A few of the advantages of getting your very own wheels are generally obvious: you are able to determine the actual course of your entire day, your week or your entire vacation, rather than always be limited to taxi times or bus schedules. Possessing a vehicle will help you to discover lesser-visited areas that numerous travelers overlook and can provide you with the independence to switch your plans in case something pops up. And furthermore just who does not like controlling the radio stations on a journey?
Nonetheless, traveling within Costa Rica isn’t easy. The roads may be long, curvy and in bad condition. Traffic is usually poor within metropolitan areas or even on mountainous roadways, and also signs are often non-existent. It really is easy to get lost (specifically any time you do not have GPS NAVIGATION or top quality roadmaps) it is difficult to get back on the right track when you are not comfy dealing with instructions from a local speaking The Spanish language. There are many points to consider likewise, such as traffic laws, the cost of fuel, as well as traveling time.
Leasing a vehicle is generally not really suggested for first time visitors to Costa Rica-the trouble as well as possibility of stress and confusion is generally not really worth the time and effort. Nonetheless, travelers which are adventurous enough and have been to the country before might want to think about leasing a vehicle. If you’re still on board, continue reading.
What to Lease
The kind of vehicle you select depends upon whatever you plan to do on your vacation. If you’re going to be traveling in the mountains, along countryside roadways, or even in some seaside regions, you will need some sort of four-wheel drive automobile. Consider leasing a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle in the event you are going to be going to any of the following areas: The Nicoya Peninsula, Monteverde, Rincón de La Vieja, the La Paz Waterfall, Bajos del Toro, the south Pacific, the Osa Peninsula, and several locations along the Caribbean coastline. A number of these roadways have potholes as well as stream crossings, and need vehicles with large clearance-so it is almost impossible traveling these types of routes without an SUV.
One can find both compact and full-size SUV options available. Compact SUVs tend to be smaller, possess lower clearance, and get far better gas mileage. They can fit 4 to 5 individuals and are available in both two door and four door options. Full-size SUVs tend to be larger and much more powerful. They have got much better ground clearance, a more powerful motor, and much more interior space. Because of this, they may be more suitable on bad roadways or when traveling in big groups. The majority of full-size SUVs have 4 doors and will seat between 4 and 7 individuals; they also include trucks. On the other hand, because of their higher center of gravity, full-size SUVs have a greater chance of tipping-take particular care while driving around corners.
If you’re thinking about keeping along relatively well travelled routes, a compact or full-size vehicle is going to be fine. Coastal locations within the central and north Pacific suit more compact cars, as are many areas between the Caribbean coast and the northern lowlands. The roadways around the Arenal Volcano are appropriate for this type of vehicle as well. These types of vehicles have two-wheel drive and they are not really ideal for rough roadways.
Compact cars will be the smallest, most affordable choice. Quite often they may be hatch backs, although some are sedans too. Full-size cars tend to be bigger than compacts. These are typically passenger sedans and also have bigger motors. As a result, they get somewhat worse fuel consumption. Full-size cars tend to be more spacious and better for groups with a lot of baggage.
One more choice is vans. Vans are the biggest, most roomy vehicle and they are ideal for large groups. Vans ought to be utilized in the same areas as a small or even full-size car. The majority are two-wheel drive and also have very poor all terrain capabilities. They will generally seat as many as 12 individuals and also are available in 3 or 4 door options. Vans have a tendency to get lower gas mileage and just like full-size SUVs, possess a higher possibility of tipping because of their size.
All rented vehicles include basic features, such as air conditioning, power steering, power windows/locks, dual airbags, along with a COMPACT DISC player/radio. Manual and automatic options are available in every category. Rental cars likewise usually include a safety kit for accidents and flat tires. This consists of jumper cables, rope, a flat tire kit, road triangles, and a fire extinguisher.
One preferred – and much suggested – gadget to add to your vehicle rental is GPS NAVIGATION. Costa Rica’s roadways tend to be curvy, complicated, and frequently without having real street signs. Because of this, it is quite easy to get lost when you do not have an up-to-date map or GPS unit. A GPS device will save you time and a world of problems. They can be included in your car for around $10 USD per day and generally require a deposit of around $450 USD.
We recommended utilizing the GPS unit that the car rental business offers instead of downloading something through the Internet-by doing so, you will be aware of new routes as well as the latest changes in roadways. One more thing to bear in mind: a number of places within Costa Rica have exactly the same name, which often can get complicated. Because of this, if you already know just where you will be heading (destinations or hotels) when you pick-up your vehicle, have the leasing agency save the locations in to the GPS DEVICE. This will likely save the headache of arriving at the wrong destination.
