Everything You Need To Know
Driving in Costa Rica gives you the freedom to head off the beaten track and explore the many beautiful destinations that this Central American gem has to offer, but is it right for you?
In this complete guide to renting a car and driving in Costa Rica, we’ll explain everything you need to know about hiring a vehicle, obtaining adequate insurance, and adhering to local laws and traffic rules. We will also provide tips on driving from Liberia to San Jose or cross-country from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean Sea. So buckle up for your Costa Rica driving adventure, and let us show you how to drive safely across this enchanting country!
Is It Safe Driving In Costa Rica?
First thing, first. Is it safe to drive in Costa Rica? If you are an experienced driver, there is no reason why you shouldn’t self-drive in Costa Rica, but like anywhere in the world, you need to take extra precautions. Here’s why:
Road Conditions Costa Rica: While national highways are comparable to those in the United States and Europe, Costa Rica roads outside the main cities are not. You can expect to navigate plenty of dirt roads during your road-tripping adventure, and potholes are common. Due to the condition of these roads, driving at night can be dangerous and is, therefore, not recommended.
Spanish Road Signs: It is always a good idea to learn a few words of the local Lingo before visiting a new destination. If you are thinking about driving in Costa Rica, you should familiarise yourself with the street signs and rules. All road signs in Costa Rica are in Spanish. Here are a few essentials:
- CEDA – means YIELD
- ALTO – means STOP
- PEAJE – means TOLL STATION
- CALLE SIN SALIDA – means ONE-WAY STREET
It is also worth noting that they use the metric system in Costa Rica, so all speed limit signs are in kilometres and gas tanks are in litres. You can read more about Costa Rica road traffic rules here.
Drivers in Costa Rica: Much like the roads in Costa Rica, driving habits vary across the country. In cities such as San Jose and Liberia, drivers tend to drive aggressively, and as such, you need to drive defensively to avoid accidents. In popular tourist areas such as Guanacaste, you’ll find a lot of fellow international drivers on the road, including those not experienced in driving on the right-hand side, so proceed with caution and expect the unexpected. In rural areas of Costa Rica, drivers take things easy. Very easy! It is not uncommon to see whole families on a single motorbike (without helmets) and farming vehicles that like to take things slow.
What You Need To Hire A Car In Costa Rica
It is relatively easy to hire a car in Costa Rica, and they cost as little as $20 per day, but you need to read the small print for additional extras such as mandatory insurance, which is often not included in the rental price. To rent a car in Costa Rica, you need:
- Original driver’s license
- International driver’s license if your original license is not written in English or Spanish
- Original passport
- A valid credit card in the lead driver’s name
- Proof of insurance
Many credit cards include Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance coverage for rental cars, but not all, so check with your provider before collecting. CDW covers the damage costs to other vehicles, but it doesn’t cover your rental car, so as a driver in Costa Rica, you also need liability insurance. You can purchase this through the car rental company or a third-party insurer, and it will cover you for any accidents or damage.
Can You Drive To Costa Rica?
Driving to Costa Rica from the United States and neighbouring countries is possible, but you’ll need patience and plenty of time. You’ll also need to check COVID-19 entry rules in advance to ensure you have all the relevant documentation and meet all testing requirements.
If considering driving to Costa Rica, plan your route well in advance and download the Waze App – a free GPS navigation tool that provides traffic alerts in real-time. We also recommend filling up your vehicle whenever you see a gas station to avoid running out of fuel. These are good rules to follow when driving across Costa Rica, too.
Please remember that driving in Costa Rica license requirements vary from country to country, and you can only drive here with a valid tourist visa.
And, If Driving In Costa Rica Is Not For You
Of course, driving in Costa Rica is not for everyone. If you don’t feel comfortable driving in a foreign company, use a local transfer company such as Guanacaste Viajes. With a professional company to transport you across Costa Rica, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride!