Renting a Car in Costa Rica: Ultimate Guide

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Renting a car is the best way to visit Costa Rica. You can get off the beaten path and have the freedom to do what you want. Surprisingly, driving in Costa Rica is easy and the rental car prices are cheap. We’re sharing everything you need to know about renting a car in Costa Rica.

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Side mirror and countryside

We didn’t plan on renting a car in Costa Rica. It happened by accident actually.

We had traveled to this Central American country a few years before and used local transport and shuttles to get around. So when we returned for a 2-week trip in Costa Rica, we planned to do use public transportation again. We were backpacking through Central America, after all, and our tight budget meant we just didn’t give any thought to renting a car.

But when we discovered the only (feasible) way to get to a waterfall we really wanted to see was to rent a car, we decided to give it a shot. Just for a day…

But that 1-day car rental quickly turned into 2 weeks after we realized how much more of the country we could see with our own vehicle.

Plus, we were surprised how CHEAP it was to rent a car in Costa Rica: We paid just $20 USD per day for a small 4-wheel drive SUV.

In true Ben & Katie fashion, we gave our tan little SUV a name: Eduardo for long, “Eddie” for short, and together with Eddie, we explored the country for 2 weeks. We were rewarded with epic views and hidden little restaurants that we never would have been able to explore otherwise.

Planning a Trip to Costa Rica? Find out the best time to visit Costa Rica based on regional weather patterns and your personal travel style.

Before you rent a car in Costa Rica…

There are a handful of things we wish we would have known before renting a car in Costa Rica, so we’ve put together a complete guide with everything you need to know. This way you’ll be much more prepared than we were!

We’re breaking down the exact cost of renting a car in Costa Rica, all the reasons it is a better option than taking the bus, plus our top tips to save you money and headaches.

How we ended up with a rental car in Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Open Road

Like I said, we weren’t planning on renting a car in Costa Rica. It happened by accident…

We saw pictures of the stunning Rio Celeste, and decided that a trip to this aquamarine waterfall needed to be on our Costa Rica itinerary.

But after doing a bit of research, we found out that getting there was a hell of a lot more difficult than the centimeters on the map separating it from La Fortuna made it appear…

As it turns out, it would require a lengthy ride on a local bus. And due to the park hours and the bus schedule, we’d need to spend the night in a tiny town nearby, and then schedule a taxi ride to the park entrance the next morning. And that didn’t even include arranging transportation away. Our heads hurt.

An alternative was hiring a driver, which would set us back a ridiculous amount of money for a round trip. So the only option that seemed even remotely feasible was renting a car.

Well, it turns out renting a car in Costa Rica is very cheap, and driving in Costa Rica is actually quite easy, and dare I say… fun! After one day, we were hooked.

Needless to say, our 1-day rental turned into more than 2 weeks.

Article Contents:

Why you should rent a car in Costa Rica

We’re so glad we made the decision to rent a car in Costa Rica, and we’re going to share why!

1. It’s cheap

We expected renting a car to be expensive, but as we found out, it is actually cheaper than taking the direct shuttles between popular destinations. Read below to see exactly how much we paid for our 2-week car rental in Costa Rica.

2. You can see more hidden gems

Costa Rica is a very touristy country, and the only way to escape the crowds is to venture off the typical tourist trail. Usually these places can be difficult to get to if you don’t have your own vehicle.

One of our highlights during our time in Costa Rica was spending some time at Rancho Mastatal, a sustainable community in the mountains. Getting there without our rental car would have been quite difficult, so we were really happy we had our own ride!

3. Appreciate the scenery

Renting a Car in Costa Rica White Horse in Field

Costa Rica’s countryside is epically beautiful. If you’re on a bus or a shuttle, you’ll have to take it all in as you whip around the curves and turns. But if you’re driving, you can pull over at any time (when it’s safe to stop!) and take the scenery in the way it’s meant to be enjoyed. See a pretty waterfall? Pull over! It’s that simple.

4. It’s faster

Local buses are cheap, but oh so slow! They stop just about every half-mile to pick up people on the side of the road needing rides, and a short journey can take exponentially longer than you might think.

5. Driving in Costa Rica is (mostly!) easy

There are some countries where the insane traffic and crazy driving etiquette would scare us away from renting a car. (Think many major cities in Vietnam!)

