Driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure, both positive and negative. You may have heard horror stories about the roads and drivers in Costa Rica, and there is probably some truth in all of them, but much of the difficulty comes from expecting your driving experience to be the same as in North America or Europe, as well as other parts of the world. If you look at the drive to wherever your destination is as part of an integral part of your trip and an opportunity to experience Costa Rica away from the tourist areas, you will be rewarded with beautiful scenery, and the chance to interact with Costa Ricans and their culture in ways that will be memorable and you may very well even go home with new friends.
In recent years Costa Rica has seen a significant improvement of roads and some of the major hazards of the past have been minimized to a large extent. While potholes are still around, the size (in years past, even on main roads, they sometimes looked like giant craters on the moon.) and number of them are pretty much inconsequential and roads are generally fairly well marked.
Cost Rica has also become well connected with cell phone service and internet so navigation via telephone based GPS mapping systems has become the norm. Telephones from the States and elsewhere will not function in Costa Rica unless you have an international plan however phone rentals are available. Just as in most places, there are dead spots in the phone service, but all in all, the service is very good. CRSURFZONE has google maps to all of the locations listed on our site, as well as GPS coordinates to help you navigate during your trip.
Below are some tips to help you have a positive driving experience during your stay in Costa Rica.
You will need:
A valid driver license from your country and your passport.
• San Jose is like most large cities in the world and avoiding driving
in the city is recommended. You will find, however, that San Jose's
taxi drivers are usually friendly and willing to help if you ask for
• While difficulties with potholes has been improved, drivers who
just don't follow the normal rules of the road has not. Be aware of
the goings on around you and don't expect others to always do
the right thing. Be polite and don't expect to get to places in a
hurry. Honking will just get a negative reaction.
• Try not to drive behind big trucks. They are slow, especially on
mountain roads. If you do get stuck behind a slow moving truck
be patient, and take great care when you have an opportunity to
• Remember that in Costa Rica, driving directions use key points
and well known places to mark the specific place you want to go
to, not streets and avenues; so make sure you understood clearly
any direction you are given and keep a road map handy for extra
• Obey speed limits. There are radar traps all over Costa Rican
roads. Take your time and be patient driving. Enjoy the beautiful
journey. Many visitors miss so much of the beauty of Costa Rica
when they are in a hurry.
• DO NOT bribe the Traffic Police, even if they hint about it. Just
take the ticket and the Rental Car Agency will handle it when you
return your car
• Try to avoid driving at night. It is difficult to see road signs and
• The major highways have big signs that indicate towns or cities.
Don't expect them you get off the beaten path (But that can be
part of the adventure).
• There are strict laws regarding the use of seatbelts. Wear them.
• Landslides are common, especially on the highway between San
Jose and the Caribbean city of Limon, mostly from the end of
May through October, the rainy or "Green" season.
• Keep your car doors locked at all times. Leave nothing on seats
or visible in your car when you leave it, especially in high tourist
• Taxis are everywhere in San Jose, and the drivers know
where everything is.
• If you need to change a tire, do it when arriving at a town or city.
For car rental information click here or on the link at the top of the page.
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