Renting a Car in Costa Rica: ESSENTIAL Tips & Warnings

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Renting a car in Costa Rica is the best way to explore. 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 reasonable. We’re sharing everything you need to know about renting a car in Costa Rica.

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Countryside with Camera

There are a handful of things we wish we would have known before purchasing a car rental 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 what to look out for when booking a rental car in Costa Rica, why it’s better (and easier!) than taking public transportation, plus our top tips to save you money and headaches.

Where to Book a Rental Car in Costa Rica

Let’s be real, you’re here because you need to book a Costa Rican rental car, and you want us to show you where. Well, here you go: We recommend booking through DiscoverCars.com

Discover Cars pulls information from a large number of companies to find you the best price for your rental car. They also include the mandatory insurance that the Costa Rican government requires when renting a car, whereas most of the large aggregate sites do not (more on this further down in the article).

This way you know you won’t have any surprise costs when you land and start your travels. Check what’s available for your time in Costa Rica:

Costa Rica Rental Car Travel Guide:

Why you should rent a car in Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica dirt road dashboard

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 relatively cheap

We expected renting a car to be expensive, but as we found out, it is actually cheaper than taking direct shuttles between popular destinations. 

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 of 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 6 a.m. 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 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

On 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 rental vehicle will allow you the freedom to stop when you need. Plus, sitting in the front seat (or driving) helps prevent carsickness a ton.

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

Best deal on Renting a Car in Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica SUV

Ever since the pandemic, rental cars in Costa Rica have been scarce and expensive at first glance. For us, the best way to search for a reasonably priced car is on an aggregate booking site.

These sites pull information from several sources on what is available at each location, resulting in showing you the best price for your search. 

One thing you should know that is unique about rental cars in Costa Rica is that the government mandates there be basic insurance on any car rental. This insurance is typically known as Liability Protection (LP) or Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI). 

After several hours of searching and combing through all the fine print on many of these aggregate booking sites, we found that they tend to NOT include the mandatory insurance the Costa Rican government requires on rental cars (more on this in the insurance section of the article).

More often than not, there is not even a way to tell if the LP or SLI is included. 

So this means, if you were to book through one of these sites, you’d arrive in Costa Rica, excited to start your travels with your rental car, only to be surprised at the rental counter with an unexpected extra $10-$30/day. This could add up to costing you hundreds of extra dollars!

This is why so many travelers feel like they get scammed by rental car companies. 

Travelers are not getting scammed by the local company, but by these big aggregate sites that do not properly account or display for the mandatory insurance. 

But we have a solution!

After hours of digging, we found a site that is pretty transparent with these additional insurances. We recommend booking through DiscoverCars.com

Yes, Discover Cars is an aggregate site so you know you’ll find the best prices on the internet, but they also already include the mandatory insurance in their final price. 

You can clearly see that in the Rental Conditions under the Protection section for each rental offering. 

DiscoverCars.com is the booking site we recommend to find the best deals on rental cars in Costa Rica. Alternatively, we’ve had good experiences using Rentalcars.com in the past.

Search & Compare Rental Car Prices

  • Discover Cars: We personally use this aggregate site to compare rental car prices from all the big name companies and get the best price possible. 
  • RentalCars.comWe’ve had good experiences finding rental cars with this site in the past. 

Requirements for renting a car in Costa Rica

  • You must be 25 years or older
  • Passport
  • Driver’s license from your home country 
  • Security deposit of $500 up to $5,000, a hold placed on your credit card
    • 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 $1,500 hold back in 2018, but we have read in 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 (that goes above and beyond the mandatory insurance): Your credit card or travel insurance usually covers this!

Do I need an International Driver’s License to rent a car in Costa Rica?

If you’re curious and thinking, “Can you drive in Costa Rica with a US driver’s license?” The answer to your question is YES. There is no requirement for an international driver’s license in Costa Rica.

As long as your driver’s license from your home country is in Roman (Latin) script (English, Spanish, French, etc.), it is not required. Make sure to print out a copy for your travels just in case anything happens. 

If your driver’s license is not in a Roman (Latin) script, like Arabic or Cyrillic script, an international driver’s license is required to translate the identification. 

If you are unsure, or just want an international driver’s license on hand, you can always pick one up at your local AAA travel office for $20 if you live in the US. 

Renting a Car in Costa Rica Open Road

Most expensive time to rent a car in Costa Rica

The most expensive time to rent a car in Costa Rica is during the dry season which is between the months of December and April

Plan ahead and book your rental car at least 3 months in advance because they tend to book up fast. 

Cheapest time to rent a car in Costa Rica

The cheapest time of the year to rent a car in Costa Rica is from May to October. This is their rainy season and low tourist season. 

However, we traveled in June 2018 we found it to be a good time to go because it only rains for an hour or two during the day and then the rest of the day is nice!

How much does renting a car in Costa Rica cost?

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 if you plan it right.

We paid roughly $20 USD per day for our 4×4 SUV in June 2018.

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 a 4-wheel drive.
  • We were traveling in June, which is low season and has cheaper rates than peak tourist months.

In addition to the actual car rental, be sure to add in the cost of gas, which, back in 2018, 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 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 when the car sits and you don’t use it, but it is still quite a good deal.

Arenal Volcano National Park Costa Rica

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 to take 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 a 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 viewpoints 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!

Costa Rica Car Rental Insurance Explained

“Should I get rental car insurance in Costa Rica?”

