rent a car or hire drivers in Costa Rica

May 13th, 2019, 05:52 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: May 2019
Posts: 4
rent a car or hire drivers in Costa Rica

I thought I had this all planned out... we have reserved a 4x4 all wheel drive to go from SJO to Manuel Antonio for 4 days, then to Dominical for 3 nights, back up to Punta Leona for a night, then return car at airport and head up to Alajuela for a night. I know some roads and signs are iffy and am planning on using Waze and a real paper map - yes, paper! Anyway, after reading some other blogs, I've been learning about tire scams, accidents that can keep you in the country, thefts, giant potholes that can break your car, etc. Now I don't know if we should rent, or should we just hire drivers and cabs when not using the transportation included in optional tours? Have you had experience with both options or have a strong opinion on using one over the other? Am I just being paranoid? If these roads and drivers are like Jamaica, then I won't drive. Thanks for any insights.
indyjules is offline  
May 14th, 2019, 09:00 AM
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Plenty of people rent cars without any problems. I would not leave anything in my car unattended though. We tend to use private drivers just because we like the ease of it, but having your own car definitely gives you more freedom.
volcanogirl is offline  
May 14th, 2019, 10:15 AM
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thank you!
indyjules is offline  
May 14th, 2019, 04:34 PM
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We've rented cars on both our trips to CR and are happy that we did. Vamos is a very good company to deal with and by renting from a reputable company, you can avoid some of the issues that people experience when renting cars in CR.

To address your specific concerns:

Tire scams - This is a scam that seems to have come and gone, or at least is not nearly as common anymore. If someone does pop your tire, just keep driving to the nearest gas station or other populated place, then stop and check. If you end up driving on the rim and damage the rim, then you damage the rim - that's what insurance is for. Tire scams aren't going to happen on the open road where you are traveling at speed - it's just too dangerous to try to come up and pop someone's tire - if it happens, you won't be far from help and won't have to drive very far.

Accidents that keep people in the country - This happens when people aren't properly insured. They have some sort of 3rd party insurance that requires the insured to pay up front and then be reimbursed later, but the insured doesn't have the ability to pay for damages up front. The Costa Rican authorities don't want to let the person leave the country because once they are gone, it is hard to collect on the insurance claim. The easy way to avoid this risk is to buy full insurance from your rental car company - with full insurance, if something happens, you pay the deductible (if there is one) and walk away - it's the rental company's problem, not yours.

Thefts - Yes, this is a big problem, so don't leave anything in view in your car when the car is unattended. If you have a trunk, make sure everything is in the trunk. If you have an SUV with an open cargo area, just don't leave anything at all attractive - it's probably ok to leave a couple towels and swim suits laying out to dry in the car, but no bags or anything visible. Note that I'd give you the same advice for traveling in much of California as I would for CR.

Giant pot holes - Yes, there are those. So keep your eyes peeled when driving, don't speed, and limit night time driving except locally where you are somewhat familiar with the roads and aren't far from help should you get a flat tire. You'd have to hit a pot hole really darned hard to actually break your car though. But if you did, that's what insurance is for, just like any other type of accident.
november_moon is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 12:30 AM
Join Date: May 2007
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The roads around SJO and Manuel Antonio are in pretty good shape. When we first started going over ten years ago they were terrible, but a lot of that has recently been repaved. Be sure to stop at the Rio Tarcoles to see the huge crocs down below. There's a parking area where you can pull in.
volcanogirl is offline  
May 15th, 2019, 05:19 AM
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Thank you for your details and insights!
indyjules is offline  
May 19th, 2019, 01:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2005
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I would only drive if I wasn't planning on making stops along the way. E.g. if you can drive to the lodging, drop bags and then head out for day trips. I would avoid leaving the car for a short time with anything in it. Even to see the crocs.

Perhaps preplotting your route in Google Maps would help. I know GPS is not very good.. I tried following someone with GPS and they got more lost than I did (I had to ask to be let onto the main highway from a caretaker at one of the coffee plants, after a lecture in Spanish).. You've probably read about how directions are given, and that houses don't have addresses (eg..turn right at the blue house and left at the green gate and hope that they haven't been painted). A tip if you lose your way around San Jose/Alajuela is to pay a taxi driver and follow him. If you're just going on major roads it isn't too bad. Definiitely avoid night driving and speeding.
mlgb is offline  
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