A great way to supplement GPS NAVIGATION is by using the (Waze) app. Travelers which has a smart phone and global data plan can easily download this community-based traffic and navigation application to have current information about roads, routes, mishaps, traffic jams, construction, and much more. (Waze) will, however, need an Internet connection to initially map out routes as well as obstructions. This is why, many of us suggest using (Waze) in order to chart your route whilst still at the hotel or even before you begin driving-once you no longer have Internet, your routes will be stored. A few parts of Costa Rica do, however, lack Access to the internet, therefore it is recommended to make use of (Waze) as a supplemental navigational system to your car’s GPS DEVICE.
Visitors may also purchase as well as rent road maps through the majority of car rental agencies.
Local Rental Policies
Prior to leasing a vehicle, it’s a wise decision to read up on the actual leasing policies. That way you will not get whacked by having an unforeseen fine or have impractical ideas as to what the actual deposit procedure is like. The subsequent section consists of information on insurance coverage, deposits, penalties, and rental periods.
Travelers to Costa Rica require a driver’s license from their home nation in order to lease a vehicle. Tourists are usually permitted to lease a vehicle for as much as Ninety days. After 90 days, you need to obtain a Costa Rica driver’s license.
Additionally, there are supplemental full coverage insurance policy options which can be purchased along with the required insurance coverage. These are more costly, but deal with the majority of situations, possess an increased amount of protection, and may even have zero deductible. Several also include 24-hour roadside assistance. Once again, the amount you pay depends upon the kind of automobile you lease.
Prior to leaving for Costa Rica, review your personal car insurance policy. To begin with, figure out if you are protected in another country. If you are, find out if your coverage extends to all individuals driving the vehicle and just how much liability is actually covered in case a 3rd party is injured. Additionally find out if the kind of vehicle you will lease in Costa Rica is actually covered in your agreement.
Whenever you lease a vehicle, you will additionally be asked to place a deposit. Typically, this runs from $700 to $1,500 USD and depends upon the kind of insurance coverage the customer selects. The leasing agency places a hold for this amount on your charge card and releases it once you return the vehicle and GPS device in good, working condition. The actual deposit is not really released immediately, however, but instead requires close to 3-4 weeks to be placed back on your charge card.
In the event that a car accident does happen, your deposit will be kept while your case goes to court. Once a judge has made the decision the final verdict, your deposit can either be returned or go towards paying for the actual car’s damage.
There are various circumstances that could result in a fine from the leasing agency. These include returning the vehicle with less fuel than it was initially rented with, returning the vehicle late, or returning the vehicle to a location other than originally agreed upon. Concerning the second point, rental times are defined very rigidly – 1 day of rental actually means 24 hours. For instance, if you lease a vehicle for just one day and you get it at 8 AM, it must be returned by 8 AM the next day. Failing to do this will result in a fine.
Driving within Costa Rica is not like driving within North America or even Europe. Inside the span of a day, you are able to journey along winding mountainous roadways, countryside gravel routes, or even picturesque coastal byways. The country’s distinctive geography – of mountain tops, volcanoes, valleys, plains, and shorelines – can make for a demanding road system. Prior to heading off on a journey, consider where you will be heading and what you will be traveling through.
Costa Rica driving conditions can easily toss you for a loop if you’re not really prepared. Learning about the road conditions provide you with a good idea of what to prepare for. Costa Rica driving conditions differ from one place to another. Around cities such as San José, you will find large, multi-lane freeways with smooth highways. The farther you get from the developed area, however, the poorer the street conditions are apt to be. Because of Costa Rica’s mountainous landscape, several roads tend to be two-lane as well as windy. They will curve up, down, and around mountains. Along roads such as these, is not unusual for big 18 wheelers to go very slow and get traffic stack up behind them. That is why, going a relatively short distance may take a lot longer than anticipated.
A few roadways lack guard rails and also have steep drops along either other side. Others are pockmarked with potholes or have recently been washed out entirely by a landslide. Without a doubt, the rainy season wreaks havoc on Costa Rica’s roads-landslides, flooding, as well as erosion aren’t unusual. In numerous countryside areas, gravel or dirt roads are the norm. These can be quite difficult and may require stream crossings. For that reason, it may be necessary to have a four-wheel drive automobile in several parts of the country.
Two-lane roads frequently narrow in to single lanes over bridges-in this case, motorists must yield (ceda) to drivers with the right of way. The reflective paint separating lanes or lining the actual roadways may be faded or non-existent, which can make driving hazardous, particularly at nighttime. Signs in Costa Rica tend to be equally hit or miss. Along well-traveled tourist routes (as an example, in Manuel Antonio), the signs are very well placed, easy to understand, and informative. On the other hand, in many parts of the country, signs are usually either lacking or simply completely missing. It is very easy to get lost, particularly without GPS.
