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Driving During Your Costa Rica Vacation

You May Want to Discover Costa Rica by Driving:

Some Things You’ll Need to Know


CR-drivingDriving is one of the best ways to get around Costa Rica. You don’t have to wait for a bus or follow a guide – you can just jump in and go where you want, when you want. As you might imagine, driving in Costa Rica is not the same as driving in the U.S. The roads are different, the driving rules are different, and the terrain varies widely. It takes a little getting used to, but it’s really a great way to see everything there is to see, on your terms.

Here are some helpful tips to make your road trip smoother.


If you have a valid driver’s license in your home country or an International Driver’s Permit, you can legally drive in Costa Rica. You should always carry your driver’s license and passport with you.

Renting a Car

Renting a car is less expensive than taking taxis or hiring a private driver, but more expensive than taking a bus. You must be at least 21 to rent a car, you must purchase basic liability insurance, and you must have a credit card limit of $1000 to $1500, which will cover the mandatory refundable deposit. Additional insurance options that cover theft and vandalism are also available.

Choosing a Car

Manual transmission cars are the most commonly used in Costa Rica. You can rent a car with automatic transmission for a higher fee, but it may not be as easy to navigate the country’s hilly terrain. If you’ll be driving through major cities and towns, a standard car will work fine. However, if you plan to head for the countryside, a 4×4 is your best bet.

Getting Around

Navigating Costa Rica can be difficult in some places, and easy in others. Cities and their surrounding areas have plenty of easy-to-follow signs and, while you might encounter a bit of traffic and some aggressive drivers, it isn’t difficult to drive around. Once you head into the country’s more remote areas, things get a bit more challenging. There are few to no signs, and it’s easy to get lost. If you do get lost, the locals are really friendly, and are always willing to point you in the right direction. Or, if you prefer a bit more security, invest in a GPS. It will only cost you a few hours a day.

Seatbelts are required in Costa Rica, so keep yours on. The speed limit on major roads is 62 MPH, or 100 KMH, and on lesser roads it’s usually 37 MPH on lesser roads. Officers are standing by at checkpoints to enforce speeding and seatbelt regulations.

Helpful Hints

  • Never leave anything of value in your car while it’s unattended.
  • Always practice defensive driving
  • If this is your first trip to Costa Rica, avoid heading off anywhere you’re unfamiliar with after dark
  • Keep watch for wild animals on the roads
  • San Jose has vehicle restriction laws, which prohibit cars with license plates ending in certain numbers to be on the road on certain weekdays
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