A time will come when you will probably want to try driving in Costa Rica if you plan on visiting often or come for an extended stay. For the most part, it will be an equal experience to driving in the USA or Canada. Below are a few things to watch out for and consider about Costa Rica driving differences and renting a car in Costa Rica.
Driving in Costa Rica
You will drive on the right side of the road and the speed limits will be posted regularly in kilometers per hour. The maximum speed throughout most of the country is 80 kilometers per hour with a few areas like the major toll highway having higher limits in parts. The rules for driving are basically the same as in the states, but there are some things of which you need to be aware. For one thing, if you are in the San Jose area, one day per week you are not allowed to drive in the city. The day is determined by your license plate number tag which tells you which day for you is off limits. If the plate ends in 1 or 2 you can not drive in the city on Mondays, 3 or 4 on Tuesday, 5 or 6 on Wednesday, 7 or 8 on Thursday and 9 or 0 on Fridays.
It is a good idea not to speed in Costa Rica, as the fines can be very high. If you are stopped for speeding, it is common practice to “pay” the fine on the spot at a reduced price… $60 seems to be the going rate lately from what we have heard (and experienced). Of course, we know what’s going here but what’s one to do… $400 to $600 later or $60 on the spot? Not to hard to make that decision… right or wrong. One last thing about driving in Costa Rica… carefully watch the road for potholes, which are common even on roads that look like they are well maintained.
Note: If you have an accident in Costa Rica DO NOT move the vehicle until after the police have arrived and given you permission to do so.
Renting a Car in Costa Rica
Depending on where you are planning to visit in the country, you might want to consider renting a car for your trip. In San Jose, you can get along fine by simply taking a taxi. In fact, it is probably the best way to get around the capital city as it can be a very confusing place to drive. Outside the big city in tourist areas, you will find ample taxi services as well. If you plan to get off the well-beaten path even a little bit (and it really is worth it), renting a car will make your trip much more enjoyable. Although they are a little more expensive, it is a very good idea to rent a 4×4 of some kind. There are some very small ones out there for rent, which might be all you need for two people traveling light. If you are traveling with a larger group or have a lot of luggage, a larger size SUV can be rented.
We have used several of the major companies, such as AVIS, National, Dollar and the Costa Rican companies, CR-Save, Mirage, Solid and Vamos 4X4. It is a good idea to check the rates before booking, as they can have quite a variance depending on time of year and how busy they are. Also, be sure to check what your credit card covers in terms of insurance, the policy they have about renting in foreign countries and how you submit any claim before you sign up for all the insurance options available.