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Rainforest country.

A fascinating and diverse country, Costa Rica offers tourists a huge variety of sights and activities. Driving is a great way to explore Costa Rica and take in its natural beauty and incredible wildlife. But it takes some getting used to which is why we’ve put together this driving guide.

Road signs are displayed in Spanish, with the most common being stop, danger or winding road signs. They are of a very similar design to that of the UK.

Toll roads are in operation in Costa Rica, the most used being the road from San Jose to Caldera. The condition of the roads varies and it is advisable to drive carefully as roads tend to be winding and potholes are frequent.

Why not read our Costa Rica travel guide? You may also like to view information about our destinations in Costa Rica.

Tips for driving in Costa Rica

Driving licence

You must always carry a photocopy of your passport showing your photograph and the date you entered the country along with your driving licence and car hire contract.

Which side of the road do they drive on?

Drive on the right, overtake on the left. Unless otherwise indicated, vehicles coming from the right have priority at junctions.

Seat belts

If fitted, seat belts must be worn at all times by all occupants of the vehicle.

Blood alcohol limit

Don’t even think about it. Costa Rica has a zero tolerance approach to drink driving. You’re not allowed to drive after consuming even a thimble of sherry. You run the risk of a large fine or jail if you break the law.

Can I use a mobile?

It’s illegal to use a mobile unless you have a hands-free kit. Fines can be high.

Beach driving

Driving on the beach is pretty much forbidden except in a few locations where it’s the only way to reach a town. If you do have to drive on the beach, stay away from the area between the trees and the high water mark as these are usually turtle nesting areas.

Parking

Always park in a well-lit and secure area. Never leave any valuables in the car let alone on display. If possible, leave all glove boxes/compartments/parcel shelfs etc. open so thieves can see there’s nothing in there.

Fines and tickets

Never pay the fine directly to Police or traffic enforcement officials. They’ll pocket the money but not clear the ticket. Discuss with the supplier what their recommended procedure is for dealing with fines.

Driving at night

Try to avoid driving at night if possible. While Costa Rica has a zero tolerance policy to drink driving, many locals still do it and nighttime can be dangerous on the roads. Potholes are also harder to spot and carjackers or robacarros are quite active.

Road signs

Road signage in Costa Rica is virtually non-existent. Rely on GPS and an old fashioned road map if you don’t want to get lost.

What should I do if I breakdown?

If you breakdown in Costa Rica, call the supplier who will be able to advise you. Be wary of accepting help from anyone. It is recommended you contact ourselves at the same time to ensure you follow the correct procedure.

What should I do if I’m in an accident?

If you’re in an accident, you MUST notify the Police and get an accident report for insurance purposes. Failure to do so may result in you footing the whole bill. You must also contact the supplier and ourselves at the same time to ensure you follow the correct procedure.

If you feel the accident was a deliberate attempt to get you to stop, you do not have to stop as long as you notify the Police and supplier as soon as possible.

Toll roads

There are a few toll roads which are usually in better condition and safer. Toll roads include the new San Jose Caldera Toll Road (Highway 27), Limon (Highway 32), and Cartago.