Costa Rica Blog
Costa Rica Blog

Helpful Tips for Driving in Costa Rica

You’ve been planning the ultimate Costa Rica vacation for months, and now the time is finally here! Whether your itinerary includes the more popular beach destinations such as Flamingo, Tamarindo or Jaco – or places off-the-beaten-path – your trip will surely be unforgettable. And if you’re renting a car, that’s all the better: driving in Costa Rica is one of the best ways to explore the country’s varied terrain. And with no bus timetables to worry about, you can move at your own pace.

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Pan-American highway Passes through all of Costa Rica
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Caldera Highway features easy access to Pacific coast

The sublime Central Pacific beaches are the first pit-stop for thousands of visitors, and the Caldera Highway offers quick access from the San Jose airport to the white-sand shores of Manuel Antonio – in just over a couple of hours. If you’re heading further south to Dominical, the once gravel road is now free of potholes, meaning a smooth and easy drive to your resort or beach vacation rental.

For safe travels, follow these driving tips

Driving in Costa Rica
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As a tourist from either Canada or the United States, your current driver’s license is valid during the duration of your permitted entry to Costa Rica – up to three months. Additionally, international driver’s permits issued by the AAA are also accepted.

  1. Always keep a copy of your driver’s license and your passport with you when driving
  2. Wear your seat belt – it’s the law.
  3. Opt for a 4WD vehicle if your vacation plans include Monteverde or very rural areas – ask your car rental agency first
  4. Watch the speed limits as tickets can run upward of $250
  5. If at all possible, avoid driving at night when visibility may be poor
  6. If you see an oncoming vehicle flashing their lights, that’s a signal to slow down for an impending broken down vehicle or a police check point
  7. Do not leave valuables unattended in your car for long periods of time
  8. Be wary of motorcyclists who often pass without warning
  9. “Ceda” means yield and “Alto” means stop
  10. If you’re involved in an accident with another vehicle, wait until police arrives before moving your car. Call 911 to report the crash.  Go here for a tow truck or roadside assistance.

GPS for local navigation

You may have heard about the roads in Costa Rica and how wild the drivers can be. In reality, the roads are no more challenging than those of any big city, as long as you are alert and drive defensively. While the signage often leaves something to be desired, most car rental agencies are happy to include a GPS for a nominal daily fee. These nifty gadgets are extremely useful and have more 30,000 points of interest, not to mention geographical features like lakes, volcanoes and rivers. If you get lost or are in doubt, always stop and ask for help. Costa Ricans are famously friendly people and will gladly point you in the right direction.