The Final Information to Renting a Automotive in Costa Rica (Up to date 2024)

A sunny, bright day overlooking the towering Arenal volcano in Costa Rica with lush jungle in all directions
Posted: 1/25/24 | January twenty fifth, 2024

I really like Costa Rica. It was the primary place I visited on my own over 15 years in the past and the nation that set me on my nomadic journey. From its gorgeous seashores to its lush jungles, this biodiverse nation is well-liked with backpackers, honeymooners, and expats alike. And whereas it’s small, there’s a ton to see and do. You may simply spend a month and nonetheless barely scratch the floor.

It’s additionally wonderful for road-tripping.

As a lot as a backpacking bus or hitchhiking journey would possibly initially sound interesting, the truth is that ready within the scorching solar after which bouncing alongside bumpy roads in an previous bus with out shocks or air-conditioning shouldn’t be for the fainthearted. In order for you actual freedom to discover, you want a rental automobile.

That will help you plan your journey, right here’s the whole lot it’s good to find out about renting a automobile in Costa Rica.


Selecting the Proper Rental Automotive (and Rental Firm)

Earlier than you lease a automobile, learn and examine evaluations for automobile rental firms. Whereas the usual large firms can be found right here, there are many native ones too.

After you have narrowed down the record to a selected few, ask for quotes for the kind of car and journey dates that you just require. The quote ought to embody obligatory third-party insurance coverage, taxes, and some other surcharges, like airport tax. Most websites embody all this information when getting a quote on-line.

Whether or not you’re reserving on-line or instantly with an agent, double-check the small print of your reservation. Crossing time zones might imply that your rental pickup time and even date is completely different in Costa Rica than your nation of departure. You have to to verify the time, date, and site of your car’s pickup and drop-off, the car class, transmission, and protection required.

Factors to recollect when renting a automobile in Costa Rica:

  • A handbook transmission could also be cheaper than computerized and extra frequent in Costa Rica however ought to solely be chosen if you happen to can drive a stick shift.
  • Returning your automobile at a vacation spot completely different from the place you picked it up will most likely incur a further cost.
  • Most rental firms is not going to assure a particular make and mannequin throughout the rental class.
  • Count on to lease for 24-hour intervals. Time your pickup and drop-off accordingly.
  • Present your flight quantity earlier than you arrive, so the corporate can observe your flight.
  • When you have an early flight, contemplate dropping off the car the night time earlier than and utilizing a resort shuttle to the airport.
  • On-line journey companies (OTAs) usually fail to incorporate all expenses, so if you happen to ebook by means of one, remember to test the ultimate worth with the automobile rental firm, by means of which the pricing could also be extra clear.
  • Most firms now supply an internet check-in course of to add paperwork reminiscent of passports and driver’s licenses to chop time on the counter and get on the street sooner.

My go-to rental automobile firm in Costa Rica is Vamos. You’ll be able to click on right here to get a quote. (You’ll get 5% off simply through the use of that hyperlink).

Arriving on the Airport

Each worldwide airports in Costa Rica have automobile rental firm desks throughout the constructing; nonetheless, the workplaces (the place you’ll get your automobile) are off-site. They often have a shuttle service to take purchasers to their workplaces, most of that are positioned inside a 10-minute drive of the airport.

Native hustlers would possibly let you know that your organization has gone out of enterprise to persuade you to go together with a unique firm that may pay them a fee. Search for an indication together with your firm’s brand and ignore the hustlers.

In case your flight is delayed otherwise you miss your connection, contact the corporate together with your new estimated arrival time to keep away from having the reservation canceled as a no-show.

Whenever you arrive on the rental workplace, the agent will fill in any excellent paperwork that has not been finished on-line and conduct a car inspection with you. Though the agent will notice present harm, it’s best to take images or video of the automobile for backup functions.

Your car might not have a full gas tank while you decide it up, however the gas gauge degree ought to be logged on the inspection type. You have to to return the automobile with the identical gas degree. Though you’ll not be reimbursed for a degree increased than the one registered, you can be charged whether it is under the beginning degree.

Returning the Automobile
Affirm your drop-off location and time while you decide up the car. If you’re caught in visitors or are delayed for any motive, contact the rental firm to keep away from a penalty. Make it possible for your gas gauge is on the proper degree, or else head to a fuel station earlier than you drop it off. The corporate’s consultant will examine your car with you after which course of the deposit reimbursement.

Paperwork Wanted for Renting a Automotive in Costa Rica

Right here’s the whole lot it’s good to lease a automobile in Costa Rica:

Driver’s license – You should use your native driver’s license throughout the rental interval so long as it’s printed within the Latin alphabet. In case your license is in a language that doesn’t use the Latin alphabet (e.g., Mandarin, Arabic), a world driving license is required. Your driver’s license have to be legitimate for the whole thing of your keep.

It is very important notice that though most vacationers will probably be given a 180-day visa once they enter the nation, their driver’s licenses are solely legitimate for 90 days, and they are going to be required to depart Costa Rica and return to legally drive once more.

