The Adventure of Driving in Costa Rica

Talk about Costa Rica and you usually talk about the safari adventures in the jungles. You might talk about visiting the beaches and meeting some of the locals. Driving in Costa Rica is an experience you're also likely to talk about if you only have memories of driving in Europe and North America. It’s an adventure in itself and is bound to get the adrenaline pumping through your veins. Here are some of the nuances you need to get used to if you intend on renting a car during your stay.

Ticos Drivers are Crazy!

It’s a harsh subheading to kick off this article but it’s true. Drivers in Costa Rica are simply crazy. You don’t have right of way as a pedestrian and people are very casual about safety. They’ll happily barrel on by despite a huge cliff drop a few inches from their rear wheel. If you value your life, let them pass and don’t try to get into a fight with a Tico driver.

Can You Drive?

Anyone can drive a vehicle in Costa Rica if they have a valid driver’s licence. Your licence from your country of residence will suffice. Your visa must be valid for it to be enabled within the country. This is a real problem for tourists who don’t need visas to enter the country. You may well need a visa to actually drive a car, though.

Finding Your Way

It’s common in many Latin countries to not have street lights and signs. The same thing applies to addresses. If you’re planning on driving somewhere, take a map and don’t rely on spotting a sign to guide you. Make sure you know precisely where you’re going. Take a local guide if you need to. You don’t want to risk getting lost on these poorly maintained roads.

The Roads

To put is bluntly, the roads are terrible. Especially in remote areas. You’ll find potholes which can kill your suspension if you hit them. Sometimes there are manhole covers missing and you’ll occasionally see a tree growing in the middle of the street. You should also watch out for any telephone poles. Telephone poles in Costa Rica don’t give on impact, so it will be your car bearing the brunt of the damage.


Be careful when crossing bridges. They rarely have guardrails and they’re very narrow. Only one car should pass at a time. For your own safety, let the other car pass if two of you approach the bridge at the same time. It’s very disconcerting to look down and spot a drop of about 200 feet.

Driving at Night

Driving at night is something you should generally avoid. Despite all the hazards of driving in Costa Rica, it's still a safe thing to do if you’re careful and a good driver. During the day. Driving at night is a whole other matter. There are no lights on the roads and you have to rely on your own skill. Many Ticos ride their motorbikes without lights, using only a bike light to guide them. Unless it’s an emergency, leave your car at home and stay off the roads at night.

If you're still thinking of taking a road trip around Costa Rica, be sure to contact us first for some helpful travel tips. Already been there, done that and survived to tell the tale? We'd love to hear about your experiences! Drop by our Facebook page and share your Costa Rican adventure story.