2 women driving in CR? Need a quick answer please!

Old Oct 18th, 2007, 04:45 PM
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2 women driving in CR? Need a quick answer please!

Is it safe for 2 women to rent a car and drive in CR? Some of the driving will have to be evening/night. Thanks!
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 05:09 PM
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Who can say? Probably. It's generally a safe country. I've driven around by myself a few times, and at night.

In recent times, however, there have been more incidents of drivers being targeted on some of the roads around San Jose as well as a few beach locations--and robbed. It made me nervous enough to decide I didn't want to take a chance this past summer while traveling alone, even in the daytime. I was pretty sure I'd be fine, but then the "what ifs" started up.

You won't see a lot of women driving around together. When you do, it's clear they are tourists. That, in itself, is a problem. And the fact that rental cars are easy to spot.

Why does some of the driving have to be at night? Unless you are very familiar with the country and its highways--and going short distances-- that isn't a good idea for ANYONE.

??? More info?
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 05:11 PM
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well, our light gets in at 3 PM< and we are eading to Arenal from the airport. The rest of the driving will all be during the day.
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 05:11 PM
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That's our Flight - not light!
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 06:17 PM
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Okay, that's what I was wondering. Who are you renting from? Is this your first time? Here's how it goes:

You'll go through immigration (can be 20 min, can be an hour or longer). If you have baggage to claim, count on another 20 minutes. It's nice to just take carry on!

The rental agencies (as far as I know) are all a few miles from the airport. They send representatives to pick you up. Whomever you reserved with (recommend Tricolor) will be outside holding a sign with your name on it.

That doesn't mean you go get into their van and start immediately for the agency. Sometimes you do. Sometimes when they find you (and you them), they have to call and you wait (maybe 15 or 20 min) for the transfer vehicle. Just depends. But it potentially kills a bit of time. It takes about 5 min. to get to the agency.

Once at the agency, you begin the paperwork process. You know the routine. Sometimes they are busier than other times and you have to wait a few minutes (usually not long). BUT it usually takes about 30 minutes to actually do the paperwork, check the car over, load up and drive away. Or 45 min.

You'll be almost on empty (that's the way they do it there--usually. You return it almost empty as well). You'll need to find a station right away. Then you're on the road with a 3 hour drive in front of you. Could be a little less, usually is, but 3 is a nice round number!

So it's POSSIBLE that you will be 1.5 hour or more before you hit the road. Keep in mind that 3:00 arrival sometimes means deplaning at 3:15. Time will slip away from you in a jillion ways.

The road to Arenal is a good one, but I would NEVER recommend driving most of it after dark. If you could get 2 hours of it or more behind you before dark, that's one thing. But your situation will be the opposite. IF you are lucky, you might get ONE hour of it behind you before dark.

I hope you'll reconsider and go check into a nearby hotel like Orquideas Inn with a great bar and excellent food. Rest, relax, get a good night's sleep (you can't do anything at Arenal that late anyway!). Start out early (8:00) the next a.m. You'll be checked in by noon and ready to rock and roll.

Now IF you heed this sage advice (!), and decide to stay at Orquideas, do yourself a favor. It is VERY DIFFICULT to find, but well worth it! Hire yourself a taxi driver (for about $5-8) and let him lead you there. Otherwise, I'm afraid you'll spend a good piece of time hopelessly lost. Really. Orquideas was very good to send us directions (and to give them on the phone before we drove there), but still, that first time, it wasn't easy to find. We kept trying to turn too early. Heck, they'd even send someone over to show you the way "home" for about $10. . .

I know, I know. . .too much information. Just in case you wonder about these things later. . .!
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 06:18 PM
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My first trip to Costarica was in the 90's and my girlfriend and I rented a car and drove everywhere. We had no problems except a dead battery and the locals were such a great help.
My second trip in 2000 we also rented a car, we were with guys so again no problems.. We did some driving at dusk and it was frightening...people walking on the roads, riding bikes, little kids everywhere.. the driver was fine but I was a bit nervous and glad when we finally reached our destination.
Our last trip this Feb. we just hired drivers and that also worked out just fine for us.
Just becareful on your first day when driving a bit later and have fun.
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Old Oct 18th, 2007, 08:17 PM
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Shillmac: We are renting an SUV from Thrifty. It's my first time in CR, but I drive a lot. I rented a car in Belize last year, and it was definately an adventure, but we did fine. Thanks for the advice, and the more information, the better, so bring it on

ttravler: Thanks! We considered hiring drivers but A) it's SO much more expensive, and B)I really like the freedom of being able to go where we want when we want - even if it's just to run to town to buy water, or whatever! S obviously, if it wasn't safe, i wouldn't want to do it, but otherwise, we do.
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 06:55 AM
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Rule #1 - DO NOT DRIVE AT NIGHT IN COSTA RICA!

There are no lights, no shoulders, it can be rainy, mountains, all 2 lane roads. You will most definitely get lost. There are also cows laying in the roadway and the occasional horse running loose. It gets dark as soon as the sun goes down at around 6:30pm

Do yourself a favor, spend the first night in Alajuela, have your rental car delivered to your hotel in the morning and then make the drive to Arenal
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 08:16 AM
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Rule #2 - Do not leave ANYTHING of value in your car when parked - no matter where you are. Not saying this to scare you - as we enjoy driving in CR, and this is a rule we ALWAYS follow here in our generally safe neighborhood in DC (but where the #1 crime is theft from auto). So why did we not follow our own rule on our 2nd of 3 trips to CR? Well we had a little SUV and were on our last day of trip returning to San Jose. We were starved. We thought we'd chance parking auto with all luggage in a lot on a busy street right next to restaurant where we ate -in the middle of the day in Cartago.
In less than an hour, bye bye luggage!

