Car Rental Costa Rica
'Car rental Costa Rica' is a page
I created to provide you info and tips for having a trouble free
rental experience. With a little extra information you can
avoid some of the more common hassles of car rental in Costa
Driving is a great way of seeing this beautiful
country. At the size of Vermont and New Hampshire put
together, it is very much accessible by car, and there aren't many
places more than six hours drive from the capital, San Jose.
Heck, you can be surfing in Jaco in an hour and a half, and within
three hours you could be heading out fishing
for Marlin in Quepos, while the turquoise waters of the
Caribbean in charming Puerto Viejo are just three hours in the
opposite direction. So a rental car in Costa Rica is the best way
of taking advantage of your Costa Rica vacation.
What follows is a lot of information, and though it may be
intimidating, don't worry. Thousands of people each year rent cars
without problem. This page is merely to help you enjoy your Costa
Rica rental car without any unpleasant surprises.
Car rental in Costa Rica allows you the freedom to stop
when you want to -- a chance to snap some photos of
traditional oxen drawn carts -- and having your own rental car lets
you stay as long as you want.
Just remember to be conscientious of Costa Rican drivers when
you're on the road, many of whom seem to be on crazy pills when
they get behind the wheel of a car. Moreover, roads are often
narrow with frequent blind turns frequent and few road signs. You
never know when a vaquero or cowboy might be riding his horse right
on the road around the bend. Only pass another car when you are
absolutely sure it is clear on the other side. Car accidents in
Costa Rica are epidemic and it pays to be cautious while enjoying
Costa Rica in your rental car.
My biggest recommendation is to make sure your Costa Rica car
rental is a 4x4!
This is not just to look cool on your Costa Rica adventure
vacation; there is actually a purpose. Costa Rica is not known for
having great roads, and all it takes is one tropical rain to really
bring that point home. I've seen potholes that could double as town
swimming pools. And getting your Toyota Corolla rental stuck in the
mud could waste an entire day of your precious Costa Rica
Renting a 4x4 really increases your options as to where you can go.
Monteverde, everything south of Golfito, the southern Nicoya
peninsula, and the Osa peninsula require such a vehicle at all
times of the year. Just be cautious driving the smaller 4WD cars
because they can be top-heavy and dangerous if not driven carefully
over very bumpy terrain.
Car Rental Costa Rica key points:
Insurance Information ( Car
rental Costa Rica top )
- Minimum age for renters is 21 years old, 25 for some
- Need a valid driver's license and credit card
- Your rental car in Costa Rica will likely be a manual
transmission; automatics cost more
- Splurge on a 4x4 unless you really can't afford it
- Discounts often offered when reservations are made before
- Reserve your Costa Rica car rental as far in advance as
possible, especially in dry season and during holidays, especially
- Double check that your auto-insurance at home covers you
abroad, or that your credit-card truly provides coverage on your
rental car in Costa Rica
- Ask about discounts in low season from May to October
- Note any and all dings and scrapes, as you may be liable --
don't forget the radio, antennae, and the rims
- Check tire pressure, oil, water etc. before leaving the agency,
as rental car maintenance can be spotty
You'll find that insurance is an obligatory charge for your
rental car in Costa Rica. This CDW or Collision Damage Waiver may
or may not be included in the price of the car, so it is important
to ask. If you are reserving from abroad and are told the CDW is
included or that your existing policy at home or that the policy
that comes with your credit card will cover you, it is essential
that you get this in writing. Rental agencies aren't always
reliable in the information they give you, so better to be on the
safe side. It's not fun to arrive and find out there are additional
daily charges for something you thought was included in the bill --
especially when it can run you an extra 10 to 30 dollars a day.
Also, inquire as to whether the insurance covers both theft and
collision. Insurance does not cover car's contents or personal
possessions, nor does it cover the deductible or excess (unless you
are not at fault), which ranges between 500-1000 dollars (up to
1500 dollars for young drivers or 4WD vehicles). This deductible is
generally for collisions with other vehicles, while collisions with
non-vehicles like a boulder or tree often call for a higher
deductible. The deductible can sometimes be waived with a daily fee
of around 10 dollars. Another thing to note is that if you rental
car in Costa Rica a vehicle intended for off-road use on an unpaved
road, you are almost never covered by insurance -- so check with the
Now if you rent a 4WD vehicle, it doesn't mean you have free reign
to try driving through any obstacle in your way. This is especially
true while trying to cross a river. You will be liable if you flood
the engine. Rivers and creeks can be treacherous, often there is a
trench, so it if you must cross, do so slowly. Going slow also
assures you don't create a wave that washes into your engine
compartment and drowns your air filter. It's good to follow
established tire tracks or better yet, wait to follow a local.
