drive ourselves, or be driven?

Old Jan 12th, 2007, 11:35 AM
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drive ourselves, or be driven?

We are a family of 5, (3 kids) planning to see La Paz area, Arenal and M.A. Hubby is alittle nervous about all the driving. Should we hire a driver for all or part of this trip? How much does someone like that charge? It would be nice to have someone who knew where they were going, and interesting stops to make.
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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 11:54 AM
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You can arrange w/ your hotel to have some one pick you up and drop you off from one location to the next. San Jose to Arenal might be $150 in total. La Paz is an hour or so from SJO airport going toward Arenal. I imagine the cost from Arenal to M.A. would be about the same $150 maybe a little more.

You can also search this board for drivers - people have a lot of recommendations. I've seen the name Leo Rodriguez on this board about a million times and people seem to be happy w/ him driving them.

That aside - the driving is not all that bad. You are going to the two biggest tourist areas in the country and the roads will be in good shape, and there are plenty of signs to tell you where to go. If you decide to drive just plan to do it during the day and you'll be fine. Of course I didn't have 3 kids to contend w/ while driving either....
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Old Jan 12th, 2007, 12:57 PM
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I always like to tell people to do what is more comfortable for them. Yes, I could say that driving is fine, but that would be for me not you. Latin American countries in general can be quite exciting to drive around in. We have dear friends in Argentina and I was driving with her at 90 miles an hour on the highway in a little volkswagon while she was nursing a 2 year old! The Costa Ricans aren't much better. They are very impatient. You might fool yourselves and do fine, you just never know if you haven't done something similar before.

A lot of the guides are really nice and very informative while you are traveling. Leo gets great reviews and we use someone that we just love who has taught us so much about the people and the country. Our driver has been driving for many many years now and knows people and places all over the country. [email protected]
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 01:15 AM
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On our drive up to Arenal there was a rain storm with dramatic lightening and thunder and a tree had crashed across our road, blocking our path...I was petrified...Praying for my life...(we don't do thunderstorms in sunny southern california)...

My young adult son and daughters thought they were on a thrill ride at disneyland like the Indiana Jones ride...

So, does that sound like fun driving to you? If so, hop in, drive yourself. Are you petrified, like me? Let someone braver drive (my husband is braver)...or hire an experienced local. Make sure you get a good recommendation. Ask shillmac if you want to hire a driver, she visits Costa Rica a lot.

Are you an adventurous driver who has done mountain passes with no guard rails, dirt roads, narrow country roads, etc? Then go for it, drive yourself. Are you a timid driver from a small flat town with wide, paved, straight roads? Better hire a driver... Do what makes YOU happy on your vacation.

I thought the Costa Rica roads were bad, by my standards...but I knew that in advance, and my husband is an experienced driver (biologist), so we went ahead and rented a 4x4 and it was fine though at times terrifying and at times hilarious.

Costa Rica is gorgeous and the people are friendly. We stayed away from San Jose though, can't speak for San Jose.

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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 04:35 AM
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Hi Melissa5--haven't heard from you in awhile! Happy New Year!

We always drive (never find it all that challenging and both enjoy driving and are comfy with it), so I really don't know about private drivers.

Percy uses Oscar, and I think he is connected to Vista del Valle. Percy thinks he is fantastic. I'm sure the private drivers recommended on this site are great guys and I know, of course, that they share a wealth of information (and special locations known only to locals) with their clients. We just prefer doing it alone, just the 2 of us, because sometimes we like to talk and sometimes we ride quietly, and sometimes with a 3rd person, the silences aren't comfortable! That's just us--we've never had anything horrible (like that storm and tree) happen to us, and haven't been on roads that seems dangerous to us.

The Costa Ricans are aggressive drivers and you do have to drive defensively. But that should be a given anywhere.

The areas you are interested in--the roads are very good with the exception of a couple of narrow rickety bridges.
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 10:29 AM
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Hi Melissa,

Thought of you and your husband when we signed up to take a course this summer in CR. We will be doing a Tropical Dendrology course to learn how to identify native trees and shrubs with the Tropical Science Center. Your husband might be interested in something like that.
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Old Jan 13th, 2007, 01:05 PM
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One more note about our experiences traveling and we have driven, flown, gone by horseback, local buses, etc.

We first started using drivers during our honeymoon 35 years ago. We met some wonderful people in Portugal and learned so much more from them in a short time than we ever would have on our own. Antonio will forever be in my mind.

Our taxi driver in Acapulco that we used for several days took us to way out of the way places. We experienced a part of Mexico we never thought we would like a bull riding event at a state fair where we were the only gringos. We also feel very certain that he saved us from a very unpleasant situation with a street gang while in Acapulco proper. Our driver calls us at least once a year to ask when we will be back.

Last year we made a new friend that we are looking forward to seeing again in Guatemala. Luis showed us a part of Tikal that only someone who has lived there all their life can know about.

We can't imagine a trip to CR now without spending time with our good friend and his family. No matter how much time we spend with him we never felt like we didn't have any privacy and he stops at will for anything, including my endless picture taking of those adorable little mutts running around the country. We will soon be building a home near Orlando and visiting with him often but when we go off in our own car it won't be the same.

I guess what I am saying is that you can travel to beautiful countries all over the world, and I have been to many, but it is the people in those countries that give it real heart. I remember more about the countries where I have spent time with people than I do when I haven't. Whether you drive or not do try to make as much contact as you can, you will be glad you did.

It can be expensive so we just plan on it being a "tour" and skip things like those zip lines that aren't all that great for the wildlife anyway.
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