But most of Costa Rica is pretty laidback when it comes to driving, and people were mostly courteous. Aside from driving through San Jose, we didn’t encounter much traffic or difficult situations. Keep reading for some tips that will help you drive safely in Costa Rica!

6. It’s convenient

If you have your own vehicle, you don’t need to look up bus times. You don’t have to wake up early to catch that 6am bus. You can stop whenever you need to, use the restroom or you get hungry. Turn on the AC or roll down your windows. It’s up to you!

7. It’s fun!

There just something about road trips that are so much fun! Stock up on snacks, crank some tunes and sing aloud, or listen to a podcast with your travel buddy. No headphones needed!

8. Parking is easy

We drove our rental car to 8 different locations around Costa Rica, and finding parking was never an issue. All our hostels, hotels and Airbnbs (Click here for $55 off your first stay on Airbnb) were equipped with parking spots. And the couple times we had to pay a parking fee at National Parks, it was cheap (between $2 – $4 USD for all day parking).

9. Combat Carsickness

Remember when we said during our first visit to Costa Rica we took only public transportation and shuttles? Well, one of the shuttle rides was a pretty awful experience. I (Katie) sometimes get carsick, and the winding country roads did a number on my stomach. But instead of being able to get out and walk around whenever we pleased, I was handed a plastic bag. I tried my best not to completely gross out everyone else in the shuttle.

If you’re like me, having your own vehicle will allow you freedom to stop when you need. Plus, sitting in the front seat (or driving) helps prevent carsickness a ton.

Pro Tip: Motion sickness wrist bands and ginger chews have helped me a lot!

Reasons not to rent a car in Costa Rica

Renting a car was the perfect way for us to explore the country, but we certainly don’t think it’s the best option for everyone. Here are some things to consider:

  • If you’re only going to 1 or 2 destinations in Costa Rica, it might not be necessary to rent a car. This is especially true if you don’t plan to do much exploring when you get to each location, as the car would just sit at your hotel during your stay. In this case, taking a shuttle or bus would be a good option for you.

  • If you’re nervous about driving in another country. Even though we felt driving in Costa Rica was quite easy compared to many other countries, it can still be a bit stressful driving in a foreign country. If this worries you, it might not be worth the stress of renting a car.

  • If you’re traveling solo and you’re on a budget, renting a car would be an expense that might be hard to justify since taking a local bus (not shuttles) would be much cheaper.

Next Read: 10 Amazing Things to Do in Arenal, Costa Rica

How much does renting a car in costa Rica cost?

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Our Car

If you’ve been following our blog for a while, you know we try to travel on a budget, and we keep track of all our expenses. Before making the decision to rent a car, we calculated the cost and compared it to taking the bus or shuttles.

It turned out that renting a car is actually a very affordable way to travel around Costa Rica.

We paid roughly $20 USD per day for our 4×4 SUV.

The price is going to vary depending on the type of vehicle you get, what time of year you are traveling, and which rental car company you go through.

  • We rented a Daihatsu Bego, which is a small SUV with 4-wheel drive.

  • We were traveling in June, which is shoulder season and has cheaper rates than peak tourist months.

  • And we booked our vehicle using to find the cheapest rate.

In addition to the actual car rental, be sure to add in the cost of gas, which was roughly 680 CRC per liter ($4.53 USD per gallon) while we were there. And if you plan to drop off the car in a different location, you’ll be charged a “drop off fee” (ours was about $50 USD).

In total, our rental car, gas and drop-off fee came to exactly $540.43 for 15 days

Is a rental car cheaper than the buses in Costa Rica?

The very cheapest way to get around Costa Rica is to take local buses. But let us explain…

We took a local bus from San Jose to La Fortuna, and it only cost us 2,850 colones each (or just over $5 USD per person). The bus was similar to a coach bus and the seats were pretty comfortable, so we were super happy. But there’s a catch…

The bus stopped every half-mile to pick up people from the side of the road. And what started out as a comfortable ride ended up being super cramped and stuffy, with people packed into the aisles. The journey took just over 6 hours, when a direct shuttle would have taken 4 hours.

After this ride, we decided that for journeys longer than a few hours, the shuttle might be worth it. But saving all that time comes at a higher cost.

