Life on Dominica 



Driving On Dominica is not for the faint-of-heart and demands serious attention and concentration. 


Bottom-line, driving is treacherous.


Considering renting a car while on Dominica?
Transportation-Car Rental in our Travel Guide Section

Note that traffic drives on the LEFT side of the road on Dominica; consequently, car steering wheels are located on the RIGHT side of the vehicle.  If arriving from America or other countries where traffic moves on the right, this is exactly the opposite of what you are used to and is trickier to master than you might expect.


Dominica’s roads, are very narrow, hilly and mountainous.  And, they are curvy – for example, there are over 250 bends, turns and curves from the airport at Melville Hall to Portsmouth. The roads might be described as kin to a drunken snake.  Some visitors will be reminded of the kiddy roller-coasters they rode as a child.    If one is prone to car-sickness, taking a Dramamine or other precautions before riding or driving from the airport or any location, is recommended.


Dominica’s roads, though most are paved with asphalt or concrete, are filled with serious collections of potholes, bumps and other obstacles, seen and unseen. There are no places to pull off the road; road side "booby traps" consist of French drains (ditches) made from concrete which are about 1 foot or more across and 2 feet or more deep…  unmarked and often


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hidden by overgrowth are concrete water diversion barriers that, during heavy rains, block gushers of water from cascading directly from mountain and cliff sides on to and across the road. AND there are the ever present steep embankment drop-offs a few to hundreds of feet down…OR, sheer cliff faces acting as one edge of the road or other.  


Because of the potholes, bumps, deep cracks and other crumblings, most everyone swerves, dodges and darts between the them as is appropriate for avoidance.  This means that at any given location the entire road, side to side, is utilized in either direction. Potholes range in depth from 1-8 inches or more and a few inches to a few feet in width.


The exception to the above description is the newly repaved (2011) west coast "main road" between Portsmouth and Roseau.  The surface repair of this road seriously improved the journey between these two points.  HOWEVER, high caution is still advised as newly formed potholes due to heavy rain and excessively loaded trucks can cause deterioration of the road surface anytime at any location.  As well, the noticeably smoother surface has also enthused many drivers to drive much faster than they safely should.


During any heavy to moderate rain you will encounter rocks of all sizes (washed from the cliffs) and or earth slides stretching across your path.  As well, land red crabs, some the size of a small bowl, take to scurrying across roads when it rains, more so at night.  Running over one some times lends itself to a punctured tire as the end of their claws are as sharp and hard as a nail.


There are NO  lines painted down the center or edges of the road, (the exception being now the newly repaved "main road" between Portsmouth and Roseau... however these lines could be fading fast).  And, there are mostly no street lights along roads, making night driving a very dark experience.


Expect to frequently encounter pedestrians day and night, numerous dogs and gazing animals, (goats, *cows & chickens) on or alongside any route.  These animals are used to to being near to or directly on the road; consequently, they have not fear of vehicles and barely notice when cars and trucks zip by them.


*BE AWARE, that as you leave Picard / Portsmouth driving south toward Roseau,  there is a herd of cows (5-15+ in number) that freely roam and wander the edges and middle of the road, day AND night, for approximately 5 miles -- this poses an extreme hazard -- be alert!


Few to no road or traffic signs are provided.  (As well, there are no house or business address numbers.) There are no stop lights on the island and very few stop signs… most of which seldom get stopped at. There are no signs that warn of curves, intersections, construction or other road manipulations, or directions to any location. Occasionally, there are signs that will identify a village.  But, more often than not, these signs are posted after you have passed through the village, not before.


Speed limits vary and are generally not posted, though occasionally one might be found that states 40 kilometers per hour.  Basically, the speed limit is however fast or slow one chooses to drive.  Several drivers on the island, including bus-transport drivers, drive recklessly fast and show no fear of passing on curves or at the crest of hills.  When  overtaking, vehicles will pull to within a few feet behind the car to be passed before going around.  Fortunately, most honk a warning before and or as they make the attempt.


A good number of cars and trucks have only one or NO tail or brake lights and or only one headlight.  Headlights often are not aligned properly and will be shooting off at any angle including directly into the eyes of oncoming drivers.  At night, many drivers will not dim their bright lights for any oncoming car.  Or, if they do dim them, they will flip back to full bright a split second before meeting the oncoming vehicle – creating a blinding moment at the most inopportune time.


Expect to encounter vehicles parked on either side of the road facing any direction.  Expect any driver (especially bus-transports) to unexpectedly stop their vehicles at any moment at any point directly on and or alongside the road, including just the other side of blind curves and over the tops of hills.  As well, drivers with vehicles parked alongside the road or at intersections, especially bus-transports, are notorious for pulling out ahead of, cutting off, approaching drivers. 


Both day and night, you will experience oncoming cars and trucks flashing their lights and or honking.  These signals mean everything from: “…be alert – see me, here I am,” to “…hello, good to see you,” to, ”… I’m really upset with how you are driving.”  Other times, the flashing and honking just seems to be some involuntary reflex all drivers share. 



Driving in Roseau, Portsmouth and other villages


Streets within any community and village on Dominica can only be defined as tight, congested, claustrophobic, tunnel-like.  Major streets in downtown Roseau and anywhere else on the island are extremely narrow, with side-streets even more so.  


Most streets in Roseau are one-way.


Parking is allowed on either side of most any street, further constricting pathways.  Expect, by mere inches, to drive alongside parked vehicles and pedestrians walking in the street, and sometimes having to pull in side-mirrors to gain an inch or two to avoid scrapes.


On many two-way streets expect traffic moving either direction to have to pull over and stop so one vehicle, or string of vehicles can proceed.  This especially occurs in the villages of Mahaut and Massacre (central west coast) and other sea-side villages along the south-west coast as well as many other locations.


Finding a parking space in Roseau, Portsmouth, any village for that matter, can be complicated.  Expect to park and then walk.  Once you have attained a spot, make sure you pull in your side-mirrors and lock the doors before leaving your car behind.

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Considering renting a car while on Dominica?
Transportation-Car Rental in our Travel Guide Section


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