The Final Information to Renting a Automobile 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 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 beautiful seashores to its lush jungles, this biodiverse nation is common with backpackers, honeymooners, and expats alike. And whereas it’s small, there’s a ton to see and do. You can simply spend a month and nonetheless barely scratch the floor.

It’s additionally superb for road-tripping.

As a lot as a backpacking bus or hitchhiking journey may initially sound interesting, the fact is that ready within the scorching solar after which bouncing alongside bumpy roads in an previous bus with out shocks or air-conditioning just isn’t for the fainthearted. If you’d like actual freedom to discover, you want a rental automotive.

That can assist you plan your journey, right here’s every thing you’ll want to find out about renting a automotive in Costa Rica.


Choosing the Proper Rental Automobile (and Rental Firm)

Earlier than you lease a automotive, learn and evaluate critiques for automotive rental corporations. Whereas the usual large corporations can be found right here, there are many native ones too.

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

Whether or not you might be reserving on-line or immediately 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’ll need to substantiate the time, date, and site of your automobile’s pickup and drop-off, the automobile class, transmission, and protection required.

Factors to recollect when renting a automotive in Costa Rica:

  • A guide transmission could also be cheaper than automated and extra widespread in Costa Rica however ought to solely be chosen if you happen to can drive a stick shift.
  • Returning your automotive at a vacation spot completely different from the place you picked it up will most likely incur an extra cost.
  • Most rental corporations won’t assure a selected make and mannequin inside the rental class.
  • Count on to lease for 24-hour durations. 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 automobile the evening 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 via one, you’ll want to examine the ultimate worth with the automotive rental firm, via which the pricing could also be extra clear.
  • Most corporations 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 quicker.

My go-to rental automotive firm in Costa Rica is Vamos. You possibly can 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 automotive rental firm desks inside the constructing; nonetheless, the places of work (the place you’ll get your automotive) are off-site. They typically have a shuttle service to take shoppers to their places of work, most of that are positioned inside a 10-minute drive of the airport.

Native hustlers may inform you that your organization has gone out of enterprise to persuade you to go together with a distinct 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.

If you arrive on the rental workplace, the agent will fill in any excellent paperwork that has not been performed on-line and conduct a automobile inspection with you. Though the agent will be aware present injury, it’s best to take images or video of the automotive for backup functions.

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

Returning the Car
Verify your drop-off location and time whenever you decide up the automobile. If you’re caught in site visitors or are delayed for any purpose, contact the rental firm to keep away from a penalty. Guarantee that your gasoline gauge is on the proper degree, or else head to a gasoline station earlier than you drop it off. The corporate’s consultant will examine your automobile with you after which course of the deposit reimbursement.

Paperwork Wanted for Renting a Automobile in Costa Rica

Right here’s every thing you’ll want to lease a automotive in Costa Rica:

Driver’s license – You should utilize your native driver’s license through 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 global driving license is required. Your driver’s license have to be legitimate for everything of your keep.

You will need to be aware that though most vacationers might be given a 180-day visa after 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 title to pay the automotive rental and to position the deposit.

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

A Notice on the Minimal and Most Driving Age
Every automotive rental firm has insurance policies concerning the age of the drivers it insures. Many should 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 corporations require that drivers be no less than 25. Youthful drivers could possibly lease a automotive for an extra surcharge and insurance coverage prices.

Insurance coverage Protection

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

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

In case your bank card supplier has a CDW as a perk, you possibly can waive the in-house CDW. Simply be aware that you will want to deliver 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 driving force’s bank card. A replica of the bank card firm’s phrases and circumstances just isn’t normally ample.

One vital factor to notice is that the rental firm might maintain a deposit for the rental interval, which may very well be as much as $5,000 USD if the renter is utilizing their bank card supplier’s CDW. The deposit might be launched on the finish of the rental interval. Be sure you have a bank card that may take in this accretion.

Driving in Costa Rica

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

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

Fuel stations – Just remember to know in case your rental automobile is fueled by gasoline or diesel. This info ought to be on the automobile inspection report if you happen to’ve forgotten. Fuel stations should not self-service, so be ready to ask for the sort of gasoline you want in addition to the quantity.

