Planning a driving vacation in Costa Rica? Read-on to get our tips on how to fill up!
Locally, a gas station is known as a bomba – other things, such as fireworks are also bombas, so be clear if you are asking for directions to one to avoid confusion! There are virtually no self-service gas stations in the country. When you pull in to the gas station; you can relax and wait for the pump attendant to serve you (and keep your hands clean!) It is normal for the attendant to give your windscreen a hose and wipe over as well as filling your gas tank. You will probably need to ask if you want your tire pressure or water checked but some gas stations may do this too. It is usual to tip a pump attendant a few hundred colones!
If your Spanish is less than perfect, don’t panic! Gas station vocabulary is real simple! You just ask for the tank to be full (with a Spanish accent!) or ask for the monetary amount of fuel you want e.g. diez mil (10,000 colones) of Super, Regular or Diesel. It really isn’t hard!
The vast majority of tourists have no problems with filling up! However, do check that the amount you are charged is the same as is displayed on the pump and that the pump has been cleared to zero before beginning. You can avoid paying extra this way!
As of this writing (29 September, 2010), the price of regular gas is approximately 562.00 Colones or $1.11 per liter or $4.21 per US gallon (exchange rate 505 Colones per USD).
If you need the bathroom, ask the pump attendant for the key. Bigger gas stations may offer useful facilities, such as an ATM.
Remember that gas stations in Costa Rica can be scarce in rural areas or not open 24/7, so don’t allow your needle to drop into the red or you may find yourself stranded!