Costa Rica Expeditions

Driving in Costa Rica

People often ask our Travel Specialists if it is recommended renting a car for their vacations?

Here is our insight based on our 40+ years planning customized vacations.

If you love to drive and are bored by driving in your country, renting a car and driving in Costa Rica might just be the adventure of your dreams. It can also be a nightmare…

Driving conditions in Costa Rica

There are potholes, very few road signs, and drivers passing on blind curves – sometimes all at once. In some occasions, thieves have targeted rented cars, although non-violent, it can be a traumatic experience.

The unwritten rules of the road may be a little different from what you are used to.

If you are still not daunted and your philosophy is, “I can’t be lost, I´m ready for the adventure,” keep scrolling down for three of the most important things you should know:

1. Rolling stops are illegal. However, in recorded history no one has been cited for a rolling stop in Costa Rica. A rolling stop at a stop sign in other countries means you may get a ticket. A full stop at a stop sign in Costa Rica means you may get rear-ended.

2. In other countries, passing on a blind curve is a sin. In Costa Rica not letting somebody in who passes on a blind curve may be a mortal sin. When you see a big slow truck in the oncoming lane, be ready for the guy behind him to be passing him — and the woman behind you to be passing you.

3. How close can you get without getting hurt? The driver who cuts you off in Costa Rica is not insulting you. He’s playing with you. Your role in the game is to not get cut off, as long as nobody gets hurt. Hence everybody tailgates.  However, it is important to mentioned that violent incidents derived from driving anger are unfortunately more common than before.

The best way for you to handle this is the same as for newcomers to all games: play, but play by local rules; don’t play too intensely; and expect to lose. Defensive driving at all times is the key.

Doesn´t matter, I do want to rent a car!

Before renting a car in Costa Rica you should make yourself aware of the differences and be sure that they are acceptable to you.

There are literally hundreds of options to rent a car, from online reservations to on-demand cars and even Apps.

It is important that you understand that the rules and policies regarding car rental in Costa Rica are even more in favor of the company than they are in the USA or Europe.

What is the type of car you need?

You should avoid a standard sedan car, go for the SUV as minimum, 4×2 is good enough for most urban roads, and a 4×4 is the best choice for exploring the country.  Small or medium size cars are good for a couple or a couple and two small children.

Large SUV are widely available and are better choices for standard families of 3 or more adults and the luggage.

Children seats

Car seats and boosters are mandatory in Costa Rica for children 12 and under, up to 57 inches/145 cm or 79 pounds/36 kg.

Infants up to one year (up to 28.5 pounds/13 kg or 29.5 inches/75 cm)  Rear facing in the middle seat.

Babies and children ages 1-4 (20-40 pounds/9-18 kg or up to 43 inches/110 cm)  Front facing in the middle seat.

If you have more than one child, the one who weighs less should be in the middle and the other behind the passenger seat.

Children ages 4-6 (33-55 pounds/15-25 kg or up to 57 inches/145 cm)  Booster seat with a back.

Children ages 6-12 (48.5-79 pounds/22-36 kg or up to 57 inches/145 cm)  Booster seat without a back.

You don’t need to bring your children´s car seats, unless it is your preference, but most car rentals would provide you the car seats or boosters for a fee, you do need to make the requested in advance when you mke the reservation and provide them the size and weight of your kids.

If you are interested in organizing your vacation, renting a car, please contact one of our Travel Specialists.

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