The Ultimate Guide to Renting a Car in Costa Rica (Updated 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 fashionable with backpackers, honeymooners, and expats alike. And whereas it’s small, there’s a ton to see and do. You might 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sound interesting, the fact is that ready within the sizzling solar after which bouncing alongside bumpy roads in an outdated bus with out shocks or air-conditioning is just not for the fainthearted. If you need actual freedom to discover, you want a rental automotive.

To make it easier to plan your journey, right here’s the whole lot you should learn about renting a automotive in Costa Rica.


Picking the Right Rental Car (and Rental Company)

Before you hire a automotive, learn and examine critiques for automotive rental firms. While the usual large firms can be found right here, there are many native ones too.

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

Whether you might be 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 totally different in Costa Rica than your nation of departure. You might want to verify the time, date, and placement of your car’s pickup and drop-off, the car class, transmission, and protection required.

Points to recollect when renting a automotive in Costa Rica:

  • A guide transmission could also be cheaper than computerized and extra widespread in Costa Rica however ought to solely be chosen when you can drive a stick shift.
  • Returning your automotive at a vacation spot totally different from the place you picked it up will in all probability incur a further cost.
  • Most rental firms is not going to assure a selected make and mannequin throughout the rental class.
  • Expect to hire for 24-hour durations. Time your pickup and drop-off accordingly.
  • Provide your flight quantity earlier than you arrive, so the corporate can monitor your flight.
  • If you may have an early flight, take into account dropping off the car the night time earlier than and utilizing a lodge shuttle to the airport.
  • Online journey businesses (OTAs) typically fail to incorporate all fees, so when you ebook by means of one, make sure you verify the ultimate worth with the automotive 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 akin to passports and driver’s licenses to chop time on the counter and get on the street sooner.

My go-to rental automotive firm in Costa Rica is Vamos. You 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

Both worldwide airports in Costa Rica have automotive rental firm desks throughout the constructing; nevertheless, the places of work (the place you’ll get your automotive) are off-site. They typically have a shuttle service to take purchasers to their places of work, most of that are situated inside a 10-minute drive of the airport.

Local hustlers would possibly let you know that your organization has gone out of enterprise to persuade you to go together with a special firm that can pay them a fee. Look for an indication along with your firm’s brand and ignore the hustlers.

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

When you arrive on the rental workplace, the agent will fill in any excellent paperwork that has not been accomplished on-line and conduct a car inspection with you. Although the agent will word present harm, you must take images or video of the automotive for backup functions.

Your car might not have a full gas tank once you choose it up, however the gas gauge degree needs to be logged on the inspection kind. You might want to return the automotive with the identical gas degree. Although you’ll not be reimbursed for a degree greater than the one registered, you can be charged whether it is under the beginning degree.

Returning the Vehicle
Confirm your drop-off location and time once you choose up the car. If you might be caught in site visitors or are delayed for any motive, contact the rental firm to keep away from a penalty. Make certain that your gas gauge is on the proper degree, or else head to a gasoline station earlier than you drop it off. The firm’s consultant will examine your car with you after which course of the deposit reimbursement.

Documents Needed for Renting a Car in Costa Rica

Here’s the whole lot you should hire a automotive in Costa Rica:

Driver’s license – You can use your native driver’s license through the rental interval so long as it’s printed within the Latin alphabet. If 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 should be legitimate for everything of your keep.

It is essential to notice that though most vacationers shall 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 go away Costa Rica and return to legally drive once more.

Credit card – You want a legitimate bank card in your identify to pay the automotive rental and to position the deposit.

Passport – Your passport needs 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 in case you are pulled over.

A Note on the Minimum and Maximum Driving Age
Each automotive rental firm has insurance policies concerning the age of the drivers it insures. Many wouldn’t have a most age, however some set a restrict of 70-75 years outdated. The authorized age to drive in Costa Rica is eighteen; nevertheless, most firms require that drivers be not less than 25. Younger drivers could possibly hire a automotive for a further surcharge and insurance coverage prices.

Insurance Coverage

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

A collision harm waiver (CDW) covers losses from harm to your rental automotive. This is legally required when renting a automotive 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.

If your bank card supplier has a CDW as a perk, you’ll be able to waive the in-house CDW. Just word that you will want to deliver 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 is just not often ample.

One essential 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 shall be launched on the finish of the rental interval. Make certain you may have a bank card that may soak up this layer.

Driving in Costa Rica

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

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

Gas stations – Make certain that you already know in case your rental car is fueled by gasoline or diesel. This data needs to be on the car inspection report when you’ve forgotten. Gas stations are usually not self-service, so be ready to ask for the form of gas you want in addition to the quantity.

If you’re renting one of many EVs which can be beginning to kind a part of fleets in Costa Rica, then plan your route across the community of charging stations throughout the nation. You 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 all the time have correct data. It additionally tends to underestimate journey occasions, so you must take that into consideration when planning your itinerary when you plan to make use of it.