For example, the 4-hour shuttle from San Jose to La Fortuna costs around $40 USD per person, and the 6-hour shuttle from Monteverde to Santa Teresa will cost you $55 USD per person.

When we started tallying up these costs, we soon realized that shuttles would add up quickly.

When we requested a rental car for 2 weeks, the cost broke down to just $20 per day. If you’re traveling with a partner, that’s just $10 per person each day. True, there might be days where the car sits and you don’t use it, but it is still quite a good deal.

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Driving on a Dirt Road

Estimated Cost of Transportation: 2-week trip in Costa Rica

We found that it would be right around the same price – if not slightly cheaper – to rent a car rather than taking the shuttles. On top of that, we had the convenience of being able to come and go as we please, and get to off-the-beaten-path places we could never get to via a shuttle.

  • Costs of Driving a Rental Car: $467 for 15 days of rental car, gas, and a ferry.

  • Taking Direct Shuttles: $518 for the same 15-day route but with private shuttle, and it would have been very tricky to get to Rancho Mastatal.

While the difference isn’t all that much (the rental car was exactly $51 cheaper than shuttles), we were able to go at our own pace, stop off at little restaurants or view points when we wanted, and we were able to drive around towns instead of walking or taking taxis or Ubers.

So that freedom paired with the little bit of savings was totally worthwhile for us!

Should I reserve my car rental online or in person?

You might think that visiting the rental car shop in person would give you the best deal, but you’re wrong! We thought that too, and just stopped into the Alamo store in La Fortuna. The friendly man behind the desk quoted us $69 USD for one day with a sedan (aka no 4-wheel-drive).

We didn’t know what to expect, but thought that was a little steep, so we went back to our hotel and checked online. We went to to compare all the car rental companies (kind of like what Kayak does for flights). It turned out that Alamo had the best deal, but it was WAY less than the man in the store had told us. That same car was a measly $12 USD a day (and there were even ones on there for as little as $7!).

We ended up choosing a small SUV with 4-wheel drive and made our reservation for the next day, which came to $24.

We thought it was too good to be true, but we showed up at Alamo the next morning, and the same friendly man greeted us and handed us our keys. When we drove off, it kind of felt like we were stealing the car, it was such a good deal!

It was so convenient that we decided to rent for a few more days. We thought the man could just give us the same deal as we had gotten online, but when we showed up the next day, he apologized saying that you can only get that deal by booking online.

He tried explaining that must reserve a bunch of cars and Alamo earns money whether they are rented or not, which allows the booking platform to offer better deals. So we stood there, in the Alamo store, and made our reservation online.

Best deal on car rentals in Costa Rica

When we were on the hunt for a rental car, we found the best deal on This website compares all companies so you can see the price difference and choose the best option for you. (It’s kind of like how Kayak compares the price of flights.)

During our stay in Costa Rica, Alamo had the cheapest price for the type of car we wanted.

Adobe is a popular rental car company in Costa Rica that is often recommended, but we found their prices to be more expensive for what we wanted. Also, they require you to get their insurance policy, while going through allowed us to book a car without it.

It is required by Costa Rican law to have insurance that covers rental cars, but in most cases your credit card or travel insurance will cover this, making it unnecessary to get insurance through the rental car company itself. More on this below!

Note: We were not paid by to write this article (they likely don’t even know it exists!). Like we said, we tried to book in person, but the best deals by far were online. We browsed several websites (and encourage you to also!) but we found the best deals on and are simply recommending them based off our personal experience. If you book through one of our links, we will make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

What you’ll need to rent a car in Costa Rica

  • You must be 25 years or older

  • Passport

  • Driver’s license from your home country

  • International drivers license: You can purchase this before your travels at any AAA store. It costs $20 USD.

  • $1500 hold on your credit card (in order to decline insurance): This hold is to make sure you return the card and if you have any damages, the card will be charged. The amount of the hold varies depending on the companies you book with. In our experience we had a $1500 hold with and Alamo, but we have read other places the hold could be up to $5000. Make sure you have a large enough credit limit on our account.

  • Insurance that covers rental cars: Your credit card or travel insurance usually covers this!

Should I get rental car insurance?

Note: In this section, we are sharing our experience and opinion about rental car insurance. We are not experts on insurance and this article is only meant as a reference to know what to look for. Please do a bit of research on your own, call your travel and credit card insurance so you can make an informed decision.