Bank card – You want a legitimate bank card in your identify to pay the automobile rental and to put the deposit.

Passport – Your passport ought to be legitimate at some point of your keep. Legally, vacationers should carry it with them always. The transit police will need to see it and your entry visa in case you are pulled over.

A Notice on the Minimal and Most Driving Age
Every automobile rental firm has insurance policies concerning the age of the drivers it insures. Many would not have a most age, however some set a restrict of 70-75 years previous. The authorized age to drive in Costa Rica is eighteen; nonetheless, most firms require that drivers be a minimum of 25. Youthful drivers might be able to lease a automobile for a further surcharge and insurance coverage prices.

Insurance coverage Protection

Costa Rica has obligatory third-party insurance coverage for automobile leases. It isn’t doable to acquire this protection some other manner. Examine that this value is included in your rental quote, because it’s usually disregarded, so you might find yourself paying greater than what you initially thought.

A collision harm waiver (CDW) covers losses from harm to your rental automobile. That is legally required when renting a automobile in Costa Rica. Most firms supply varied tiers of insurance coverage, with varied deductibles. Many renters choose full protection for peace of thoughts, as then any harm that happens throughout rental is roofed. Some firms supply further protection for tires and the windscreen (windshield), as they don’t seem to be all the time lined by the CDW.

In case your bank card supplier has a CDW as a perk, you’ll be able to waive the in-house CDW. Simply notice that you will want to convey a letter that explicitly states the quantity of protection, that Costa Rica is included within the areas lined, and the final 4 digits of the motive force’s bank card. A duplicate of the bank card firm’s phrases and situations shouldn’t be normally ample.

One vital factor to notice is that the rental firm might maintain a deposit for the rental interval, which could possibly be as much as $5,000 USD if the renter is utilizing their bank card supplier’s CDW. The deposit will probably be launched on the finish of the rental interval. Ensure you have a bank card that may soak up this accretion.

Driving in Costa Rica

Right here are some things to bear in mind whereas driving in Costa Rica:

Pace limits – Indicators are in kilometers moderately than miles, and velocity limits are typically decrease than you’d count on, with a 90 km/h (55 mph) restrict on main highways. Pace limits change with restricted warning between areas, so keep alert to signage.

Gasoline stations – Just be sure you know in case your rental car is fueled by fuel or diesel. This data ought to be on the car inspection report if you happen to’ve forgotten. Gasoline stations usually are not self-service, so be ready to ask for the sort of gas you want in addition to the quantity.

When you’re renting one of many EVs which can be beginning to type a part of fleets in Costa Rica, then plan your route across the community of charging stations throughout the nation. You’ll be able to be taught extra about these right here.

Navigation – Use Waze, which is up to date in actual time by an enthusiastic group of volunteers, so that you’re conscious of accidents or different conditions that will have an effect on your journey time. Google Maps is on the market however doesn’t all the time have correct data. It additionally tends to underestimate journey occasions, so it’s best to take that into consideration when planning your itinerary if you happen to plan to make use of it.

Regardless of Costa Rica’s official tackle system, which consists of calles (roads that run north-south) and avenidas (avenues that run west-east), virtually all locals give instructions utilizing landmarks, and few can present instructions utilizing street or avenue numbers. It’s useful to know {that a} block is normally described as 100 meters.

So as to add to the confusion, a location might use landmarks that not exist however have been recognized effectively sufficient to stay in residing reminiscence. So you might be directed to go 600 meters south of the place “the place the massive mango tree was once” or to show left after “the grocery store that was once pink.” Fortunately, Waze is a navigation lifesaver, however you would possibly develop to benefit from the quirky tico (Costa Rican) manner of discovering locations!

Parking – At all times park in safe parking heaps, and don’t go away valuables in an unattended car, as break-ins can happen.

In the previous couple of years, there have been circumstances of the transit police issuing fines and eradicating license plates from automobiles parked on yellow traces at well-liked vacationer spots like Manuel Antonio. The headache on this scenario is that the car can’t be pushed with out plates and have to be towed again to the workplace, the place it stays off the street till the automobile rental firm reclaims the plates from the related authority. It is a time-consuming and costly process, so be conscious of the place you park!

Further Rental Concerns

Many automobile rental firms cost a every day worth for tools or companies past the essential rental prices. It’s best to take this under consideration when budgeting your journey. These can embody:

Further drivers – Count on to pay a every day price for every driver added to your rental settlement after the principle driver. (Vamos Lease-A-Automotive provides further drivers with out further value.) It is smart to have a minimum of one further driver to share the burden for longer journeys or to take over if the principle driver is feeling underneath the climate.

Roof racks – When you’re touring with a whole lot of baggage or surfboards, then renting a roof rack at a every day price could also be an answer to a cramped car inside.

Child or automobile seating – When you’re touring with youngsters, Costa Rican legislation about seating (see under) is strictly enforced. Both convey your personal baby seat or lease one at a every day price from the corporate.

