Driving in Costa Rica – Tips from Loco Jim

Driving in Costa Rica is fun and easy…

Just kidding! Driving in Costa Rica is crazy and terrifying…

Kidding again! Driving in Costa Rica is basically a mix of the two: The roads are rough and confusing, but most drivers respect the rules of the road. Traffic is actually pretty slow, even in the highways, rarely exceeding 60 kmh. You may get lost, but there’s almost always a friendly campesino around to help you find your way.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Only rent from a reputable company. Well-known brands like Avis and Enterprise may be more expensive than Tío Rico’s Car Shack, but you may thank yourself later.
  • I strongly encourage four-wheel-drive. Most of Costa Rica is covered in rainforest, and you’ll want to see it up close. And not get stuck in a ditch. At night. Near jaguars.
  • A Tico friend once asked me whether I could drive. “Of course!” I said. “Stick?” he asked. “Well, no. Automatic.” He shook his head. “Then you don’t really know how to drive.” This is the prevailing attitude.
  • Get insurance. Trust me.
  • Take it slow. There’s lots to see, and you never know what you’ll run into. Get around Costa Rica is an art. It will always take you longer than you expect. But that’s part of the adventure.
  • If you activate your smartphone, most navigations systems will only work so-so. I recommend Waze. This app was basically designed for Costa Rica. You’ll be amazed how well Waze has mapped the country, and you can anticipate traffic and accidents much better than other services.
  • One final note: You may find that the road is flooded, and there’s a river of water washing over the pavement. Then again, it doesn’t look that deep. You’ve got an awesome Jeep Cherokee, and you’re insured. You’re only 3km from the next town. You can totally handle this.

Maybe reconsider. Lots of people get stuck or stranded in Costa Rica, thinking that they know what they’re doing. This is a very safe country overall, but a car will get you to some pretty remote places, and again – it is a jungle out there.

But seriously, I really do love driving in Costa Rica. It’s one of the biggest thrills you can have in a seated position.