This is a great question; and the answer is yes, you absolutely should have insurance on your rental car. Accidents do happen and you don’t want to have to fork over thousands of dollars for any damage you may incur.

Plus, having rental car coverage is actually required by Costa Rica law. The tricky thing is some rental car companies in Costa Rica include the national mandatory insurance in the price of the car and others do not. That’s why some people say they get tricked with hidden fees once they are in Costa Rica.

For instance, your rental car might say $20 a day when you book online. But when you show up in person, they add a $25 daily insurance rate that they say is “mandatory”. It can increase your rental car price by hundreds of dollars.

But here’s the thing: You likely don’t need to buy the policy from the rental car company, because you are probably already covered by your credit card or your travel insurance (this was the deal for us in 2018, however policies may have changed since then)

a) Credit Card Coverage

Most major credit cards actually include coverage on rental cars. Cool, I know! Check into your credit card’s policy to be sure. (We have Chase Sapphire Preferred and Capital One Venture cards, and both have rental car insurance).

Below is our credit card coverage on rental cars:

Credit Card Rental Card Insurance Coverage

b) Travel Insurance Coverage

Additionally, your travel insurance might also cover rental cars. Read the policy’s fine print to check for yourself.

If you need more information, we’ve got a complete guide to choosing the best travel insurance policy that should answer all your questions.

If you are confused if your rental car company charges the mandatory insurance or not, you should call their customer service number to clear things up.

Can you decline the “mandatory” insurance?

The mandatory rental car insurance in Costa Rica is typically called Liability Insurance. Most likely this not included in the online price when booking and is paid for when you arrive at the rental shop. This insurance can also be called:

  • Third-party Liability (TPL)

  • Third-party Insurance (TPI)

  • Liability Protection (LP)

  • Supplemental Liability Insurance (SPI)

The Liability Insurance is coverage for damages done to a third-party (another car or property) and it varies depending on your rental car type and rental car company. It can cost an additional $10-$25 per day you rent the car. We recommend to call your car rental provider to confirm the amount of this insurance.

This is how we personally declined the mandatory car rental insurance in 2018: We showed up to the Alamo counter and showed them proof of our travel insurance and credit card coverage of rental cars. We also needed to approve a $1,500 hold on our credit card that was returned to us when we turned in our vehicle.

*Rental car companies have differing rules when it comes to insurance. Our experience was with Alamo. You can not decline this mandatory insurance policy if you book with Adobe.

Is 4-wheel drive necessary in Costa Rica?

Unless you’re only planning to drive in and around San Jose or directly to the coast, we would highly suggest getting a 4×4 car.

We did meet a couple who was driving a small car without 4-wheel drive and they said it was fine for where they were driving. For our route, I would 100% recommend 4-wheel drive, as I would not have felt comfortable without it.

Many of the waterfalls and small towns we visited involved a steep climb on gravel roads. It might be possible to do without 4-wheel drive, but it gave us peace of mind knowing that we didn’t need to worry about which roads we took. And when we looked around the parking lots in these places, it seemed like nearly every other car had 4-wheel drive too. 

You’ll also want to think about the car’s clearance. Our small SUV had decent clearance, but there were a few times we came close to scraping the bumper on potholes or uneven road. Had we rented a smaller car, we definitely would have come away with some dents and scratches.

Tips for Driving in Costa Rica

There are a few things we learned about driving in Costa Rica specifically. We are sharing our top tips with you because we wished we had known these things before driving out of the parking lot for the first time!

1. Watch out for potholes

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Pot Holes

For being the wealthiest country in Central America, we were surprised by how many of the roads in the country are… how shall we say this… rough.

Potholes are common, and they are BIG.

And throughout the country, there are many unpaved roads, which can show signs of erosion, especially in the rainy season. Drive slowly on rough roads and try your best to avoid them.

Be especially careful when crossing roads covered in water, since you may not know how deep it is or what’s below.

2. Watch for speed bumps

While you have your eyes peeled for potholes, look out for speed bumps as well. They are most common when entering small towns or school zones.

The speed bumps are not always marked with yellow paint like you’d expect, so sometimes they blend in with the road.

Going full speed ahead over a bump is not fun. Take it from people who know from experience!

3. Get 4-wheel-drive

We would highly recommend getting 4-wheel-drive in Costa Rica.