Costa Rican seating legal guidelines for kids are primarily based both on age or weight/peak:

  • Rear-facing child seat: Required for kids lower than a yr previous and underneath 22 lbs (10 kg)
  • Baby seat: For these as much as 4 years previous or lower than 40 lbs (18 kg) and underneath 3’7”
  • Booster seat: For these 5 to 12 years previous, 40 kilos or extra, and nonetheless underneath 4’9”
  • Seat belt: For these 4’9” or taller or over the age of 12

Wi-Fi – Keep related all through your journey with out paying extortionate roaming expenses through the use of a Mi-Fi (cell Wi-Fi) gadget out of your rental firm. It’s normally quick sufficient to add your newest vacay pics onto Instagram, hook up with your Spotify road-trip playlists, and navigate with Waze, however downloading films might be an excessive amount of to count on. Web protection in Costa Rica is extensive, however don’t depend on it in case you are touring off the overwhelmed observe.

Accidents – If you’re concerned in a visitors accident, test that nobody is damage then transfer to security off the street. Don’t transfer the car. Name the transit police and your insurance coverage firm. You must also name your automobile rental supplier to evaluate if the automobile might be pushed, if a mechanic is required onsite or if the automobile must be exchanged and towed. The car might be moved as soon as the transit police give permission.

Crossing the Border – Rental automobiles can’t be taken to neighboring nations (Nicaragua or Panama) attributable to insurance coverage restrictions. If you wish to go to these locations, you’ll be able to prepare to drop off your rental car on the border and reserve a automobile to be delivered when you’ve crossed it.

11 Driving Suggestions for Costa Rica

A car driving on a dirt road in the shadow of Arenal volcano in Costa Rica

1. Maintain a detailed eye on velocity restrict indicators, as this could change rapidly inside a brief distance.

2. You’re renting a automobile, not a ship, so resist the temptation to drive by means of rivers (even when the locals are doing so). Insurance coverage insurance policies are voided if the car is pushed by means of any physique of water. And the digital parts of recent automobiles are more likely to expertise costly harm in water.

3. On an identical notice, it’s unlawful to park on the seaside. That is to guard wildlife, reminiscent of turtles. Even when locals are doing it, discover a safe car parking zone as an alternative.

4. Drivers within the different lane might flash their lights as they’re coming towards you. That is normally a warning that there are transit police forward or that there’s an upcoming impediment.

5. Pace bumps could also be large and could possibly be unmarked. Keep vigilant.

6. Bridges could also be one lane, so it’s good to search for signage that signifies which path has precedence.

7. If driving a manual-transmission car, change gears when driving downhill, and don’t trip the brakes or else the pads might overheat.

8. Use warning whereas driving at night time. Roads are sometimes poorly lit, and cyclists or pedestrians might use the street edge in locations the place there’s no sidewalk. Plan to reach at your vacation spot by sundown or round 5:30pm. Maintain your eyes peeled for sloths or different wildlife crossing the street.

9. When you’re touring outdoors of the Central Valley or essentially the most visited vacationer spots like Jaco, lease an SUV for the upper clearance that the car provides. For extra rural locations, a 4×4 could also be required, particularly within the wet season. Be happy to ask your automobile rental supplier for recommendation on the most effective car on your itinerary.

10. Flat tires usually are not normally lined by in-house or bank card insurance policies. When you get a flat tire, a neighborhood storage can normally repair it for lower than $20 USD.

11. If you’re pulled over by the transit police, it’s best to current your driver’s license, passport, and the paperwork offered by the automobile rental firm. Site visitors tickets might be issued by officers, however the fee can solely be made in a financial institution or by way of your automobile rental firm. Ought to a police officer ask you for money, name the police instantly or your automobile rental firm for help. Don’t pay any bribes.


Costa Rica is a ravishing nation and one in all my favourite locations in Central America. To make sure you profit from your go to and get off the overwhelmed path, lease a automobile. You’ll have extra freedom and adaptability, and be capable to discover past the usual vacationer websites. I can’t advocate it sufficient!

Click on right here to get a quote from Vamos Lease-A-Automotive. You’ll get an computerized 5% off simply through the use of this hyperlink!

Guide Your Journey to Costa Rica: Logistical Suggestions and Methods

Guide Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to discover a low-cost flight. They’re my favourite search engine as a result of they search web sites and airways across the globe so that you all the time know no stone is left unturned!

Guide Your Lodging
You’ll be able to ebook your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve the largest stock and finest offers. If you wish to keep someplace apart from a hostel, use as they constantly return the most affordable charges for guesthouses and low-cost resorts. My favourite locations to remain are:

Don’t Overlook Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you towards sickness, harm, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes unsuitable. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions up to now. My favourite firms that supply the most effective service and worth are:

In search of the Greatest Corporations to Save Cash With?
Take a look at my useful resource web page for the most effective firms to make use of while you journey. I record all those I exploit to economize once I’m on the street. They’ll prevent cash while you journey too.

Need Extra Info on Costa Rica?
Make sure to go to our sturdy vacation spot information on Costa Rica for much more planning suggestions!

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