Recommendations and Safeguards
If you read the prior section, you will have a good idea of how hard it is to drive in Costa Rica. The following segment can instruct you on the most useful methods to prevent accidents, fines, and aggravation.
The best way to prevent all three things is by using GPS DEVICE. These devices may be leased for a reasonably small fee (around $10 USD per day) when you pick-up your vehicle. Frequently, the GPS DEVICE will be attached to the dashboard of your vehicle and is also easy to see whilst driving. They are hands-free and can inform you when to turn and what to expect. They are able to help you plan routes, calculate distances as well as arrival times, as well as locate the closest gasoline stations. GPS is without a doubt necessary for navigating Costa Rica’s road system.
As a supplement to GPS, travelers with cell phones and an international data plan can easily download apps such as (Waze), which help chart roads, routes, accidents, construction, and more. It’s a great way to get a 2nd opinion on wherever you are heading. It does, nevertheless, need Internet access-fire it up and enter your destination before venturing leaving behind your hotel. Many of us also recommend travelers to have actual physical roadmaps in a vehicle at the same time. These may be leased or bought from the majority of auto leasing agencies.
If you do get lost, it will likely be useful to know at least a few words of The Spanish language. You might drive through rural places that people don’t understand much English, therefore being able to ask for the highway or hotel will be important. Buy a basic Spanish phrasebook and take it along with you. Practice your pronunciation in the car for fun. You will be pleased you did in case you wind up dead lost in the middle of nowhere.
Costa Rica is a difficult place to drive in during the day. During the night, it is even more difficult. Road signs (which are already substandard in some places) can be difficult to see in the dark, it’s common to go by the road or hotel you were searching for several times. Roads may also have inadequate reflectors between lanes or lining the side of the road, and very often have very little room to pass. People sometimes walk close to the edge as well, which means you will need to exercise much more caution whilst driving during the night.
It’s also good to pay attention to the availability of emergency services. Outside of San José, both vehicular and medical emergency services may be minimal. The nearer you might be to a sizeable township, the greater the chances are of being able to get towing, mechanical, or medical help. Over the Inter American Highway, normally, this is not an issue. Major towns and tourist destinations – like Liberia, Puntarenas, Golfito, Quepos, and Palmar – all have clinics or hospitals. Having said that, in more remote locations, it might be difficult to get your vehicle towed and fixed or get an ambulance to a hospital.
If you do have a car accident, call the National Insurance Institute (INS) at 800/800-8000, as well as the Transit Police at 2222-9330 or 2222-9245. You can also contact 911 and get rerouted to whatever agency you need. If there is a police officer close by, they will show up and prepare a report, which will help facilitate your insurance claim. Officers can sometimes be unhelpful toward tourists that they perceive as being rich as well as reckless. Speaking Spanish will help, as will being kind and patient.
In case your car breaks down, pull it alongside the road if at all possible. Your trunk should have reflecting triangles that you can place behind your automobile in order to alert approaching traffic. Contact emergency services and wait until they get there. Some types of rental insurance covers breakdowns and also have roadside assistance; a few do not. Make sure to look at your policy prior to leaving the rental office.
Although Costa Rica is comparatively small, the driving time between destinations may be long. Once again, this is mostly a direct result the country’s poor road system. With this in mind, it is recommended to plan on trips taking more time than you might have expected. Generally speaking, expect to travel at a rate of 50 km/h (31 mph). As an example, if you need to drive 250 kilometers (155 mi.), you need to plan on it taking around 5 hours. And remember, Costa Rica utilizes kilometers, not miles. One kilometer equates to 0.62 mile
Costa Rica is really a friendly country, however you may still find thefts. Because of this, at all times secure your vehicle whenever it is parked and steer clear of leaving behind valuables inside. If a camera, handbag or wallet is sitting on the seat, you are encouraging thieves to break in and take your belongings. Within large metropolitan areas such as San José, Alajuela, Limón and Puntarenas this is especially true. When parking in these metropolitan areas, attempt to leave your vehicle in a secure lot with an attendant. Rural areas can, nevertheless, encounter break-ins as well-lock your vehicle and leave expensive or important items at your hotel. As with most things, if you exercise sound judgment and care, you ought to be fine.
Gas stations – known as bombas or gasolineras – can be found all through Costa Rica. Gasoline is sold as “regular” and “super,” both of which are unleaded. Super offers higher octane than regular, and diesel is generally offered as well. The majority of rented vehicles take super, however ask someone at the rental office to make certain. Gas stations are full-service; attendants fill up your tank for you. Gas much more expensive than in the U.S. – a gallon (3.8 liters) usually goes for about $6 USD.
