dominican Republic.  

Is it worth to rent a car in Punta Cana?

 After discussing the safety, let’s have a look if it’s worth to rent a car in Punta Cana. Can you reach interesting attractions in the area? Can you use it to see the highlights of Punta Cana? Is it worth the money for your vacation in the Bavaro area? 

 It depends – mainly on the type of accommodation and the style of holiday you are planning.

Road-Trip through the mountains of Bonao northwest of Santo Domingo

Is it worth renting a car if you stay at an all-inclusive resort?

 Theoretically, if you come to an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic, you don’t need a rental car. You have everything you need in your hotel, including food and drinks all day long, entertainment, the beach, etc. You even don’t need to leave the hotel to go shopping, to get souvenirs or to book excursions – you have everything right on the property.

 However, you are limited to what your hotel offers and if you would like to explore Punta Cana on your own and outside of guided excursions, then you either need a driver or – you know it – a rental car. Especially if you like to venture out off-the-beaten-track and visit the hidden gems of Punta Cana, there is hardly any way you can do it without a rental car if you don’t want to pay a driver or a taxi every day.

 Therefore, if you are just planning to stay in your resort for relaxing, swimming and sunbathing, you don’t have to book a car. If you’d like to discover the secret spots of Punta Cana and the authentic Dominican Republic, I highly recommend renting a car.

Is it worth to rent a car if you stay in an apartment, villa or guesthouse?

 If you have booked accommodation outside of the all-inclusive resorts, the situation is a bit different. 

 First, you might have to go shopping, head to the beach (in case your hotel is not beachfront) or dine out at one of the several restaurants in Punta Cana. In this case, a car would help enormously, as you remain flexible and can go wherever you want at every time. Taxis would be the only alternative, but this might be expensive especially as Uber is struggling to get established in Punta Cana.

 Second, you might have booked yourself an accommodation outside of the big all-inclusive resorts because you’d like to get to know the real Punta Cana, away from the resort life. And once you are outside of the resorts, you might want to explore more of the amazing Dominican Republic. A car helps a lot to get to all those things-to-do Punta Cana is famous for – see below in the last section for more details.

 Therefore, if you are not staying in an all-inclusive resort, I highly recommend a rental car as you will need to move around and stay flexible, especially as taxis are expensive and public transport in Punta Cana is a bit tricky.

Road-trip through the Southwest of the Dominican Republic along the panorama route from Barahona to Oviedo

How can I rent a car in Punta Cana?

 Once you have decided that you want to book a rental car in Punta Cana, you can go ahead and reserve one. There are three options on how to achieve this.

Book a rental car in Punta Cana via a rental car comparison website

 No. 1 is my preferred way of booking a rental car – comparing prices and services (particularly insurances, as mentioned above) online and book the offer with the best price-value ratio. While you can head to each rental car company and compare them on your own, it is much easier to do so at one of the rental car comparison websites. Depending on where you are coming from and which provider you prefer, there are plenty of options:
Car del Mar*
Sunny Cars*
Discover Cars*
Holiday Autos*

 I have used a few of them and can recommend these companies. I personally like Car del Mar and Sunny Cars as you can filter the search results of different rental car agencies and brokers and can only select those which have full insurance included (plus, in my opinion, they have the best user interface). This means, you have liability insurance, you are covered with a collision damage waiver with 0 USD deductible and glass, tires and windshield are also included, which is much better than what most credit card insurances cover. All those things are particularly important for me and a worry-free vacation, so I never book a rental car without one of those insurance products.

Book a rental car in Punta Cana via your preferred rental car company

 I know that many of you have their preferred rental car company and there is nothing wrong with that. Most major international brands do have an office in Punta Cana, among them National, Enterprise, Alamo, Avis, Sixt, Europcar and Thrifty. There is no problem in going ahead and checking with your No. 1 choice what they can offer – especially if you have VIP status there. Just make sure they have the same insurance conditions as you are used to in your home country, as the terms and products in the Dominican Republic might vary.

Book a rental car in Punta Cana when you arrive

 There is also the option of booking a rental car once you arrive in Punta Cana, in case you don’t want to commit yourself to an advance booking. This is possible, especially as the rental car center is within walking distance (so you don’t need an airport shuttle) when you arrive in Terminal A, the terminal where the majority of flights get handled.  

 However, please note that the prices are not comparable to the internet when you walk in and ask for the rates. While the rate per day might be reasonable, insurance prices on the spot are sometimes outrageous, even if you have the insurance included in your credit card (because with some rental car companies it is mandatory to take out some kind of insurance).

 I once tried to get a rental car as a walk-in at Punta Cana Airport but finally declined because of the high prices.

What can I see and do if I rent a car in Punta Cana?

 Alright, once you have done your booking and are heading towards the Dominican Republic, the question is what you can do and see with your rental car in Punta Cana. A lot, as you can also read here on Punta Cana Travel Blog.

Get your free e-book now – “15 amazing things-to-do for free in Punta Cana”!





Free Punta Cana E-Book about 15 amazing things-to-do for free in Punta Cana

 For me, the top things-to-do with a rental car in the area of Punta Cana and Bavaro – assuming you only would like to go on day-trips from Punta Cana – would be the following:

– head to the most pristine beach in the entire east of the Dominican Republic, Playa Esmeralda
– visit Montaña Redonda, a unique hill with stunning photo opportunities
visit Hoyo Claro, a crystal-clear cenote close to the Punta Cana International Airport
– drive towards La Romana to visit a cigar factory (+ a rum distillery in San Pedro)
– hike to the highest waterfall in the Caribbean, Salto de la Jalda
– visit Higuey with its bustling streets and the famous cathedral
– visit one of the waterfalls in the area you can reach from Punta Cana in under three hours

Spectacular Montana Redonda between Miches and Punta Cana

 As you can see, there is a lot to explore in Punta Cana and most of these ideas are off-the-beaten-track, where you will hardly see any tourist. The adventure is waiting for you!

It is also possible to venture out and explore the Dominican Republic on a multi-day road-trip. I have compiled two possible itineraries where you can see a few options which are possible when you rent a car in Punta Cana. Have a look at the following itineraries:
Dominican Republic 1-week itinerary from/to Punta Cana – beaches, culture and mountains
Samaná 3-day itinerary from/to Punta Cana – the most beautiful region in the Dominican Republic

If you would like to receive a tailor-made itinerary, I am happy to go through all the options with you – just send me a travel coaching request here.

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The face behind Punta Cana Travel Blog: Chris

CHRIS

Author, Travel Coach & Punta Cana based digital nomad

Hey, I am Chris, a born and raised German, travel-addictive and Caribbean Soul. Since 2011 I have been living in the Caribbean, among them 5 years in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana is my home-base here in the country and I’d love to tell you more about how to experience Punta Cana off-the-beaten-track and give you all the advice you want to know for your vacation in Punta Cana.

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