Despite 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.

To add to the confusion, a location might use landmarks that now not exist however have been recognized properly sufficient to stay in dwelling reminiscence. So it’s possible you’ll be directed to go 600 meters south of the place “where the big mango tree used to be” or to show left after “the supermarket that used to be pink.” Thankfully, Waze is a navigation lifesaver, however you would possibly develop to benefit from the quirky tico (Costa Rican) manner of discovering locations!

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

In the previous few years, there have been instances of the transit police issuing fines and eradicating license plates from automobiles parked on yellow traces at fashionable vacationer spots like Manuel Antonio. The headache on this state of affairs 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 automotive rental firm reclaims the plates from the related authority. This is a time-consuming and costly process, so be aware of the place you park!

Additional Rental Considerations

Many automotive rental firms cost a each day worth for tools or providers past the essential rental prices. You ought to take this into consideration when budgeting your journey. These can embrace:

Additional drivers – Expect to pay a each day price for every driver added to your rental settlement after the primary driver. (Vamos Rent-A-Car gives further drivers with out further price.) It is sensible to have not less than one further driver to share the burden for longer journeys or to take over if the primary driver is feeling underneath the climate.

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

Baby or automotive seating – If you’re touring with youngsters, Costa Rican legislation about seating (see under) is strictly enforced. Either deliver your personal youngster seat or hire one at a each 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 12 months outdated and underneath 22 lbs (10 kg)
  • Child seat: For these as much as 4 years outdated or lower than 40 lbs (18 kg) and underneath 3’7”
  • Booster seat: For these 5 to 12 years outdated, 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 – Stay linked all through your journey with out paying extortionate roaming fees through the use of a Mi-Fi (cellular Wi-Fi) machine 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 anticipate. Internet protection in Costa Rica is vast, however don’t rely on it in case you are touring off the overwhelmed monitor.

Accidents – If you might be concerned in a site visitors accident, verify that nobody is harm then transfer to security off the street. Do not transfer the car. Call the transit police and your insurance coverage firm. You also needs to name your automotive rental supplier to evaluate if the automotive might be pushed, if a mechanic is required onsite or if the automotive 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 international locations (Nicaragua or Panama) on account of insurance coverage restrictions. If you need to go to these locations, you’ll be able to prepare to drop off your rental car on the border and reserve a automotive to be delivered when you’ve crossed it.

11 Driving Tips for Costa Rica

A car driving on a dirt road in the shadow of Arenal volcano in Costa Rica
1. Keep an in depth eye on velocity restrict indicators, as this may change rapidly inside a brief distance.

2. You’re renting a automotive, not a ship, so resist the temptation to drive by means of rivers (even when the locals are doing so). Insurance 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 the same word, it’s unlawful to park on the seashore. This is to guard wildlife, akin to turtles. Even if 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. This is often a warning that there are transit police forward or that there’s an upcoming impediment.

5. Speed bumps could also be large and may very well be unmarked. Stay vigilant.

6. Bridges could also be one lane, so you should search for signage that signifies which course 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. Keep your eyes peeled for sloths or different wildlife crossing the street.

9. If you’re touring outdoors of the Central Valley or probably the most visited vacationer spots like Jaco, hire an SUV for the upper clearance that the car gives. For extra rural locations, a 4×4 could also be required, particularly within the wet season. Feel free to ask your automotive rental supplier for recommendation on the most effective car to your itinerary.

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

11. If you might be pulled over by the transit police, you must current your driver’s license, passport, and the paperwork offered by the automotive rental firm. Traffic tickets might be issued by officers, however the cost can solely be made in a financial institution or through your automotive rental firm. Should a police officer ask you for money, name the police instantly or your automotive rental firm for help. Do not pay any bribes.


Costa Rica is an exquisite nation and considered one of my favourite locations in Central America. To make sure you profit from your go to and get off the overwhelmed path, hire a automotive. You’ll have extra freedom and suppleness, and have the ability to discover past the usual vacationer websites. I can’t suggest it sufficient!

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

Book Your Trip to Costa Rica: Logistical Tips and Tricks

Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to discover a low-cost flight. They are 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!

Book Your Accommodation
You can ebook your hostel with Hostelworld as they’ve the largest stock and greatest offers. If you need to keep someplace aside from a hostel, use as they persistently return the most affordable charges for guesthouses and low-cost motels. My favourite locations to remain are:

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance coverage will defend you towards sickness, damage, 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 previously. My favourite firms that supply the most effective service and worth are:

Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my useful resource web page for the most effective firms to make use of once you journey. I listing all those I exploit to save cash once I’m on the street. They will prevent cash once you journey too.

Want More Information on Costa Rica?
Be certain to go to our strong vacation spot information on Costa Rica for much more planning ideas!


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