a VirtualTourist member from Sudbury
I've rented vehicles in Europe and Mexico and been able to manage with minimal frustration. Any thoughts on Costa Rica for a fly drive vacation? How would you compare the driving experience with Spain or Mexico?
Renting a car in Costa Rica is easy enough and the driving is fine as well. Really is the best way to get around. Just set aside extra time driving from one place to another. While on a map it does not look far, driving times vary depending on how many trucks you get stuck behind as they drive slow through the mountains. Also, be aware they is a mandatory insurance requirement not mentioned in any quote if you book on line. It is quite high, about $150 usd per week or more.
As for police, you may get stopped but if you follow the rules of the road you have little chance. Out of the 8 or so times I've been there, I have been stopped once for not wearing a seat belt. They wanted $80 usd. While I had the cash I refused to pay. The language barrier may have helped. I told them I would go back to their headquarters with them. They wanted no part of that but to save time I offered $20 and they accepted. This was the very first year I went. Now, I wouldn't offer them anything. And when you rent a car they tell you not to pay the police, no matter what they say.
Agreed, renting a car is a good idea and the roads are in decent condition, but you will find secondary roads with lots of pot holes. Obey the laws and you won't have problems with the highway police- they do have a lot of speed traps on the highways!
Costa Rica's roads have greatly improved over the past 10-12 years and if you have patience and a decent sense of direction, driving is certainly do-able. It's pretty comparable to Mexico or Spain, congested in the cities, easy in the countryside.
Road signs are sparse, but if you can pronounce your destination, you can ask and people will point you in the right direction.
We travel to CR twice per year to visit family and always rent cars from ToyotaRent at the San Jose airport. Toyotarent.com. Their service is excellent and prices are decent. They have automatic transmission cars available, but you probably should request one if you can't manage a stick.
A sedan will get you to all the cities and towns in the country. For back country exploring in the rainy season, a 4WD would be better. We usually go in the dry months (November thru May) and have taken a 14 passenger van on bumpy rutted back tracks on the Nicoya peninsula or along the Caribbean coast without incident.
We just returned from Costa Rica, and rented a SUV for a week from Vamos. In my opinion, it is easy to drive around, IF you have a GPS with you. Vamos rents it at $8/day. We brought our GPS with a Costa Rica map loaded. It is definitely worthwhile to have one because street name is generally not used and you usually can't find a street name sign. People use landmarks as the reference point to refer to a location, eg. 2 blocks south of the church.
If you are on the main road, it is usually free of potholes. But smaller roads usually have potholes, or they are made with gravel or dirt. An SUV would help for sure. Definitely pay attention on the road. A lane could suddenly end without warning! We were on the highway outside of San Jose and a road block suddenly appeared in a lane with no signs beforehand. A lane could also become an exit lane without warning. The ditch on the side of the road is very deep. Don't drive too close to the side!
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