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The best tips for driving in Costa Rica

The best tips for driving in Costa Rica


The best tips for driving in Costa Rica 


Enjoy some historical sites of San José in the morning and then move to watch the sunset on a beautiful beach on the Pacific coast... all on the same day.

Although it is something possible in a small country like Costa Rica, it's way better if you do it driving a rented car.

So you can get to know volcanoes, beaches, reserves, and other main destinations, at your own pace and pleasure, making the most of the time available (which is always limited).

Here are some tips or recommendations that you should keep in mind to optimize the experience of an overland tour in Costa Rica. 

 Travel times

Being in a small country doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is close. Moving from one place to another can take a long time, not so much because of the distance, but because of the lack of highways and road conditions. Some of them are highly narrow and with a limited speed that can goes between 50 and 80 kilometers per hour in the same section. Nevertheless, it is a better idea to travel in a rented car, than by public transport, with its predefined itineraries and routes. 

 Road conditions

A few kilometers are not the same as a short time, either. On the map you can see that "point A" is very close to "point B", but the roads are not always straight and have many curves, slopes, or wild crossing points. It is also normal that, in certain sections, you find yourself with only one lane in each direction, causing traffic jams and delays. To avoid this, try to leave early and plan the route well.

 GPS: your best co-pilot

Make sure the rental vehicle has GPS. As a curiosity, while looking for a specific destination, you have to enter directly the name of the place, instead of the address with streets and avenues. The good thing is that practically even the most hidden corner can be found. Sometimes the GPS will show you an alternative route, that seems more direct and faster, but without paving or dangerous. Saving a few kilometers can make you enter into tough routes, so be careful.

 Road culture

Most “ticos” are relaxed and have an affable attitude, but when it comes to driving, some of them get transformed. Due to their late arrival reputation, they are always in a hurry, committing imprudence, such as driving at high speeds or parking in the most unusual places. The same occurs with many pedestrians who walk without paying much attention to vehicles. In the Puerto Viejo area, for example, it is common to share the road with bicycles or motorcycles that have no lights or that are driven by non-experienced people. Therefore, drive carefully and defensively, staying in your lane, yielding the right-of-way, and above all, obeying traffic laws and speed limits.

 Choose well the car to rent 

Now we come with the million-dollar question for many tourists. Is it necessary to rent a 4×4 car to travel around Costa Rica? Well, that will depend on the destinations you want to visit or the route you are going to take. It is not the same to have a mountain tour through some places inside the Great Metropolitan Area as going into the depths of the Caribbean mountains. If what you are looking for is to know a little about everything, we would tell you that, despite a four-wheel drive is not essential, it is recommended for a calm and safe journey, considering non-paved routes and difficult access places. 


Even though Costa Rica is a relatively calm and safe country, following these tips will guarantee you a pleasant and hassle-free trip. One last tip, to ensure you the best of experiences, is that if you are planning to rent a vehicle, do it with a serious and responsible company. As members of the Costa Rican Association of Rental Cars (ACAR), at Toyota Rent a Car we have more than 50 years of experience giving the best car rental deals. Ask about them by email: or by phone: 4036-7422 / 7235-8722. We definitely have what you need for a safe, pleasant and comfortable road trip through all Costa Rican wonders.


Article written by:

José Ricardo Carballo Villalobos

Works as a journalist, blogger, writer, and freelance copywriter. He is a frequent press columnist, co-director of the digital media La Revista CR, and administrator of the current affairs blog: For more information about the author, visit his website or Facebook



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