Driving Tips, Rules & Regulations in Costa Rica

Whether you choose to rent or bring your own car, driving around Costa Rica won’t be easy. Roads are not maintained very well, and most of them a naturally curvy. You’ll find traffic in both the city and mountain roads, and signs won’t always be there when you need them. But if you’re up to the task, then read on.

Should you choose to rent a car for your trip, make sure you pick one that will suit most of your travel plans. For instance, those who plan in hitting the mountains and dirt roads are better off with 4WDs. In fact, some places like those along the Caribbean Coast are almost impossible to access without a SUV. As far as size is concerned, compact cars are a must. They’re easier to travel with, thanks to their lower clearance and higher efficiency. This allows you to get around but still save up on gas, not to mention find parking space more easily. You’ll also want one that comes with safety equipment and a GPS so as to avoid any problems on the road.

Carefully inspecting your rented car before using it will also protect you from unwanted complications when you return it. This is because Costa Rican auto rental companies have a tendency to charge you for dents and damage on the returned car. To avoid having to pay for damage you didn’t do, check the condition of the car before driving it.

Gas rates are roughly $2. 90 per litre (as of 2014), and stations labelled "Gasolina" can be found in every town. They sell either “regular” or “super”, so it would be wise to ask your car dealer what your rental runs on.

As you hit the road you’ll find that driving in Costa Rica is different from the US or Europe. You’ll most likely find yourself in different terrains within the day if your drive far enough. To avoid getting lost, make sure you know where you’re going. You don’t want to have any uncertainty when you reach these areas because some of them don’t have guardrails, making them accident prone. Also, avoid travelling at night, given that it’s already hard enough to get around during the day.

As a general precaution, lock your car when you leave it, taking with you your valuables. Instances of car theft are known in Costa Rica, so play safe and don’t give them a reason to mess with your car. Also, be wary of overly friendly locals who could end up to be thieves who take advantage of the situation.

Most of the traffic regulations in Costa Rica are like the ones in the US and UK, so even when you weren’t able to master all of them, your common sense will help you avoid violations. Make sure you’ve got your license, you always wear your seat belt, and you have the necessary equipment for passengers below 12 years old. Finally, drive defensively, and you’ll be making stops and taking pictures of the scenery in no time.

Summary

Roads are not maintained very well, and most of them a naturally curvy.
Traffic signs won’t always be there when you need them.
Try to avoid travelling at night, given that it’s already hard enough to get around during the day.
Lock your car when you leave it, taking with you your valuables.
Be wary of overly friendly locals who could end up to be thieves.
Always wear your seat belt.
Drive defensively.

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