Every year there are reports of a rental car in Costa Rica getting
swept down a river because the driver misjudged the depth, so try
to err on the side of caution.
Driving Rules and General Information Regarding Car
Rental in Costa Rica ( Car rental Costa
Rica top )
Breakdowns, Accidents and Car Assistance( Car rental Costa Rica top )
A current foreign driver's license is required to drive in Costa
Rica and is valid for the first three months you are in country.
You must also be at least 18 years old and have proof of entry to
the country to keep track of those three months, so always bring
along your passport while driving as well as vehicle registration
Highway speed limits range between 60-90kph and they are radar
enforced, so it's a good idea to avoid speeding. Besides, cops seem
to be particularly fond of ticketing people in rental cars so don't
give them a reason. If pulled over you will probably receive a
ticket for around 30 dollars or less, but you should not give the
police any money. Tickets not paid before your departure can be
charged to your credit card for up to a year after you leave. Also,
seatbelts are obligatory.
Some driving rules to consider are: don't enter an intersection
unless you are able to exit, don't make a right turn during a red
light unless a white arrow is present, no passing may be done on
the right hand side, and cars going uphill have the right of way.
As I mentioned before, Costa Rica has some crazy drivers, so be
wary and it doesn't hurt to leave your lights on during the
Gas stations can be sparse, so it's best to fill up whenever you
have a chance, especially if you're venturing off into some of the
more remote regions in your Costa Rica rental car. Always be
conscious of the state of your tires too, and make sure that your
rental has a jack and a functional spare, as blowouts are not
uncommon on Costa Rica's notorious roads.
Also, don't leave any valuables in your vehicle. Thieves often
target rental cars in Costa Rica, especially when they are parked
in out of the way places. Try to park your rental car under a light
or close to where you are staying or where there might be night
security just to be on the safe side.
Emergency medical and vehicle services are quite limited outside
of the capital. Larger towns like Liberia, Puntarenas, Quepos,
Palmar, and Golfito all have such services, but the outside of
these towns service is sparse and can often leave you waiting quite
a while. Also, there's no assurance you will encounter
English-speaking service providers in these areas. Just remember to
stay with your rental car if you break down in a remote area,
because it's much easier to be found that way.
Final Note on Car Rental in Costa Rica ( Car rental Costa Rica top )
If you can't move your broken down car off the road, it's important
to put down reflective triangles to warn oncoming cars starting
100ft/30m from your vehicle. You can improvise with piles of leaves
or sticks if you don't have reflective triangles. While most Ticos
are friendly and some even willing to stop and help, always keep
your guard up, as there have been robberies. One reported trick
unscrupulous Tico criminals use is to puncture rental car tires in
parking lots or busy intersections, only to stop and offer
assistance and then rob their victims.
In the event you're involved in an accident you should get in touch
with the National Insurance Institute (INS) at 800/800-8000 and the
Transit Police at 222-9330 or 222-9245. The transit police will
send over a unit if one is in the vicinity and create an official
transit police report, which is extremely helpful with any
insurance claim, otherwise try to get some witness statements.
Dialing 800/012-3456 or 911 is another option to report the
accident and they should help you connect to the proper agency.
Just as a forewarning, experience with Costa Rican police is very
much hit or miss. Sometimes they are helpful and other times they
are everything but helpful. Do your best to keep calm and remain
polite. Again, not many of these personnel speak English. And
finally, if you are waiting for a police unit to arrive it is
better to leave your rental car to better facilitate the officer's
report. If you feel uncomfortable though, move the rental car to
the next public, well-lit area and phone the police from that
Driving through Costa Rica in a rental car is an amazing way to
see the country. Don't be scared off by all the info I've provided,
it's merely to prepare you for any contingencies. I loved driving
around the countryside and saw some amazing things and met some
amazing people along the way. I've even shared the road with
horses, cows, oxen, iguanas, anteaters, and monkeys. And in my
opinion, that's not the kind of traffic you complain about ;-).
(Car rental Costa Rica top)
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