So, I'm the voice of experience speaking here ... not worth taking the chance.
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 01:43 PM
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Thanks so much for the advice everyone! One more question...Our second stop (after 2 days in Arenal) is Monteverde. Can we drive that, or do you really need a professional? Like I said, I drove in Belize last year on crazy potholed roads, so I know I can do that, but...they weren't on the edge of a mountain! What do you advise?
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Old Oct 19th, 2007, 03:01 PM
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Belize driving is much easier than Costa Rica. Do not drive to Arenal at night!!!! Besides, you will be missing the beautiful countryside!
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 03:54 PM
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Hi Ladystack, Thanks - we've given up the driving-to-Arenal at night idea

Can anyone advise me re: Monteverde?

And can anyone tell me if driving in CR is worse than the road to Hidden Valley Inn, or Placencia, in Belize?

Thanks!
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Old Oct 20th, 2007, 06:36 PM
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We rode horses to Monteverde from Arenal so we didn't drive there but we did drive back. I can't remember any troubles at all.
Sorry I can't be of more help.
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Old Oct 21st, 2007, 07:26 AM
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I've driven all over Costa Rica and never felt the need to have a "professional" driver do the driving for me. Just make sure to rent a 4x4 and you will be fine
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Old Oct 21st, 2007, 11:49 AM
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chanad - I posted earlier this summer about driving with my family for the first time in Costa Rica. Here are my thoughts from that post so you could factor this in to your planning. Several years ago, we rented a car for a two-plus week family trip in Italy and I thoroughly enjoyed driving there, despite the amount and speed of the traffic, primarily because of the excellent conditions of the Italian roads and highways. Overall, I found driving in Costa Rica to also be highly enjoyable, maybe even more so than driving in Italy, but for much different reasons. Although the roads in Costa Rica off the main Pan American Highway are narrow and have many curves, I found the general lack of traffic on those roads compared to American or Italian roads and highways to more than compensate. Plus, there’s so much incredible, unremitting beauty in the people and the countryside that driving more slowly actually allowed us to admire them to a much greater degree than if I had been driving faster. We drove about 525 miles on this trip, and I made the following mental notes:

MRAND'S SUGGESTIONS/RULES TO SELF FOR DRIVING IN COSTA RICA

1. Rent and use a GPS system if possible.
2. Slow down. There are many pedestrians, including very young (precious) children walking alongside or crossing even the busiest highways during the day and often even after dark. Plus, I never saw a speed limit greater than 60 kmph (~ 48 mph).
3. Be patient. You will encounter slow moving individual cars and trucks as well as long lines of the same, often on roads with numerous curves that make it unsafe or difficult to pass for extended periods of time. We often averaged the equivalent of 25 to 35 mph max.
4. Even though distances on maps, signs, and the GPS are measured in kilometers, mentally assume (for the reasons above) that they are in miles in terms when judging driving time. For longer distances, add 30 minutes for good measure. For example, 30 kilometers = about 18 miles, but you should assume that it will take at least 30 minutes to drive those 30 km./18 mi.
5. Slow down. Almost all highways and roads we took, except the major ones in the immediate environs of San Jose, are undivided two lanes, sometimes unstriped, with no paved shoulder. Sometimes the shoulders also drop precipitously away from the main roadway.
6. Slow down. Off major highways you will often encounter single lane bridges. Either one approach to the bridge or the other will usually have a triangular sign saying “CEDA EL PASO” and a white painted line, which means traffic on that side of the bridge must yield to traffic that is on or approaching the other side of the bridge. [Other words on road signs it helps to know before you begin to drive in CR: ALTO = stop, DESPACIO = slow down, ESCUELA = school (zone), PELIGROSO = dangerous, CURVA = curves, ADELANTE = ahead, ANGOSTO = narrow, PUENTE = bridge.]
7. Gasoline stations are usually not self-service and instead have attendants to fill your tank. You should state “full” to them when they begin to service your car if you want your tank filled. Many but not all service stations accept Visa or MasterCard. (I don’t know whether it’s expected, but I tipped the attendants who filled up our car about 500 colones ($1) the two or three times we stopped for gas.)
8. Fill up as early in the day as you perceive a need for gas, because you don’t want have to be sweating a low tank as darkness is approaching.
9. Avoid driving long distances at night. At Arenal or on the Pacific coast, I thought it was fine to drive short distances (slowly) after dark to and from restaurants, although the utmost caution should be taken because of the many pedestrians and bicycle riders after dark.
10. You will often see on a roadway surface a yellow painted square that has a heart with a halo over it inside the square. A CR guide told us that the government is using these to indicate the sites of automobile-related fatalities, and they a sobering reminders (as if you needed one) to be cautious.

I think my bottom line is that if you would fairly characterize yourself as an overly aggressive/impatient or overly timid driver by U.S. standards, then Costa Rica is probably not a good or safe place for you to drive. Despite all the warnings, I still got a kick out of driving there and never felt like we came close to having an accident.

Here's the full post if you're interested:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...6&tid=35045117
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Old Oct 25th, 2007, 07:19 AM
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