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Driving in Costa Rica

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We just got back from CR today. We found driving in CR to be no big deal if you follow some simple guidelines:

1. You need to have a GPS, we bought a map download for Garmin from NavSat before we left, and it was great. CR has very few street names and numbers, you find places by POI names. We were able to find little hole-in-the-wall restaurants by typing in the names. A typical set of directions is “ drive 400 meters on Road, then turn left on Unpaved Road, in 300 meters, turn right on Road”. The only time we sort of got lost was trying to go to Playa Marbella which came up on the GPS but was not actually selectable. So we set the GPS to a neighboring beach and got there by asking locals for directions.

2. You really must purchase the full insurance when you are renting a car. Your credit card insurance is not acceptable (the whole deal is a government-run monopoly). We paid an extra $55/day for the insurance for a 4WD mini-SUV with Dollar-Rent-A-Car that covered 100% of anything that happens. We talked with another traveler who took the middle level insurance option that is $750 deductible, he had a little ding when he returned the car and they charged him the whole $750.

3. Gas stations are few and far in between, so don’t let your tank go below ¼ tank. Gas stations are all government owned, open 24 hours, and the price is about $7/gallon. The NavSat GPS will show you the nearest gas station most of the time.

4. Most roads are two lanes (barely-bridges go to one and you yield according to the sign) with no lines, many are dirt with potholes, we drove from San Jose Airport to Tamarindo, spent 5 days around the beach area, then drove to La Fortuna, spent 5 days around there, then back to San Jose to fly home. We drove a total about 1000km. I would say 95% of the roads are two lanes, only the main highways around San Jose have 3 to 4 lanes and nicely paved.

5. Local dogs pretty much think they own the road and just wander on them … be careful.

Pat and Rick

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