If you’re staying in or around San Jose and are going only a short distance or on a route where you know the road is well-paved and relatively flat, you could probably get away without it.

But with all the driving that we did, we were so happy we had 4-wheel drive. There were several places we visited that we would not have made it to without it.    

4. Be careful when passing semi trucks

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Passing Semi Trucks

While driving in the countryside of Costa Rica, you’ll likely encounter many semi trucks delivering goods. Many of the countryside roads are narrow and winding, so be very cautious when coming around curves.

Also, be very careful if you decide to pass a truck. Be sure you’re doing it in a safe zone and you can see the other lane.

5. Know the rule about one lane bridges

Renting a Car in Costa Rica One Lane Bridges

One-lane bridges are very common all throughout Costa Rica. Know the etiquette before you encounter them so you’re not wondering what to do like we were!

Slow down when you’re approaching a one lane bridge. Typically (though sometimes this is not) there will one direction with a red and white triangle signs stating “Ceda el Paso” meaning “Yield”. If you see the sign, be sure to yield.  

If you come to a one lane bridge and there is already traffic coming across, you must wait until the entire other side is finished and then you can pass over. If the cars going your direction are crossing the bridge, you simply follow along and continue crossing the bridge.

If you and another car arrive at the bridge at the same time and there is no yield sign, be cautious, because the other driver may try to go first, like a “who ever gets there first” type of deal. 

6. Know what to do at gas stations

Filling up is really easy in Costa Rica. All the gas stations we encountered were full service, meaning there is an attendent who pumps the gas for you. They will ask you regular or super and will start filling your tank. We always paid in cash, but I’m sure some gas stations near bigger cities could take credit card. 

Once you’re all filled up, pay the attendent and you’re on your way. 

7. Keep change on you for tolls

When driving near San Jose, be prepared to pay some tolls. Most of them were pretty cheap (from 360 – 720 colones, which is $0.64 – $1.28), but you’ll want to have some coins on you to pay with.

Important Rental Car Tips

These tips are pretty universal whether you’re renting a car in Costa Rica, Canada or Germany. We hope they are helpful to you as you plan your trip.

1. Take pictures of the outside of the car before driving

Get up close and personal. Take photos on your cell phone of any scrapes and dents, no matter how small. And don’t forget any little cracks on the windshield. This way, none of these issues can be blamed on you.

We’ve never had to use these photos, but it’s a good idea to have yourself covered just in case!

2. Rent your car online

Since the online booking platforms reserve several cars and pay the company whether or not someone actually rents them, they get a great rate and can pass the savings onto you. It is almost always cheaper to book online rather than walking into a store. (I never would have believed this until we walked into the car rental shop and were quoted nearly 3 times as much for the same vehicle as it was listed online!)

Plus, you won’t need to worry whether there will be availability if you book it ahead of time!

3. The longer you rent, the less you pay per day

When we did a 1-day rental, we paid $24. But when we decided to rent for 2 weeks, it broke down to just $20 per day. Had we rented the car for longer, it would have been even cheaper.

4. Download your Maps

Google Maps is amazing! Not only can you pin all the points of interest along your route, but it will also show your current GPS location even when you’re not in cell signal. To enable this feature, keep reading…

It’s important to download the map before your trip so you have access to roads, restaurants, and attractions even if you don’t have cell phone service.

How do you Download Google Maps Offline?

It’s super simple, just follow these steps:

  1. Sign into Google Maps (it’s connected with your Gmail account).

  2. Search for “Costa Rica” in the search bar.

  3. You’ll see a white bar that pops up at the bottom of the screen. You may need to swipe right to find the “download” icon.

  4. Make sure you’re in Wifi, and click the “download” icon.

The map data from this region will now be on your phone, and can be accessed even when you have no cell signal! You’ll even be able to see your current GPS location as long as you have it authorized. (Settings > Google Maps > Location > select “Always”)

Maps.Me is another great map option, and we use it a lot to find hiking trails and things that aren’t always marked on Google Maps. You might want to download both maps before your trip!

5. Make sure you have travel insurance

We never leave home without it, and neither should you!

Travel insurance is just as important as your passport and contrary to popular belief, it is NOT expensive. Take a look at our travel insurance comparison to learn why it’s so important and find out which policy is best for your travels.

