Rental car/safety

Old Oct 26th, 2004, 04:26 PM
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Rental car/safety

My husband and I (late 50s) are planning a first-time trip to Costa Rica next week. We are staying at the Marriott Courtyard in San Jose for 6 days. We have a reservation to rent a car but are having second thoughts about doing so after hearing and reading about the dangers of driving in CR. Has anyone run into any such problems with driving in CR? If we decide not to rent a car, we hear that bus travel is cheap and buses go everywhere.Should we just book day trips with a tour bus, trust driving ourselves or be adventurous and use the public bus? What destinations are not to be missed on our day trips? Thanks so much for any information.
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 04:59 PM
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Rent the car, we had no troubles just don't leave anything of value in the car....you know all the standard car smarts in a foreign place. Driving is easy, though do bring a good map with you and not rely on car rental Co. maps....the locals are friendly and helpful should you get misrouted. Enjoy.
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 05:44 PM
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I don't know what your heard or read about the "dangers of driving in CR", but I don't think it's particularly dangerous at all. Some of the roads are dirt, and can be quite rutted and potholed, but if you drive slowly, you'll get where you're going. I do think driving at night can be dangerous, mainly because the roads are not lighted and there are many pedestrians and bicyclists in the roadway.
When I rented my car on my last trip to CR (three weeks ago), the rental company had a written advisory about incidents where individuals would somehow cause drivers to get a flat tire and then they showed up to offer their "help," thereafter robbing the motorists. I have no idea how prevalent this is; I recall the same type of thing going on in Southern Florida a few years ago. You just have to be careful.
BTW, I have heard of many more people losing their luggage or wallets to theives on the public buses than I have heard of motorists being robbed.
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 07:30 PM
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Here's my public service announcement. By all means rent a car and drive -- it's lovely and an adventure. We've rented both times - once from Elegante and once from Adobe, had no problems with either and enjoyed the drives. But DO NOT take lightly the advice not to leave anything in your car. We had all our luggage stolen from our locked baby rented SUV outside the busy Cafe Capuccino in mid-day in Cartago. At the American Embassey the next day (replacing one passport)we met others with similar stories. Petty crime is a problem. So keep an eye on your stuff. We NEVER leave anything visible in our car here in DC -- but took a chance and stopped for lunch as we were returning to San Jose on our last day. And I wouldn't put much faith in "guards" hanging around parking lots either. The one in the lot next to the cafe where we parked (with several other cars) "didn't see a thing."
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Old Oct 26th, 2004, 11:32 PM
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Confirming all that is posted above.
I also read about the "flat tire scam" online before flying into CR.
One hotel staff member told us that if we saw somebody lying "dead" in the road, don't stop. This, too, is a well-known scam. She then said to "run the person over; They're dead anyway! They will get out of the road."

We had no troubles during a week of driving in CR. We made a point to arrive and check into our hotel(s) so we could store our belongings before venturing into the rainforest, or parking the car. We parked in front of the door of whatever business we were visiting - whenever possible.
There is no shortage of security guards in San Jose. They're everywhere.

You'll also encounter men with orange vests holding sticks - guarding the parking lots. You may find that the higher-paying jobs go to bi-lingual Ticos and these guys aren't much for conversation in English.

By contrast, when we arrived at, say, Arenal/Fortuna, we saw few security guards and there are restaurants with 2 walls open to the sidewalk and to the elements that physically cannot completely "close up" - thus, the crime rate is extremely low in such places.

It's the same thing as if you were to park in NYC, SF, Chi, whatever large city. If you do leave some $colones in the car for toll booths, simply hide it.

Our rental SUV had a stereo with a detachable faceplate. We detached this and either hid it or carried it with us in a backpack.

I think you'll receive the same statistical distribution of problem-reporting regarding driving in CR as you would in any city in the USA.

Research road signs in Spanish if you don't have a comfortable grasp of this already.

Police cars were white with blue stripe and sometimes were pickup trucks - all had lights on the roof(during our stay).

Everyone we asked for directions was pleasant and helpful. I must have asked 5 people in 5 locations to get us to one destination.

Have a great trip!!
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 05:48 AM
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I definitely recommend renting a car. We rented from Dollar last Aug and loved it. You have so much freedom & flexibility while renting a car...can stop wherever you want whenever you want. The roads over the mountains are narrow and curvy so just be careful and drive slow. Be patient while you are driving behind slow-moving big trucks.

I agree with everyone else about not leaving your car alone with valuables in it. When we stopped at the Tarcoles bridge to see the crocs, someone stayed with the car at all times.

Also, purchase the Berndston & Berndston map...it is laminated...you can buy it at Barnes & Noble.

The roads were better than we expected. We saw very few potholes, and all the roads we travelled on were paved.

For day trips from San Jose, I recommend Poas Volcano, La Paz Waterfalls, Doka Coffee Plantation, Grecia & Sarchi. We also spent one day sightseeing in San Jose, which we enjoyed. Went to the Gold Museum, Mercado Central & shopping on the pedestrian mall.
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 06:23 AM
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Not to be a jerk but why stay at the Courtyard for six days?? Hop a flight and get out of San Jose.
If you do a thread search on this topic you will find many different opinions on renting cars in CR. Try "to drive or not to drive" and "should i rent a car in CR" I do not know how to post a thread but there are quite a few on this board.
The worst driving in the country unless dirt roads scare you is San Jose. Very crowded and the Ticos drive like maniacs in city conditions. Most people who advocate renting cars say to get out of San Jose quickly. You will be taking tours and such transport is often included. Cabs to the city center are cheap and plentiful.
I am a thirty something country boy and grew up driving too fast on dirt roads on the way to crowded Washington DC beltway traffic(Yes- dirt roads exist less than 60 miles from DC- if we took pictures last week you would think you were in CR yet unlike CR the roads get fixed quickly) I can confidently drive any POS with 4 wheels and questionable brakes(Old Dodge Dart we had to put in nuetral to stop back in the day)
I do not rent cars in Costa Rica and have never missed having one. All of the aweful stories unfortunatly have some merit. Do a thread search before you reserve a car for a week of San Jose city driving.
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 10:12 AM
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I agree with previous poster, if you are only staying in San Jose and taking day tours which include transportation then skip the car. However, if you want to get out by yourslef to explore Sarchi, Grecia, ect., rent the car for only a day or two to save money. No use paying for a car to sit at the Marriott!
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 02:09 PM
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I agree with ally. Take tours from the marriott. Let the locals do the driving. They know all the short cuts. Renting a car is for those who dont stay in San jose. The central valley is a tough place to drive. Poor signs, heavy traffic and drivers who think double solid lines mean pass!
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 02:18 PM
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Double solid lines sure do mean pass if you're stuck behind a slow moving vehicle!
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Old Oct 27th, 2004, 08:45 PM
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"Should we just book day trips with a tour bus"

If you must stay in SJ for the 6 days, this is the way to go. Driving within SJ is a chore not to be undertaken while on vacation. Once you see how well the local welders are employed, you'll understand. The ubiquitous ecurity grates might diminish one's perception of personal security.
Is the option available within your plans, budget, expectations?

Driving away from SJ to other places is fine on your own. I'm not wild about the bus option. Yes, less expensive. Departure times don't always match a traveler's ideals. Depends on your desired level of luxury while on holiday.
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Old Oct 28th, 2004, 05:12 PM
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Thanks to everyone who responded to my questions. We're staying at the Marriott Courtyard because the price is right! My husband is a Marriott associate. We will consider what everyone had to say about the car rental and decide soon!
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Old Oct 28th, 2004, 06:22 PM
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What about spending some time at the Marriott Los Suenos?
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