How to Get Around in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is a country full of tropical wonders, however, wondering where you are going is not something you want to experience.
We know some spots are hard to reach and the more challenging they are to find, the bigger the reward when you get there, isolated, less accessible places are usually the most amazing ones.
Despite the fact that it is a small country, traveling can become complicated by roads in disrepair, lack of appropriate road signs, small side streets and in certain places, heavy traffic.
But not all is bad news, recently we have seen an increase in road signage and also apps like Waze are here and are very helpful when it comes to helping you find your destination, we are proud to say that in 2015 the new highway between Canas and Liberia, Guanacaste was officially opened and we are also advised that there is a plan to widen and add lanes to the section of the Pan-American Highway between Puntarenas and Limonal (and also Limonal to Canas).
In order to have the best trip possible, we are committed to advise you beforehand as to what your options are to get around, and if you decide to drive, we will indicate to you the best routes to take.
For starters, it is always a good idea to have an itinerary laid out for your trip, especially during peak season, when it’s harder to book lodging.
In terms of how many days to spend per place, we advise between 2 and 4 nights, depending on how many activities you would like to plan.
The average travel time between each sightseeing highlight in Costa Rica is about 4 to 6 hours.
Public transport is available in almost every area of the country and it is a very cheap and reliable way to travel between the main tourist attractions in Costa Rica.
However, if you are planning to go off the beaten path, it is not advisable to use public transport as it is not frequent or reliable enough.
The greatest advantage of public transport, as mentioned before, is its incredibly low price, if you are traveling from San Jose it is easy to find transportation to any main beach or city for less than $6 and with multiple buses daily.
Beach hopping with public transportation won’t be an option, because there are no buses running between beaches.
This way of traveling is very convenient, you pay a moderate price to travel in a small- air-conditioned bus with other tourists. This option offers hotel pick-ups and drop offs and 2 scheduled options a day. You can reserve online or at your hotel.
The only thing to consider with this service is that you have to adapt to a certain pick up time which tends to be in the morning or early afternoon and you have to expect your journey to last 30 minutes to 1 hour longer as they pick up/ drop off all the other tourists at their hotels as well.
It’s the most comfortable way to travel around the country, however it is also the most expensive. Private transfers usually entail a private, air conditioned minibus with a bilingual driver that will also act as your tour guide, the good thing about it is that the day goes completely according to plan, you can leave at any time, make as many stops as you like and the guide will show you a lot more of the real Costa Rica with interesting stops and local flavors.
For a group of 4 or more people, in our opinion, it is the most cost-effective service.
This is our favorite option because it gives you the freedom to see many different places, stop for a quick photo, visit secret spots, and really enjoy your holidays at your own pace, additionally the cost is quite affordable.
There are many types of cars, but the best option is definitely a 4x4.
Online you will find extremely cheap offers ranging from $5 to $9 a day, however be careful, once you go pick up your car most of those companies will charge you many extra costs that will increase your initial quote significantly.
The best way to make sure you are booking at a fair price is to do so through a travel agency that works directly with car rentals in Costa Rica, they will make sure that the additional cost of taxes, insurances, GPS, extra drivers, etc. are discussed with you before giving you a complete quote.
It is also important that the company you choose has a good reputation.
They also deliver cars to hotels, which is very convenient, and you can pick it up at one location, and drop it off at a different one.
Rent a car Insurance
There are many types of car insurance, from basic to full cover, but the mandatory one is the only one you need to purchase according to Costa Rican law, it has a deductible fee of 20% and you need to leave a deposit guarantee that varies according to the type of vehicle , from $750 to $1500.
Other types of insurance can give you peace of mind, as you don’t have to leave a big deposit and in case of an accident, there is no deductible. Bear in mind, those are completely optional.
What you should know about driving in Costa Rica
Costa Ricans are known for their friendliness and happiness, however this changes when we are driving, we advise you to have lots of patience and stay calm, unlike us locals who love to stress and honk our horns!
Gas stations can also be quite far apart from each other, therefore we advise you to fill your tank whenever you get the chance.
PLEASE be aware you can find car rentals from $5 a day on the internet, but once you get to the office to get the car , you will be charged an over price for insurance, taxes and more. Unfortunatelly this is a very common unprofessional practice of some of the car rentals in Costa Rica and you will ended up paying a lot more than you should.
Once you are there , is dificult to get out of the deal without lossing money. This is why, booking your car rental through us is save and stress free. Your quote will be exactly the right price and we will explain you what are you paying for.
It is always important to know the way a country works in terms of security on the roads, when you visit, therefore here are some tips and recommendations for you:
Don’t drive at night, if you can avoid it, not all roads have enough signs and you may end up getting lost.
If you get a flat tire, try to reach the nearest gas station, restaurant, supermarket or parking lot to change the tire, it can be dangerous to stop at the side of the road due to robbers targeting rental cars that are in distress, related to this it is also a good idea not to leave suitcases, bags or any other valuable articles inside the car or visible from the outside.
Respect the speed limit, many traffic police are constantly checking your speed on the highways and back streets with radar guns, fines for speeding here are very expensive so it is best to just stick to the rules. Also it is important to know that the maximum speed limit in Costa Rica is 80 km per hour on most roads main roads (although keep an eye open for signs which indicate the speed limit has been reduced when entering areas where there are schools etc).
Lastly, overtaking amongst cars has become almost like a national sport here, so please be aware of the cars around you and impatient drivers.
The “watchyman” is our informal word for the guy that guards your car, it comes from a very broken English translation of “watching man”, they are usually standing outside shops and restaurants, they will help you park the car and expect a small tip for watching your car, however having them there does not mean you can leave your valuables unguarded.
A nice ride
To enjoy your drive we recommend buying a small disposable cooler and pack some drinks and snacks in it, that way you can always have cold drinks, since there may not be many shops on the road in the more distant locations.
Lastly, make sure to always have your documents and the car documents to hand in the glove compartment, if you are stopped by police they might ask to see them, however they can never take them from you. If you have an accident or collision, do not move your car from the spot in which the accident or collision took place, call the traffic police immediately, and make sure that an official report is made.
So whether you decide to drive, take the bus or use different forms of transportation during your stay, the most important thing is to relax, once you have reached your destination you will realize that the journey is part of the adventure.