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Driving in Costa Rica

Why Rent a Car in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica offers incredible and accessible natural beauty, such as waterfalls, secluded beaches, rain forests, cloud forests and the list goes on and on…

Some of these areas are reachable only by car, but more likely, a four-wheel drive vehicle (4x4).  Renting a car gives you the freedom to see the diversity of Costa Rica on your own terms.


Costa Rica Road Conditions

Most of the main roads in Costa Rica are paved and are in good to fair condition.  Many side roads, however, are in desperate need of repair.  Over the last 12 months, great strides have been made to repair roads, but potholes and other road damage still persist.  Therefore, we suggest renting an all-wheel drive vehicle (4x4) to maximize your comfort.

Please keep in mind that new shocks and tires are not going to smooth out the ruts and hard-packed dirt roads that you may encounter.  This is a part of Costa Rica; you may have to “rough it” a bit.  Smile, roll with it and live to tell the tale of the car-sized pothole…for they‘re still out there…somewhere.

Nevertheless, if you’re staying mainly in the central Valley (San Jose, etc.), then a sedan is probably a better choice -- for gas mileage, parking limitations and blending in.  You will miss out on your opportunity to spot the “Great Pothole”, but we certainly understand that not everyone finds this as amusing as others.


Finding Your Way

You will receive a complimentary road map with your rental documents.  Our knowledgeable, bi-lingual staff will ensure that you have sound directions to your first destination.

Major tourist destinations are marked with road signs; however, these signs may not always be clearly visible the first time you drive by.  There are few street names and even fewer street numbers.  Addresses are given by distance from landmarks (for example 300 meters North of the city hall).  A compass may be beneficial.  A quick rule of thumb, almost all church entrances face West -- making it easier to get your bearings (North, South, etc.).

Remember, you can always call us with the supplied cell phone (free of charge) to ask for directions!  Don’t feel shy, it happens to the best of us.


Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

Safely reach your destinations with the least amount of worry and time-loss. Your electronic co-pilot will guide you comfortably through Costa Rica, so you can enjoy more time relaxing on your vacation.

Our GPS systems are updated periodically with the newest coordinates to ensure accuracy.  Our maps even show speed traps and one-lane bridges.  How’s that for piece of mind?

We offer optional GPS systems for an additional $8.00 per day.  Please request the GPS at the time of your reservation.  This allows us to prepare your vehicle without delay.


Basic Road Rules

You may drive using the drivers license issued by your home country.

Speed Limits:

On highways: 80 kph  /  50 mph
In urban areas: 40 kph  /  24 mph
Near schools and hospitals: 25 kph  /  15 mph

Please note:  These are general speed-limits guidelines.  The actual speed limit will be posted on signs.

  • Legal driving age is 18.
  • Maintain safe following distances.
  • It is illegal to drink and drive and voids all insurances.
  • It is illegal to drive without your seat belt buckled.  You will be ticketed.
  • Driving on beaches is strictly prohibited everywhere and voids all insurances.
  • Children must be seated in an infant seat or booster!  We offer complimentary infant and booster seats -- free of charge.  Please mention your needs at the time of your reservation, so we may arrange it for you, again, without delay.


Fuel (Gasolina)

Fuel stations (called Bombas or Gasolineras) are widespread across Costa Rica.  Regular, Super and Diesel fuel are readily available at all gas stations.  Fuel prices are regulated by the government and are the same at all gas stations, leaving you to enjoy your vacation without being on the look-out for the cheapest gas pump.

Service at gas stations is provided by attendants, or what they call in the U.S. as "full-service".  There is no need to leave the car.  Tipping is at your own discretion.  On long trips, use fuel stops as an opportunity to relax and freshen-up.  As of March 15, 2013, the price of regular gas is approximately 699.16 Colones or about $1.40 per liter or $5.30 per US gallon (exchange rate 500 Colones 1 per USD).



In case of an accident, stay with the car and DO NOT MOVE IT, unless ordered by a police officer.  Costa Rican law states that you must wait until the police arrive at the scene.  Contact Vamos immediately for further assistance.  You may also report the accident by calling 911 or 800-800-8000.


Other Driving Tips

Many flights arrive fairly late in the day.  Consider staying the night at one of the many nearby hotels and have us deliver your car early the next morning.  You will be refreshed and enjoy the sights on the way to your first destination, instead of driving your first night, exhausted and lost in the dark.

Driving at night should be avoided, unless you have visited Costa Rica and are familiar with the road conditions.  It is not like driving back home.

Pull over if a police officer signals you to do so.  Police officers may ask you to stop if there is an accident ahead, a checkpoint, or if you are violating the law for such things as not displaying a license plate or exceeding the speed limit.

Your personal documents, as well as the vehicles registration papers, are private property and may not be retained by police officers for any reason.  If a police officer insists on stopping you or retaining your documents for no apparent reason, ask him to escort you to the nearest police station to clear the problem.  If you believe a traffic police officer or any other law enforcement official acted inappropriately, or you have questions regarding their behavior, call 2257-7798, ext. 2506 and ask to be referred to the nearest police station.

If you are given a ticket, please pay it at the nearest state-owned bank and present a copy of the receipt to our staff when you return the rented vehicle.  If you fail to do so, your credit card will be charged for the amount of the fine, plus a $15 administrative fee.

  • Drive confidently and stay alert.
  • Do not stop for people waving you down and never stop for hitchhikers.
  • Do not drive through, or leave your car in poorly-lit areas.
  • Never leave your car on the street unattended; always park it in a safe parking lot.
  • Do not leave any belongings in the car where they might draw attention of delinquents.


For More Information, Please Visit Our Driving in Costa Rica Section of Our Blog.

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