Gas stations are located in nearly every town, however there are parts of the country where they are sparser. For instance, the south Pacific, south Caribbean, Nicoya Peninsula, and areas close to the border with Nicaragua. If you’re going to be planning a trip to any of these areas, fill up your tank at the start of the day. The majority of GPS devices have applications which show you nearby gas stations. If you find yourself running low in an area which lacks a gas station, look for small, local operations. Generally these will be out of someone’s home or even business and have hand-written signs that say gasolina.
Familiarizing yourself with Costa Rica’s traffic laws will save you time, cash, along with a painfully slow legal process. A lot of Costa Rica’s driving laws are similar to the U.S. and they are easy to follow. Even so, there are a few that travelers should become aware of. By way of example, cameras that take pictures of speeding vehicles have been recently placed along highways. The cameras automatically issue tickets which range from $300-$600 USD. Once you return your vehicle, the rental car company retains your deposit till they have confirmed you have no pending tickets. If you do have a ticket, you are going to lose a portion of your deposit. Because of this, we suggest that potential drivers review our segment on Costa Rica driving laws, which follows.
Your journey ought to be enjoyable. Stop to take pictures and eat at roadside eating places. Discover new roads to the coast or even go exploring along a countryside road. There is certainly a lot to consider while driving in Costa Rica, but don’t allow it to eclipse the key reason why you rented a car in the first place: to have the independence to come across brand new places and people on the way.
Driving Laws as well as Penalties
The very last thing anybody wants to handle while on vacation is a traffic ticket (or even worse, jail). Costa Rica’s driving laws are practical and straightforward. When you exercise caution and drive wisely, you will be fine. The next items can help you understand Costa Rica’s most relevant driving laws.
Motorists as well as passengers are required to wear a seatbelt and motor cyclists must wear helmets. The fine for not doing this is approximately $185.
· Driving faster than 120 km/h (75 mph) or 20 km/h (12 mph) over the speed limit is considered speeding. In addition to highway law enforcement with radar, you will find cameras positioned around the country which report license plate numbers to police/rental car agencies. The fine is around $617. A speed of over 150 km/h (93 mph) can lead to imprisonment.
· Talking or even texting on your cell phone is not permitted whilst driving. The fine is around $550.
· Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is taken seriously. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) in between 0.50 and 0.74 is recognized as under the influence. The fine is around $550. Driving with a BAC higher than 0.75 will lead to prison.
· Making a U-turn where one is prohibited can lead to a fine of around $550.
· Running a red light or stop sign can lead to a fine of around $372.
· A current driver’s license from your home country is required and you may only drive with a foreign driver’s license for 3 months. Driving without your driver’s license (or with one for longer than three months) can lead to a fine of approximately $93.
· Yellow lines represent areas where you are not permitted to pass. Passing in such areas (or along curves) can lead to a fine of approximately $550.
· Passing on the right is not allowed. The fine is around $200.
· Child’s seats are required for children under 12 or smaller than 1.45 meters (4′ 9″). Children not utilizing a child seat can lead to a fine of approximately $372.
· Carrying excess passengers may result in a fine of approximately $160.
· Driving on the beach is not allowed. The fine is approximately $200.
· San José has a rotating ban on rush-hour traffic, with the goal of decreasing congestion and fuel usage. The ban bars certain license plate numbers from driving throughout certain times of the day – Monday through Friday from 7 to 8:30 AM and from 4 to 5:30 PM. Cars with license plates ending in the digits 1 or 2 are prohibited on Monday; 3 or 4 on Tuesday; 5 or 6 on Wednesday; 7 or 8 on Thursday; and 9 or 0 on Friday. If you are found driving a car with a restricted license plate within the central section of San José on these days/hours, you will be ticketed.
From this article you can see, Costa Rica’s driving laws resemble most other countries. The key items to keep in mind include wearing a seatbelt, having your driver’s license handy, not speeding, not talking on the phone, not driving drunk, and always utilizing a child’s seat for the kids under the age of 12. By familiarizing yourself with these laws and being a cautious, defensive driver, you ought not have any legal difficulties while driving in Costa Rica.
Leasing a vehicle in Costa Rica has the potential to create an extremely special trip for travelers. It is possible to seek out little-known areas, stop when you wish, and create your personal adventure from day one. All the same, driving in Costa Rica is serious. Road conditions can be difficult as well as driving times can be long. Prior to getting behind the wheel, consider what it requires and just how you want your trip to unfold. Your experience in Costa Rica is going to be amazing regardless of what course you steer.