The easiest way to see all of the sights while traveling around Costa Rica is to rent a car. It offers you and your family flexibility to travel whenever and wherever you please. However, with every country there are important tips to know before you react a car. Below you will find important tips to ensure you have a hassle free experience when renting a car in Costa Rica.
When and where to book
When booking your car rental, book before you go. Costa Rica’s car rentals do run out of vehicles and it can be near impossible to find one, especially during the high season. Reserve your reservation before you arrive and early to find the right price and ensure you have the best car for your vacation.
Most car rentals in Costa Rica have the option for you to book online or over the phone. Sometimes the prices will vary depending on which method you choose so shop around and price compare before you book.
If you are booking your car rental online and see a great deal, make sure you read the fine print. Often these prices do not reflect car insurance or additional fees and you will be bombarded by these hidden costs when you pick up your car. Costa Rica is improving these practices and it isn’t as common as it once was, but if you see a crazy cheap deal, its often too good to be true.
Is a 4 wheel drive necessary?
Depending on what kind of activities and where in Costa Rica you plan on traveling will determine if you need a 4 wheel drive (4WD). Majority of tourist destinations will not require a 4WD as many roads are paved and majority of your expeditions will not be in rural areas . However, if you are looking for an off-road expedition and going to be driving in the mountains, know the terrain is rugged and not all of their roads are paved so a 4WD may be your best option.
While you may not require a 4WD, a SUV is always a smart choice when renting a car in Costa Rica. The larger tires and bigger suspension will make your ride much smoother since pot holes and gravel roads are notorious in Costa Rica. Also, automatic cars are more expensive than manual so if you are looking to save a few bucks, opt for a manual rental car instead.
Using your credit card
Costa Rica’s car rentals require credit cards and most do not accept debit cards. Companies that do take debit cards usually have a large fee put on your final bill so its best to stick with your major credit cards.
Also, be aware that car rentals in Costa Rica will charge your card beforehand for a security deposit. This can be anywhere from $300-$1,500 and can take up to three days for your funds to be released after you return the vehicle. This amount won’t be charged to your card but will reduce your available credit.
If you are renting your car straight from the airport, be aware there is an added airport tax of 13% of the total cost of the rental. This charge can be quite expensive since it’s a percentage instead of a fee and even if you are not arriving from a flight, booking with an agency near an airport you will still occur this fee.
Some travelers have avoided this tax by not providing their flight number to the car rental agency and taking a taxi to their offices instead of the airport shuttle. While this isn’t always a guarantee, it could save you and your family a couple hundred bucks.
Rent a GPS or download maps
Road signs in Costa Rica are not always the most reliable so having a good navigation system is vital. GPS systems can be rented from the car rental agency and are usually only $10 a day. If you have a smartphone, you can download navigation apps like Waze or download a map of the area you are staying at in Costa Rica and use your phone offline.
• Thoroughly check the vehicle for damages when picking up your car and take pictures to ensure you are not charged for previous dings and scratches
• If you bring your home country’s drivers license and your visa is valid, you are allowed to drive legally in Costa Rica
• The minimum age to rent a car in Costa Rica is 23
• Rental cars cannot be taken across the border to Panama or Nicaragua
• Always remove belongings from your vehicle. Costa Rica is a safe country but theft is inevitable no matter where you travel. Car rentals are easy to spot and are easy targets for thieves.
• Each car rental company has a different insurance policy so make sure you contact them individually to get the details on their rental insurance
• If you bought credit card insurance coverage, know it is limited to 30 days. So if you plan on renting your vehicle for longer, you will have to set up multiple contracts with the agency.
Renting a car in Costa Rica is more often then not hassle free. Any contract in any country has fine print and smart travelers will do their research before arriving to avoid any conflict or issues. Exploring Costa Rica by car provides you and your family freedom to experience the wild and adventurous landscapes of this diverse country. Have fun and take in the breathtaking views of Costa Rica!