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Guide to Costa Rica: Driving

Written by Thomas Power | 10th January 2014 |


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Signposting is improving in Costa Rica, but always carry a good map and but don't be afraid to ask the locals, even if your Spanish is not very good. They are generally very friendly and eager to help.


A lot of the larger hotels put up signposts along the roads between the main resorts ? sometimes up to 100km in advance! It?s useful to familiarize yourself with the hotel names even if you are not staying there, as they can act as a good reference point.

Petrol Stations

Fuel stations may be hard to find in remote areas, so don't let your tank get low. Visa and Mastercard credit cards are accepted for petrol purchases at most fuel stations. Attendants will pump the fuel for you, and often wash the windows and check the oil (and they appreciate a tip for doing so).

State of Roads

Driving has become easier over the past few years, but roads are still subject to some potholes, animals, pedestrians, horses and bicycles. Many roads have no line markings, no safety signs, and narrow one-lane bridges.
We don't recommend driving at night.

Once you get out of the city, the driving is generally pleasant. However even the Pan American Highway, the backbone of the highway system, is just two lanes with no hard shoulder and few passing lanes. Undoubtedly you will get stuck behind trucks that cannot move as fast as you. Just be patient, you will eventually get by.

Try to be aware of the traffic around you when circumnavigating the potholes. For the best driving experience let vehicles pass you with ease. Slow down and keep to the side. For any particularly deep or muddy gullies (most likely in Monteverde in the wet season) drive very slowly into the gully then push the power on gently to drive on out.

Speed Limits

On straight, open sections of road where there are no posted speed limits, generally 80kmh or 50mph applies. 60kmh or 35mph applies in urban and city areas, down to 40kmh or 25mph in downtown areas. Speed limit signs are in kilometers per hour.

Traffic Police

Traficos or traffic police, use radar to enforce speed limits along many stretches of Costa Rican roads. Please obey posted speed limits.

If you are pulled over by the police, they will want to see your rental papers and your passport. Be polite. Also, do not pay the police for the ticket. You will be able to pay the ticket to the rental car company when you turn in the car. Oncoming drivers will often warn of traffic police ahead by flashing their lights.

Car Rental

When you get your rental car, the representative will have you check the car for nicks, dents, and adequate tyres. Always observe this procedure. Point out every thing you see and make him note it. Also, be sure to fill the car with fuel before you return it.

Car rental companies will require a deposit on a major credit card on arrival of anywhere between $1,000 - $1,500. The deposit will be refunded on return.

On Pura Aventura Self Drive holidays to Costa Rica zero excess insurance is generally included as standard. You will still be required to provice a credit card for deposit.

Subject to availability you will be provided with a mobile phone along with the hire car. There is no charge for this service but a deposit of $100 will be required on credit card in case of lost or damage.

National calls can be made for free. Both national & international calls can be received, charges will be made for any international numbers dialled.

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