In case you’re renting one of many EVs which might 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 possibly can 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 accessible however doesn’t at all times have correct info. 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), nearly 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 identified effectively sufficient to stay in residing reminiscence. So it’s possible you’ll be directed to go 600 meters south of the place “the place the large mango tree was” or to show left after “the grocery store that was pink.” Fortunately, Waze is a navigation lifesaver, however you may develop to benefit from the quirky tico (Costa Rican) manner of discovering locations!

Parking – At all times park in safe parking tons, and don’t depart valuables in an unattended automobile, as break-ins can happen.

In the previous few years, there have been circumstances of the transit police issuing fines and eradicating license plates from autos parked on yellow traces at common vacationer spots like Manuel Antonio. The headache on this scenario is that the automobile 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 automotive 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!

Extra Rental Issues

Many automotive rental corporations cost a day by day worth for gear or companies past the fundamental rental prices. You must take this under consideration when budgeting your journey. These can embrace:

Extra drivers – Count on to pay a day by day fee for every driver added to your rental settlement after the principle driver. (Vamos Hire-A-Automobile provides further drivers with out additional price.) It is smart to have no less than one further driver to share the burden for longer journeys or to take over if the principle driver is feeling beneath the climate.

Roof racks – In case you’re touring with loads of baggage or surfboards, then renting a roof rack at a day by day fee could also be an answer to a cramped automobile inside.

Child or automotive seating – In case you’re touring with kids, Costa Rican regulation about seating (see under) is strictly enforced. Both deliver your individual baby seat or lease one at a day by day fee from the corporate.

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

  • Rear-facing child seat: Required for kids lower than a yr previous and beneath 22 lbs (10 kg)
  • Youngster seat: For these as much as 4 years previous or lower than 40 lbs (18 kg) and beneath 3’7”
  • Booster seat: For these 5 to 12 years previous, 40 kilos or extra, and nonetheless beneath 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) machine out of your rental firm. It’s normally quick sufficient to add your newest vacay pics onto Instagram, connect with your Spotify road-trip playlists, and navigate with Waze, however downloading motion pictures might be an excessive amount of to anticipate. Web protection in Costa Rica is vast, however don’t rely on it if you’re touring off the crushed observe.

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

Crossing the Border – Rental autos can’t be taken to neighboring nations (Nicaragua or Panama) resulting from insurance coverage restrictions. If you wish to go to these locations, you possibly can organize to drop off your rental automobile on the border and reserve a automotive 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 RicaA car driving on a dirt road in the shadow of Arenal volcano in Costa Rica
1. Preserve an in depth eye on velocity restrict indicators, as this will change shortly inside a brief distance.

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

3. On an analogous be aware, 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 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 may very well be unmarked. Keep vigilant.

6. Bridges could also be one lane, so you’ll want to search for signage that signifies which path has precedence.

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

8. Use warning whereas driving at evening. 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. Preserve your eyes peeled for sloths or different wildlife crossing the street.

9. In case 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 automobile provides. For extra rural locations, a 4×4 could also be required, particularly within the wet season. Be happy to ask your automotive rental supplier for recommendation on the perfect automobile in your itinerary.

10. Flat tires should not normally lined by in-house or bank card insurance policies. In case you get a flat tire, an area 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 automotive rental firm. Visitors tickets may be issued by officers, however the fee can solely be made in a financial institution or through your automotive rental firm. Ought to a police officer ask you for money, name the police immediately or your automotive rental firm for help. Don’t pay any bribes.


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

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

E-book Your Journey to Costa Rica: Logistical Suggestions and Tips

E-book 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 at all times know no stone is left unturned!

E-book Your Lodging
You possibly can ebook your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve the most important stock and greatest offers. If you wish to keep someplace apart from a hostel, use as they persistently return the most cost effective charges for guesthouses and low-cost resorts. My favourite locations to remain are:

Don’t Overlook Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will shield 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 corporations that provide the perfect service and worth are:

In search of the Finest Corporations to Save Cash With?
Try my useful resource web page for the perfect corporations to make use of whenever you journey. I checklist all those I take advantage of to save cash after I’m on the street. They may prevent cash whenever you journey too.

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

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