Costa Rica isn’t known for its road safety and its attention to detail whilst driving. Although the dirt roads are remote and poorly maintained, they will get you where you want to go. For foreigners though, they can be a nightmare. While driving safety is practically non-existent, from bridges without guard rails to drivers with little regard for anyone else, you can still travel well if you plan correctly.
Here’s some information to help you when planning to travel in Costa Rica.
Getting To Your Resort
There are some great private shuttle services that will collect you at the airport or from your hotel in San Jose or Alajuela and take you to many of the more popular outlying towns. A lot of our guests use the shuttle services of Montezuma Expeditions to get from either San Jose or Liberia out to the Nicoya Peninsula.
Mapping it Out
Many visitors attempt to read a Costa Rican map the same way as they would back home. If they see something is 100km away they’ll assume they can do the distance in an hour or two. Things work differently in Costa Rica. Very differently.
The roads are in such poor condition you can expect to double the amount of time it takes to reach your destination. Most often the roads don't favour traveling at speeds much greater than 40km/hour so consider this when planning your journey.
Take Someone with You
It’s easy to get lost in this country. There are very few road signs and unless you’re adept at using a compass the chances are you’ll take the occasional wrong turn. You can employ the services of a local guide to help you get to your destination. There are people who do this commercially, but the locals will often guide you if you’re willing to give them a ride to where they want to go.
Organise Your Rental Car
Most people use rental cars to get around Costa Rica. Public transport can’t get you to many of the more remote locations you may want to visit. Rental car agencies will charge quite a high deposit for your vehicle. and most often additional insurance will be compulsory if you're unable to show that you already hold some form of rental car insurance. If you already have a policy which provides this cover (for example, through your credit card company) be sure to bring a print out of your policy certificate to evidence this.
We recommend Economy Car Rental in Alajuela. The staff are friendly and accommodating. They generally accept a credit card to secure the deposit and to pay for the car at the end. A helpful hint to avoid any arousal of suspicion with your bank is to notify them prior to arriving in Costa Rica that you will be traveling and might see some larger charges from Costa Rica.
Don't Travel at Night
Unless you’re an experienced driver, avoid travelling after dark. There are no street lights and the only navigation you’ll have is via the stars and however far your headlights reach. It’s not worth the risk of getting lost or potentially crashing into someone or something. Many Costa Ricans drive motorcycles without lights so if you are driving at night, stay alert.
Remember your timing, as outlined above, when you travel in Costa Rica and you’ll have no problems on the roads. If it’s a choice between driving during the day and potentially being caught outside at night, travel the next day so you can account for any unexpected delays.
Feel free to contact us to discuss your travel arrangements prior to departure.