Hiring a car in Costa Rica is one of the best ways to see the country… no doubt about it. I rented a 4WD for the month that I was exploring and there wasn’t a moment of regret.

Advantages of renting a car in Costa Rica include:

  1. Reduced need to book onto expensive tours to see. the popular spots and waterfalls
  2. Flexibility and freedom
  3. Ability to change location and plans with minimal organisation/stress
  4. Can arrive at popular spots at a time of your choice, often avoiding crowds.
  5. Can reach off the grid Airbnb and cool locations!

However, there are many things to consider when booking a car in Costa Rica. I was unsure about a few things and a few things caught me off-guard so I’m going to share my learnings with you!

  • Pay attention to insurance policies when booking your car.

In Costa Rica, it is not essential to have insurance like it is in many countries like the UK. This makes not having third-party insurance a huge risk. When I booked my 4X4 online it advertised it as ‘fully covered’ and in the UK this means fully covered lol. However, when I got to pick up my car they informed me that third-party was not included and pulled out their additional documents and small print. Had someone damaged my car on the road or whilst parked I would have been liable. Having no idea of the driving conditions or roads at this point I paid the extra £300 to cover myself. A bit of a blow but it gave me peace of mind. Just a note, be careful of wording when booking and check for third party insurance. Often the price is a baseline and you need to pay insurances on top!

  • I recommend getting an SUV or 4X4 for the clearance

Of the 3000miles+ I covered in Costa Rica, I would say 60% were absolutely fine and the rest required full attention, avoiding potholes and adjusting speed to account for varying terrain levels. A top tips for Costa Rica when hiring a car would be to get an SUV or 4X4 for ease and comfort.

  • The roads vary from amazing and smooth to some of the worst I’ve driven on

It totally depends on what part of the country you visit. Some of the worst roads I encountered were around Santa Teresa (Nicoya Peninsula) and up in Monteverde. But many and most of the roads across the country were absolutely fine!

  •  There are assistants at the gas stations that fill your car for you, you can sit in your car

Pretty sweet! Particularly if you are a tourist and need assistance anyway. Often they will give your windows a quick clean so it’s nice to drop them a tip if you have some change!

  • How much is fuel in Costa Rica?

In May 2021, it was 689 colones per litre for regular petrol and for diesel 553 colones per litre. Cards were accepted at every station I stopped at.

  • Have some cash for the toll system.

I only paid tolls on my large journeys on the highways. They were never above 1000CRC so they aren’t expensive but I’d recommend having a little pot of cash for them!

  • I only came across like 3 sets of traffic lights in a whole month of driving, one in Quepos and the rest coming into San Jose, the city!
  • Download Google Maps offline so that you have directions when you lose signal / WIFI
  • Don’t park under coconut trees

(if they drop they will do some damage!)

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