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.

So it’s in your best interest to book with a service that is transparent and already includes the mandatory insurance in the price of the rental. This is why we recommend DiscoverCars.com as they are the most transparent site that still finds the best deals for our readers. 

Breaking Down Car Rental Insurance in Costa Rica

Liability Protection: The mandatory rental car insurance in Costa Rica is typically called Liability Protection or Liability Insurance. This insurance can also be called:

  • Supplemental Liability Insurance (SPI)
  • Additional Liability Insurance (ALI)
  • Third-party Liability (TPL)
  • Third-party Insurance (TPI)
  • Liability Protection (LP)

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-$30 per day you rent the car. We recommend calling your car rental provider to confirm the amount of this insurance.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This is additional coverage that will most likely be offered to you at the rental counter. CDW covers damage to the rental vehicle and in the event of theft. 

In our experience, we have always declined CDW because we are covered through our credit cards and travel insurance. 

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).

Related: Find the best credit cards for travel

Below is our credit card coverage on rental cars:

Credit Card Rental Car 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.

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 PotHoles

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 as 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 “whoever 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 attendant 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 attendant 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 Costa Rica 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 to walk 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!

Keep in mind: If you are booking doing the busy season, try to reverse your ride at least 3 months in advance. 

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. Get a SIM card

A local SIM card is invaluable when you’re traveling abroad. Not only does it help you avoid costly roaming or data charges, it also provides a safety net and keeps you generally more connected, providing local cell and data coverage while on the road. 

Just make sure you’re traveling to Costa Rica with an unlocked smartphone in order to use the local service.

Our favorite way to get data in a foreign country is by using Airalo. If you can get by with data only (no calling), this is a convenient way to stay connected. It’s not too expensive either, at just $17 USD for 2GB, valid for 15 days (with options for more or less time/data). 

Airalo is an app you download that offers eSIMs in nearly 200 countries. It’s super easy to use and makes arriving in a new place much more seamless. 

Just download the app to your phone, choose the country and data package that best suits your travel needs, and install the eSIM. Voila! It offers instant connectivity, and is easy to top up with more data when you need it.

Psst! Will you be traveling in more than one country? Use our ultimate guide to getting an international SIM card, including helpful tips for using your phone abroad. 

5. 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 a 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. Open your Google Maps App on your phone
  2. Zoom in so the country of Costa Rica is visible on your screen
  3. Tap on your icon or name in the top right corner of the search bar. 
  4. Tap Offline Maps → Select Your Own Map
  5. Then hover the highlighted rectangle over the section of Costa Rica you plan on visiting
    1. If you want the entire country, you will have to do this in two maps. 
  6. 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!

Our Experience Renting a Car in Costa Rica

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 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.

How we ended up with a rental car in Costa Rica

Rio Celeste Waterfall in Tenorio Volcano National Park Costa Rica

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.

Costa Rica Packing List | Two Wandering Soles

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

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
How to Rent 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 (55) on “Renting a Car in Costa Rica: ESSENTIAL Tips & Warnings

  1. lisa says:

    This is interesting. I love your expressive writing. You’re a skilled blogger. I’ve joined your feed and look forward to more of your wonderful posts.

  2. lisa says:

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  3. Betterfleet says:

    There are many car rental agencies in Costa Rica, both at the airport and in major cities. Some of the most popular agencies include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz.

  4. BetterFleet says:

    Costa Rica is a highly popular tourist destination, and the best way to avoid the crowds is to explore beyond the usual tourist paths. However, reaching these off-the-beaten-track locations can be challenging if you don’t have your own vehicle. One of the memorable experiences we had in Costa Rica was visiting Rancho Mastatal, a sustainable community nestled in the mountains. Thanks to our rental car, we were able to reach this destination without much difficulty. Having our own mode of transportation greatly enhanced our enjoyment of the trip!

  5. roshanimohan2@gmail.com says:

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

  6. jastrologow@gmail.com says:

    i was very happy looking at the rental.com 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?

  7. jeremydicalogero@gmail.com 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…

  8. samanthapullenruth@gmail.com 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?

  9. Mrcrzmontero@gmail.com 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.

  10. francelaplante@hotmail.com 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…

  11. deaallgood@gmail.com 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.

  12. anthonyng804@gmail.com 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?

  13. david@dnamaintenance.com.au 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

  14. ksy76@hotmail.com says:


    This is very helpful, and I took your advice to book a rental car from Rental Cars.com. 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!!

  15. veronicamerjilla@gmail.com 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!

  16. aneusch34@gmail.com 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?

    • bwzweber@gmail.com 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.

  17. 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.

    • bwzweber@gmail.com 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.

  18. Nancyruiz@pmagoldrush.com 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 carrentals.com for this article?

    Curious traveler

    • bwzweber@gmail.com 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 RentalCars.com to write this post. I don’t think they even know we’ve written this article 😉

      Thanks for your concern.

  19. 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.

    • bwzweber@gmail.com 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.

  20. jen@jetsettingjen.com 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.

    • hello@twowanderingsoles.com says:

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

    • hello@twowanderingsoles.com 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!)

  21. josyaudigier@gmail.com 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

    • hello@twowanderingsoles.com says:

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

  22. nerissas.wonderland@outlook.com 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.

  23. carrie.e.mann@gmail.com 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.

  24. suzywhittle42@gmail.com 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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