Costa Rica Packing List

Bonus! If you’re looking for a great place to stay in Costa Rica, we have loads of info on how to book Airbnbs, red flags to watch out for when booking, and our favorite Airbnbs in our Airbnb article. Plus, we’ll give you our Airbnb coupon code for up to $55 off Airbnb.

Are you planning a trip to Costa Rica?

We have lots more resources on travel in Costa Rica and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ultimate Costa Rica Travel Guide for all the answers you’re looking for, or read some of our favorite articles below.

Save this article on Pinterest for later!

Renting a Car in Costa Rica
Renting a Car in Costa Rica

We want to hear from you!

Do you have any more questions about renting a car in Costa Rica? Comment below and we’ll do our best to answer your question!

Comments (50) on “Renting a Car in Costa Rica: Ultimate Guide

  1. says:

    This was SO incredibly helpful, gosh thank you SOOO MUCH for all of your blogging posts, they are so useful!!!!

  2. says:

    i was very happy looking at the site with their prices and terms but i have the chase sapphire preferred card for insurance like you do.It says on the sites terms that the card used has to have embossed or raised lettering on the card to be accepted. How did you get around this?

  3. says:

    This was thorough and informative… But the CHEAPEST car I could find in all of San Jose before fees was $350/day. A week before flying in…

  4. says:

    Hello, Thank you for writing. I am confused about how you were able to rent a car with collision coverage only from you credit card, as far as I’m aware it is required by Costa Rica to have liability insurance, which is not covered by credit card companies. How were you able to get around this?

  5. says:

    Hello guys. I love what you wrote about your experience in CR. I’m Costa Rican but moved to the US 5 years ago and Im coming back with my fiancee and his family so this helped them a lot to understand a little more of how things run over there. I do want to ask you though which shots did you have to get to enter the country and if you had insurance cover it or if it was out of the pocket (if that’s the case, do you mind telling me roughly how much you paid for them). Thank you very much.

  6. says:

    We are going to rent a car for 2 weeks in January. We would like to pick up the car at the airport but inspite of seeing the companies listed right there at the airport we read that they will take you to their own place of renting… Are there any cars at the airport itself??? Thanks… we are senior citizens heading to the west coast and don’t want to go downtown if not necessary…

  7. says:

    I think this article is really misleading. You cannot just use a credit card in replacement of the mandatory insurance. You must pay it and some car rental companies charge significantly more than others. I have even called my credit card company (Chase Sapphire Reserve) to confirm and Costa Rica is not included. Please do your homework and call the car rental company at the local office for more info. The last time i traveled to CR I was surprised with a $400 surcharge for 7 days.

  8. says:

    I’m heading down to Costa Rica for a solo trip and just bought my one way ticket yesterday. I’m on the rental car website that you recommend and saw a decently priced SUV, the Nissan Quashqai from Alamo. Do you know if most SUVs are equipped with 4×4 or AWD?

  9. says:

    Hi Guys,
    We are travelling to Costa Rica on the 21st October 2019 till the 28th oct and going to do a round trip of 8 days from san jose and return my partner to san jose airport where would you go if you had 8 days? we have a rental car which we will pick up in San Jose and I will drop of in Tamarindo.
    That’s the first question second question once I have dropped my partner I still have the rental car and will drive down to Tamarindo on the 28th then stay there till the 31st when I have to get across the border to Managua airport in Nicaragua to meet my transport to a surf camp in Nicaragua. My question on this part is there any other private shuttles or smaller shuttle companies that you know that do this trip as the bigger Ticabus takes about 10 hours and only leaves at 7.30am from Liberia in costa which means I have to leave Tamarindo to drop the car to Liberia airport supper early.
    Any advice would be super helpful.
    Dave & Jodi

  10. says:


    This is very helpful, and I took your advice to book a rental car from Rental Now, I am wondering if you still had to pay for "Third-Party Liability (TPL)" even if the booking voucher says, it is included for FREE. Could you let me know if you had to pay for TPL to Alamo as well?

    Thank you!!

  11. says:

    My bf and I are flying to CR next week and have been thinking about renting a car. This guide was so helpful and incredibly detailed. Thank you for the mountain of information you provided!

  12. says:

    Thank you for this article! I booked a 4×4 rental for about $130 for 7 days and picking up at the airport. I also have the Venture cc and have called alamo, capital one, and visa verifying the coverage. Does this mean I do not pay for any "mandatory coverage" since I have this cc. Did you only pay the $20 per day plus $1,500 deposit?

