Driving a car in costa rica

The car offers the necessary flexibility and mobility to reach remote places and spots in nature, discover small towns and their unique flair or just enjoy a drive through the picturesque landscape. In the winter months, a rental car offers the additional advantage of being able to switch quickly and easily to another, more climatically favorable region.

While driving in San Jose can be a bit more exciting, cross-country trips are usually smooth and relaxing. The landscape changes constantly at intervals of a few kilometers and the associated temperature fluctuations are also noticeable.

Costa Rica is a beautiful country to explore by car.

However, it is advisable to familiarize yourself with some principles, customs and rules beforehand. Otherwise you can experience some blue wonders on Costa Rica’s roads..

What you do in between is up to you..

Your Costa Rica round trip by rental car

– is covered with PURA VIDA ECO FLEX like a package tour*!

Absolute booking freedom between the second and penultimate night, plus unlimited advice, assistance with your travel planning and German-speaking support** from the beginning to the end of your trip.

  • travel advice and planning assistance by zoom call, online min. 1 hour.
  • New. – obligatory Corona insurance with travel cancellation insurance included***
  • 50 trees per travel participant – with this we compensate your CO² footprint for your flight from Germany to Costa Rica
  • pick up at the airport + Transfer on arrival to the hotel
  • first night in a 3*** hotel with breakfast not far from the airport
  • rental car SUV 4×4 from our reliable, sustainable certified partner, with insurance without deductible and road assistance program
    (➼If you don’t want to drive yourself: Pura Vida Eco Flex with driver+ minibus for up to 6 pers.)
  • Car rental at the hotel
  • Briefing by our staff on the spot
  • Cell phone with 1 GB data volume
  • German speaking tour guide and support – 24h / 7 days by WhatsApp and phone during your whole trip
  • last night in a 3*** hotel with breakfast near the airport
  • Rental car return at the hotel
  • Transfer to the airport 3h before departure
  • Travel consulting and planning assistance by zoom call, online min. 1 hour.

** Translation service via WhatsApp if you need help, like z.B in case of any problems in connection with the vehicle, such as accident, police checks, during delivery and pick-up of the vehicle, resp. in case of defects or if you need medical help

*** only valid for customers with residential address in Germany and Austria

* with insurance certificate (R+V insurance) and all the protection offered by the European travel law

40 years of Costa Rica experience

The best stops for your Costa Rica adventures – take advantage of our experience! Valuable information about regions, national parks and tours as well as travel costs. Answering your questions and describing what you can expect during the intended travel period in Costa Rica.

consultation of up to 1h via video call!

Ulrich G. Roth – Your travel consultant
You see my screen on your desired device (PC, laptop or tablet) and I guide you along the possible routes of your Costa Rica round trip.

By means of maps and further information I will show you the interesting spots off the beaten tourist track. Together we can then discuss and determine your desired trip on screen.

Consultation of up to 1h via video call!

Ulrich G. Roth – your travel consultant
You see my screen on your device of choice (PC, laptop or tablet) and I guide you along the possible routes of your Costa Rica round trip.

By means of maps and further information I will show you the interesting spots off the beaten tourist track. Together we can then discuss and determine your desired trip on the screen.

* with insurance certificate (R+V insurance) and all the protection offered by the European travel law

German speaking support in Costa Rica

Michael Siegfried was born in Costa Rica of Swiss parents and studied Sustainable Tourism there.

His passion for ecological fincas and authentic, remote areas make him a specialist for tourism off the beaten track – he writes many interesting articles for the Pura Vida blog.

Micha welcomes you at the beginning of your Costa Rica trip and hands over the cell phone.

Equipment and condition of the rental car

The rental vehicles of the local rental companies we have selected for you are all professionally maintained, but to be on the safe side, please check that the brakes and seat belts are in good working order.

It is also important to have a pharmacy and mandatory items such as a breakdown triangle, jack, safety jacket with reflectors, and possibly a fire extinguisher (law is currently in parliament for processing), as well as child seats if needed.

Be aware that road conditions in Costa Rica are sometimes poor.

In some sections, holes are filled with stones or patched with cement. After a period of heavy precipitation, the road condition is often worse than before. Therefore, if possible, give preference to a 4×4 vehicle. For some destinations, such as Rincon de la Vieja, Monteverde, the coastal road Quepos – Dominical, the four-wheel drive is inevitable. On many roads, not only four-wheel drive alone is a necessary criterion, but above all the increased distance from the ground.

The driving style of the Ticos

The Ticos are speedy car drivers.

Often pedestrians crossing the street are honked at violently, but rarely reduce speed. But also the opposite is the case – namely excessive leisureliness (in the third lane). In cities and urban centers, the driving style is sometimes very chaotic and does not correspond to the usual, European driving style.

Therefore, always drive d e f e n s i v , fully concentrated and never overtired or under the influence of alcohol.

The motto also applies: "Trust is good, control is better".

Never rely on other road users to obey traffic rules, especially prohibition and mandatory signs. Driving against the one-way street is quite a common maneuver, as is running red lights or even overlooking stop signs. The latter is one of the main causes of minor to moderate accidents in urban areas. Reduce your speed even if you have the right of way and always check if the other road user is obeying the rule.

