Driving and Car Rentals in Costa Rica

If you're wondering about driving and car rentals in Costa Rica, don't worry! Just as with renting a car in any North American city, do your homework, check prices and make your car rental reservation before you arrive.

Do you need a 4x4 rental in Costa Rica?  

Probably.  But it depends on your destinations - if you're going to be beaching it off the new Autopista from San Jose to Caldera Pacific Highway, you probably won't need a 4x4 rental.  But if you're planning on heading to one of the many volcanoes or other sightseeing like riding the Rainforest Aerial Tram in Jaco, or the Butterfly Gardens - it's better to have a 4x4, especially when it rains as roads get muddy so, so quickly.

Tips for Driving and Car Rentals Costa Rica

The number one tip for driving and car rentals in Costa Rica is to bring your own GPS pre-loaded with Costa Rica maps - it will be a lifesaver you'll be more than thankful for.  Roads can be very deceiving in Costa Rica with unmapped roads appearing out of nowhere and roads that are marked yet are not really safe to venture upon (unpaved narrow backroads).  Alternatively, you can rent a GPS from most car rental agencies with rates running about $8 per day in addition to rental rates.

The second tip is to take photos of your vehicle before you leave the car rental parking lot.  This is a precautionary measure in case you're involved in an accident or there's some scratch or damage that was there originally.  We're not saying car rental agencies in Costa Rica are going to rip you off, we're just saying it pays to be diligent up front.

Insurance on Car Rentals in Costa Rica

Insurance is mandatory on all car rentals in Costa Rica.  Many rental agencies will offer an additional optional insurance to give you a zero deductible and if it's not much more, go for it as you never know what will happen so it's a good idea to have everything covered.

Driving Safety and Renting a Car in Costa Rica

When it comes to driving safety and renting a car in Costa Rica, rental 4x4s and cars are easy for ticos to spot.  Whenever you stop, you need to lock your doors and leave nothing, and we mean nothing inside the vehicle when you exit.  Unfortunately, we're speaking first hand as we had our backpacks stolen (along with laptops, cameras and passports!) in Puntarenas.  We took all the precautions - we locked our vehicle, parked on a safe street less than a block from the main street with thousands of people in port on cruise ship day.  And it still didn't matter, we were a target from the moment we were circling to find a parking spot.  

Road Hazards when Driving in Costa Rica

When driving In the capital city of San Jose, beware of giant sized pot holes and more notably, missing man hole covers!  It's a common thing to have gaping holes in the road so be sure you don't get yourself into one ;)  When you're out sightseeing in smaller locations, watch out for iguanas crossing the road in Quepos and cotamundi near Arenal Volcano.  On any mountain roads, there will no doubt be extremely slow and overloaded trucks taking bananas, melons and sugar cane to their destinations - its important to note that farm trucks have the right of way so don't expect them to pull over for you.

Driving Times in Costa Rica

Don't confuse yourself with time and distance when reading Costa Rica maps - if it says it's 50 miles to your destination, actual travel time will probably be 2 hours instead of 1.  If you go with the rule of doubling whatever you think it should be, your driving time in Costa Rica will be more accurate ;)

Beware of the Gas Station Scam in Costa Rica

There's an interesting scam that can take place at Costa Rica gas stations - it's more prevalent in busy gas stations near airports when you're in a hurry to gas and go, so beware.  This is how the gas station scam in Costa Rica works - the overly friendly attendant comes to the driver's side window and proceeds to chat you up.  He says how glad he is to see you and thanks you for coming to visit his country.  So now you're distracted and not paying attention to the total owing on the gas pump.  The attendant then clears the pump before you can take note of the total and then adds a extra $10 or $15 to the total.  Since you have no way of proving your case, you're obliged to pay the higher total which goes directly into the friendly gas station attendants pocket.

Easy Directions to our Condo in Playas del Coco

Once you've picked up your car rental in Costa Rica, it's easy to follow our step-by-step directions to our condo in Playas del Coco.  For more information, check out Fast Facts About Costa Rica and Packing for Your Costa Rica Trip.

Ed & Connie


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