If you plan on doing some land navigation in Costa Rica, either if you are driving yourself or taking a shuttle, please make note of these very important items. Consider that Costa Rica is a very small country; most destinations are between 2 and 6 hours away from San Jose. Driving in Costa Rica can be a bit tricky, most buildings and locations do not have the regular addresses you are used to get. While most of the tourist areas are easy to drive by, the hardest thing is driving in San Jose. Costa Rica is quite different when it comes to driving laws and traffic, so read carefully this small guide.
Driving outside of San Josť is definitely less distracting.
The biggest problem while driving in Costa Rica are potholes, cars that disrespect their lanes and fearful drivers.
Try not to drive behind big trucks, they are very slow and it is pointless to be following them.
Remember that in Costa Rica, driving directions use key points and well known places to mark the specific place you want to go to, not streets and avenues; so make sure you understood clearly any direction you are given and keep a road map handy for extra help.
Avoid speeding; there are radar traps all over Costa Rica. Take your time driving. Enjoy the beautiful landscapes, forests, beaches and architecture on the way.
Please donít bribe the Traffic Police, even if they give you hints about it. Just take the ticket and the Rental Car Agency will handle it.
Avoid driving at night; itís harder to spot potholes and other road hazards. Traffic signs are often inadequate for night driving.
Big signs on highways usually point to the closest towns and some to populated cities.
Remember thereís a strict law regarding the use of seatbelts. Everyone in the car should wear it.
Landslides are common, especially on the highway between San Jose and the Caribbean city of Limon, mostly between the end of May and October.
Keep your doors locked at all times.
Taxis are relatively cheap and the drivers will know where everything is.
If you have to change a tire, do it when arriving at a town or city.
We highly recommend the use of shuttles or private transfers. Bad conditions in the roads, weird addresses and directions can easily be avoid by having someone from the area and who knows everything to take you to places, is safer and much more fun. Ask our travel advisor for shuttle choices available. When picking out your rental car, keep in mind that, some locations are in secluded places and some roads not only are not in the best conditions but may not even be pavement. We recommend renting a 4 wheel drive, so you can enjoy your vacation without worrying about transportation. The main areas that have difficult roads are: Monteverde, The Peninsula of Nicoya, south of Playa Samara, Golfito and the Peninsula de Osa. In case you are driving to Costa Rica, be always careful and check our safety guide. Latin American countries in the way are all very different from one another but you can get across by keeping in mind those safety tips.
The requirements to drive in Costa Rica are few but necessary. If you choose to drive on your trip you will need:
A valid driver license from your country and your passport.
Ask our travel advisors for the best way out of San Jose and to your destinations. Mark them on your road map.
In case of an accident, call 911 and please remain inside your car until the Traffic Police (Traffic enforcement in Costa Rica is handled by the Transit Police ("Transitos")) and the insurance company (INS) arrive. Third-party coverage is mandatory in Costa Rica, check with our travel advisors in how to get this insurance before your arrival. Fines are not to be collected on the spot.