The Ultimate Guide to Renting a Car in Costa Rica (Updated 2024)

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


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 widespread 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 would possibly 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 isn’t 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 all the pieces that you must find out about renting a automobile in Costa Rica.


Selecting the Proper Rental Automobile (and Rental Firm)

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

After getting narrowed down the checklist to a selected few, ask for quotes for the kind of car and journey dates that you simply require. The quote ought to embody obligatory third-party insurance coverage, taxes, and another 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 immediately with an agent, double-check the small print of your reservation. Crossing time zones could imply that your rental pickup time and even date is completely different in Costa Rica than your nation of departure. You will have to verify the time, date, and placement 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 guide transmission could also be cheaper than computerized and extra frequent in Costa Rica however ought to solely be chosen should you can drive a stick shift.
  • Returning your automobile at a vacation spot completely different from the place you picked it up will in all probability incur an extra cost.
  • Most rental firms is not going to assure a particular make and mannequin throughout the rental class.
  • Anticipate 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 monitor your flight.
  • In case 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) typically fail to incorporate all fees, so should you e book by means of one, make sure 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 a web-based 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 by utilizing that hyperlink).

Arriving on the Airport

Each worldwide airports in Costa Rica have automobile rental firm desks throughout the constructing; nevertheless, the places of work (the place you’ll get your automobile) are off-site. They often 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 would possibly let you know 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.

While 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 observe present harm, it’s best to take photographs or video of the automobile for backup functions.

Your car could not have a full gas tank once you choose it up, however the gas gauge stage ought to be logged on the inspection type. You will have to return the automobile with the identical gas stage. Though you’ll not be reimbursed for a stage larger than the one registered, you’ll be charged whether it is under the beginning stage.

Returning the Car
Affirm your drop-off location and time once you choose up the car. In case you are caught in visitors or are delayed for any purpose, contact the rental firm to keep away from a penalty. Make it possible for your gas gauge is on the proper stage, or else head to a gasoline 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 Automobile in Costa Rica

Right here’s all the pieces that you must lease a automobile in Costa Rica:

Driver’s license – You should utilize 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 should be legitimate for the whole thing of your keep.

It is very important observe that though most vacationers will likely 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 automobile rental and to position the deposit.

Passport – Your passport ought to be legitimate all through 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 Observe on the Minimal and Most Driving Age
Every automobile 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; nevertheless, most firms require that drivers be not less than 25. Youthful drivers might be able to lease a automobile for an extra 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 another method. Verify that this value is included in your rental quote, because it’s typically not noted, 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 numerous tiers of insurance coverage, with numerous 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 coated 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 observe that you’ll want to carry a letter that explicitly states the quantity of protection, that Costa Rica is included within the areas coated, and the final 4 digits of the motive force’s bank card. A duplicate of the bank card firm’s phrases and circumstances isn’t often ample.

One essential factor to notice is that the rental firm could 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 likely be launched on the finish of the rental interval. Ensure you have a bank card that may take in this layer.

Driving in Costa Rica

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

Pace limits – Indicators are in kilometers relatively than miles, and pace limits are usually 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.

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

In the event you’re renting one of many EVs which are 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 which 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 should you plan to make use of it.

Regardless of Costa Rica’s official handle 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 often described as 100 meters.

So as to add to the confusion, a location could use landmarks that now not exist however have been identified properly sufficient to stay in dwelling reminiscence. So you might be directed to go 600 meters south of the place “the place the large 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) method of discovering locations!

Parking – All the time park in safe parking heaps, and don’t depart 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 autos parked on yellow strains at widespread vacationer spots like Manuel Antonio. The headache on this scenario is that the car can’t be pushed with out plates and should 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. This can be a time-consuming and costly process, so be aware of the place you park!

Extra Rental Concerns

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

Extra drivers – Anticipate to pay a every day charge for every driver added to your rental settlement after the principle driver. (Vamos Lease-A-Automobile affords further drivers with out further value.) It is sensible to have not 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 the event you’re touring with quite a lot of baggage or surfboards, then renting a roof rack at a every day charge could also be an answer to a cramped car inside.

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

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

  • Rear-facing child seat: Required for youngsters lower than a yr previous and beneath 22 lbs (10 kg)
  • Baby 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 linked all through your journey with out paying extortionate roaming fees by utilizing a Mi-Fi (cellular Wi-Fi) system out of your rental firm. It’s often 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 count on. Web protection in Costa Rica is huge, however don’t rely on it if you’re touring off the crushed monitor.

Accidents – In case you are concerned in a visitors accident, test that nobody is harm then transfer to security off the street. Don’t transfer the car. Name the transit police and your insurance coverage firm. You also needs to 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 autos can’t be taken to neighboring international locations (Nicaragua or Panama) as a result of 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 Ideas 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. Maintain an in depth eye on pace restrict indicators, as this may change shortly 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 autos are prone to expertise costly harm in water.

3. On the same observe, it’s unlawful to park on the seashore. That is to guard wildlife, reminiscent of turtles. Even when locals are doing it, discover a safe parking zone as a substitute.

4. Drivers within the different lane could flash their lights as they’re coming towards you. That is often 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 that you must search for signage that signifies which path has precedence.

7. If driving a manual-transmission car, change gears when driving downhill, and don’t experience 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 could 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. In the event you’re touring exterior of the Central Valley or probably the most visited vacationer spots like Jaco, lease an SUV for the upper clearance that the car affords. 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 perfect car in your itinerary.

10. Flat tires usually are not often coated by in-house or bank card insurance policies. In the event you get a flat tire, an area storage can often repair it for lower than $20 USD.

11. In case you are pulled over by the transit police, it’s best to current your driver’s license, passport, and the paperwork supplied by the automobile rental firm. Site visitors tickets might be issued by officers, however the cost 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 immediately or your automobile rental firm for help. Don’t pay any bribes.


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

Click on right here to get a quote from Vamos Lease-A-Automobile. You’ll get an computerized 5% off simply by utilizing this hyperlink!

E-book Your Journey to Costa Rica: Logistical Ideas and Methods

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 all the time know no stone is left unturned!

E-book Your Lodging
You’ll be able to e book 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 constantly return the most affordable charges for guesthouses and low-cost accommodations. My favourite locations to remain are:

Don’t Neglect Journey Insurance coverage
Journey insurance coverage will defend you in opposition to sickness, damage, theft, and cancellations. It’s complete safety in case something goes flawed. I by no means go on a visit with out it as I’ve had to make use of it many occasions prior to now. My favourite firms that provide the perfect service and worth are:

Searching for the Finest Firms to Save Cash With?
Try my useful resource web page for the perfect firms to make use of once you journey. I checklist all those I take advantage of to economize after I’m on the street. They are going to prevent cash once you journey too.

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


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