    • says:

      If you have verified with Alamo (assuming this is the company you are booking with) that you will not have to pay anything else once you land, then I would assume you the insurance is built into your price. This is very similar to our situation when we booked and all we did was have the $1,500 hold on our card just for incidentals or damage. Please let me know if you come across any other information.

  13. Trina says:

    Hello, this is my 3rd year in a row going to Costa Rica and I’ve rented from alamo(once) and adobe (2) . With Adobe the prices are clear and upfront. With any online car rental you get whacked with Costa Rica insurance. I brought proof of my credit card insurance and also private insurance and it doesn’t cover with any of the company’s. In my experience, it’s a mandatory insurance. It’s $680 for a 9 day small 4×4 rental at the end of January.

    • says:

      Hi Trina, the rental insurance in Costa Rica can be a bit confusing and I’ve updated the article to explain it a little more. Sorry to hear you’ve gotten whacked in the past, that’s never fun when you’re on a trip. I detailed exactly what happened to us and our experience in the article above to help shed some light on renting cars in Costa Rica.

  14. says:

    Hi, I noticed there wasn’t much information about the "mandatory" fees/insurance that are imposed at the car rental agency after you reserve it online. It goes from $10 a day to upwards of $70 a day. Do you have any remarks about that? I’ve had many friends have this experience by booking the "cheapest" online then getting there and it goes way up.

    Are you paid by for this article?

    Curious traveler

    • says:

      Hi there, thanks for taking the time to comment. We were able to have a $1,500 USD hold on our credit card in order to decline the insurance. Some rental companies do this and others don’t. As mentioned in the article, we went through Alamo and picked up the car in La Fortuna.

      And no, we were not paid by to write this post. I don’t think they even know we’ve written this article 😉

      Thanks for your concern.

  15. Kyle says:

    Most cars in Costa Rica are not equipped with anti-lock brakes. The roads near San Jose are very slippery due to lots of oil, even during a light rain. You don’t think to pump the brakes in a fast paced situation if you’ve never had to do it before. Our accident only cost us about $150 (luckily we had insurance), but the event definitely started our trip off on a sour note and made driving more stressful for the remainder of the trip. Besides this, we only had problems driving on poorly lit roads at night. Driving in Costa Rica was no problem, otherwise.

    • says:

      Hey Kyle, so sorry to hear about your accident, that’s never fun. We luckily didn’t have any problems driving in Costa Rica, and we found it to be very similar to driving in the States. Happy to hear you had a great time for the rest of your trip in Coast Rica.

  16. says:

    This reminds me of my memorable trip to Costa Rica. Although I agree that renting a car is cheap, my friends and I hired a private driver to drives us around since none of us really wanted to risk driving there lol. I didn’t mind it though since the driver tends to act like a guide and explain things to us and we would stop to take photos as well.

    • says:

      That’s another good option as well, especially if you don’t want to worry about driving!

    • says:

      Haha would love to see the potholes in England then! I assume I’d have to get out of London before seeing them… hehe (And the ones in the photo are quite tame compared to most in CR!)

  17. says:

    This is all really good advice. It’s amazing how good value the car was! I’m surprised by the huge price difference between booking online and just turning up, but it’s pretty cool that you could just go back to your hotel and book it that way!! <3

    • says:

      It really is! Definitely easier for renting a car (and cheaper!) than in many other countries we’ve traveled!

  18. says:

    Costa Rica is on my bucket list, but renting a car is not something I’ve thought about. I’m so glad it’s on my mind now, because it truly seems like the best way to get around and see everything. It would be such a fun road trip too, finding hidden gems and all the famous spots to visit.

  19. says:

    Wow, $55 for a shuttle in Costa Rica? That’s insane. I can definitely see how renting a car would work out better. I’ve heard some nightmare stories about the driving conditions there (especially on windy mountain roads), but good to know that your experience was calmer.

  20. says:

    What an awesome guide! I’d never thought about hiring a car in Costa Rica, but this really makes sense, especially considering the high price of shuttle buses. It’s always so valuable to weigh up the best options for your trip, and a little planning goes a long way when cutting costs in cases such as this! Thanks for these tips!

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