Patience is another useful companion when driving in Costa Rica.

The sentence: "I have time, I am on vacation" can work wonders here. Because it can often happen that a bus in front of you blocks the second lane, while the driver engages another bus driver in the first lane in a conversation. Also processions or horse events take place, where you have to follow in tow for a while.

Always drive slowly – especially because of bumps, holes, and other irregularities that suddenly and unexpectedly change the road.

Beggars or sick people, but also cows can enter the roadway just as surprisingly.

Traffic signs

The signposting in Costa Rica is a real dilemma.

Streets and alleys are only labeled on a few corners, house numbers almost not at all, signs can sometimes be very confusing, and directional signs, such as at major junctions, are simply missing.

If you have orientation problems because the necessary signs are missing, simply ask your way with hands and feet.

Operators of pulperias (grocery stores), sodas (pubs) and security guards are reliable contacts because they know their surroundings well. Because it is not uncommon for Ticos on the road to literally "give you the heave-ho" because they are surprised with the question, and are quick to make some sort of assumption.

Speed limits

Speed cameras are the order of the day on Costa Rican roads.

Cameras lurk everywhere, because since the 10. September 2011 there are internet surveillance cameras. The names of those owners of vehicles caught speeding are published in "La Gazeta". You may also be charged by the rental car company if it turns out that you were driving the vehicle at the time.

Speed limits are based on international standards.

Unless otherwise specified, a minimum speed of 40 km/h applies on the auto roads and a maximum speed of 60 km/h on rural roads and secondary roads. In residential areas the speed limit is 40 km/h (unless otherwise stated) and in front of hospitals and schools 25 km/h. On highways the maximum speed is indicated.
Other important regulations

Driving on beaches is forbidden, unless there is no other connection between two cities.

The police have no right to seize a car, except in case of a serious accident, if the driver is drunk or driving without a valid license.

In Costa Rica, seat belts are compulsory, compliance with the rule is also for your own safety.

Police officers may ask you to stop the vehicle if there is an accident further ahead, at so-called "checkpoints" (for example in the Caribbean near Cahuita), if you are driving without license plates or too fast. Vehicle documents and driver’s license are checked during inspections and sometimes whether you are carrying a pharmacy and the mandatory breakdown triangle and reflective safety jacket.

For stopping and parking you need a short term parking permit in some cities (especially in San Jose).

This will either be sold nearby or filled out for you by a park ranger and renewed if necessary after the time has expired. Make sure that you always park the vehicle in a guarded place or where you can see it well (from the restaurant). In front of many bars and squares there are parking attendants with red-yellow jackets, who, for a tip ($1 – max. $3) Guard the car. Don’t be put off by the shabby clothes of park guards, often such people live in poor conditions and guarding vehicles is their only source of income. They usually perform their work with a great sense of responsibility.
Penalty tickets

Please note that the amounts given below (as of August 2011) are subject to fluctuation. Also, the laws are currently being revised and redefined in parliament.

Attention: never pay fines to officials without getting a receipt for it.


Even if you park in a guarded parking lot, do not leave valuables or luggage visible in the car!

Never leave the vehicle unattended or open on beaches, even if you are nearby. Close windows and doors. This also applies in case of a flat tire, since in the past supposed helpers have already turned out to be thieves.

Driving at night

Basically, it is recommended to drive early in the morning and avoid long drives at night.

Driving conditions can be extremely difficult. When crossing mountain passes, such as the "Cerro de la Muerte" or even on the way to the Caribbean through the Braulio Carrillo National Park, you can be surprised by landslides or fog. Also, oncoming vehicles dazzle you with their poorly adjusted headlights and pedestrians, horses, cows or bicyclists suddenly appear in the roadway. It happened to us once that we almost knocked down a dark-skinned man without a T-shirt on an unlit black bicycle on a dirt road late at night, if we had not swerved in time.

In the event that you are involved in an accident, call 911 and do not move the vehicle from the spot until the police arrive.

In Costa Rica every accident has to be recorded by the police (not only in case of personal injury). Injured persons should definitely wait for the arrival of rescue vehicles and not be removed from the scene of the accident. It is also useful to take photos, make notes or drawings, and yes, do not make statements to unauthorized people.
Other tips

The network of gas stations is very well developed, nevertheless it is advisable never to drive to the last drop, but to consider a proper reserve.

In very remote areas, gasoline is also sold in canisters.

Tolls of a small amount (50 cents to $2) are collected on the main highway routes. The fastest way to pass the tollbooth is to hand over the money exactly counted. Ask for the receipt, as there are controls here as well.

We wish you a good trip and Buen Viaje!

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Driving a car in Costa Rica

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This Costa Rica Round Trip leads from the Caribbean Jungle via Boca Tapada, to the volcano "Rincon de la Vieja", and finally to the South Pacific. The classics, such as Arenal and Monteverde can be installed.

At Costa Rica Blog from Pura Vida Travel you will find interesting reports and suggestions for your Costa Rica trip, also read there the feedbacks of our customers.

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