To Drive or Be Driven?

Old Aug 24th, 2004, 08:27 AM
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To Drive or Be Driven?

Hello Again. Next question - to drive or be driven? My husband and I arrive Dec. 26 for two weeks. Visits include Arenal, Monteverde, Playa Ocotal, Samara, MA, with our last night in San Jose. Would it be more cost effective to hire a car and driver or stick with our Avis 4x4? I am wondering what the cost differences are, my car reservation is around $850 for the 2 weeks. I like the freedom driving offers, but being driven may offers its benefits as well. Just wondering if you Posters have any thoughts on this matter.
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Old Aug 24th, 2004, 09:04 AM
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The freedom to go where you want, when you want is the ticket. The drive is also have the fun. I drove with my wife and 1-1/2 yr old son through half the country and had one of the most incredible trips of my life, the best parts being the stops we made along the way in our travels. Enjoy whatever you do.
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Old Aug 24th, 2004, 10:02 AM
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We just returned from CR last Friday. We rented a 4x4 from Dollar Rental. I recommend renting your own car. You will love the freedom it gives you to stop whenever & wherever you want. We drove from the airport to MA, then MA to Arenal, then Arenal to Poas & La Paz, then to Alajuela. The driving is not as bad as we expected. All the roads we took were paved; some had potholes but not a lot. Be prepared for curvy, narrow roads over the mountains. You will get stuck behind slow moving trucks. Just be patient. I definitely think that renting a car is the way to go.

For example, from MA to Arenal, we made several stops. One was at Playa Hermosa. We saw a Costa Rican cowboy herding about 2 dozen cattle down a dirt road. Great Kodak picture moment, which we would have missed without a car. My 21-year old daughter did some of the driving, and she did great.
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Old Aug 24th, 2004, 11:56 AM
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I know most posters seem to prefer to have their own vehicle. I think it depends on the person though. I really do not enjoy driving and all that it entails and do not therefore consider it a vacation. We had drivers when we changed locations and also met another couple who were doing the same. We all felt that was the only way to go for us. I know we spent considerably less than a rental would have been, no map reading and looking for roads, exits, etc. and really got to enjoy the scenery. The drivers all knew where there were monkeys in trees, etc. as well as good stopping places for food or coffee. They also shared much information on the country, climate, their families and more with us. When we needed a short ride within Monteverde or Arenal - we got a very cheap taxi ride - which was fun to us too. I think it really depends what you like personally.
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Old Aug 24th, 2004, 12:37 PM
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Be driven. When Percy sees this, he'll elaborate for the both of us.
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 07:12 AM
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Just returned from CR, and I don't regret our decision to be driven, but I understand it may not be for everyone.

We saw a lot more and were much more relaxed, not having to worry about directions or leaving our luggage in the car when we toured attractions, etc.

We had the now-Fodors-famous Oscar (gracias Peg & Percy) as our driver and are very glad we did. We stopped whenever we wanted, or when he thought there was something we would enjoy.

Since we were 5 people, the private driver rates were only slightly higher than Interbus (where you pay per person)or other transfer services, and you call the shots.

See my reply to the post about the Trucker strike about another benefit of having a CR native driver.

More to come in my trip report, which I will get to after dealing with my mountains of mail & faxes!
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 11:48 AM
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Thanks for the info - can those who were "driven" elaborate on the expense. How much is to hire a driver for 2 weeks? Do you pay their meals and hotel? If we spent 3 days in Playa Ocotal would our driver drop us off and pick us back up and if so, what that might cost. Just trying to compare against a rental. Thanks!
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 02:10 PM
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I have been trying to post a separate thread this wk and just no time..we also recently returned and used Oscar, as well as 2 other drivers (see Trevor post) and it made our trip wonderful for us. We have driven all over the US and have no issues with driving (drive in and out of NYC as well)! We appreciated it for other reasons..so I will try to write my post now!
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 03:32 PM
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Regarding the driver and costs. This again is a personal preference thing - but I always use a travel agent professional who is knowledgeable on the destination I am traveling to. And...I am a travel agent myself. Many may disagree, but you do not pay more and you really get the knowledge and assistance necessary to make your trip perfect or as close as possible. I specialize in cruises, and therefore used an agent for Costa Rica and for my next trip to Argentina, I am working with the ever popular and knowledgeable Cintia. Agents are paid on commission and it will not cost you more to use one, in fact they usually get preferred rates which are less. They can then arrange for drivers from point A to point B and you have back up should you encounter difficulty. I think we paid $20-30.00 each depending on the length and distance. (most were 3-5 hours) You don't have to pay their lodging or food - although we did treat to lunch at about $3.00 once or twice. The drives are arranged so that you are not responsible for their hotels and meals. Hope this helps.
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 04:32 PM
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where and how do you hire a driver?
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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 06:50 PM
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Hi

I am with Peg.

She told me about this tour guide/driver.

I hired a private tour guide/driver for the full 9 days I was in Costa Rica, not counting the travel days going and coming to Costa Rica.

When I arrived at the Airport,there he was and we were like two brother for the next nine full days.

I feel like I saw more than I ever would have seen if I had to drive .

Every place was always cheaper ,than if I had taken a regular group tour.

I think of the countless little side trips we took on our way to our main destination, because our driver wanted to show me this and show me that.

All I had to do was look and see, driving and traffic was never a worry to me.

In Costa Rica it gets dark quickly like about 5:45 PM.
I think now of the many times at the end of the day ,when we are driving back to Alajuela from our full day tour ....I could not see the signs, do not know where the next turn off is , but no worry....my driver knows.

So we are just laughing and talking about everything under the sun and soon we are turning off to my resort place in Alajuela.

I think of the many times my driver said, as we were heading towards our destination for the day,

" I just want to turn off here and show you this lovely waterfall."

Or,"lets turn off here because there is a terrific view point that few people know about ."

I said to my drive/guide:
"I would like to go to the Rainforest Aerial Tram."

He said,"No,I will take you to a newer and better place that just opened up about five months ago".

So off we went toward Orotina and Carara National Park area.

Another timer I said to him:

"I really would like to see a Scarlet Macaw".

He said,"Okay we will go to Carara Park and if we do not see any Macaws there, then my brother owns a place near Quepos and there are always some at his place".

But we DID see them in Carara.

But if it were not for the driver /guide ,I still would not have seen them , because they were in trees right above me and I still did not see them, until the driver pointed them out to me .

Talk about feeling stupid !!!!!!
So I quickly started taking pictures.

When he would say to me "tomorrow I will pick you up at 8 AM and we will go here and there etc"... (we always had it outlined what we were going to do the the next day), sure enough next morning at about 2 minutes to 8 ..there he was... and off we went.!

For me, there are some place I want to drive and some places I do not want to drive.

I never felt constricted because I had a private guide/driver.

At Psoas Volcano, he would say . "take your time I will be here ."

At Tabacon Hot Springs ,he came in the pool with us.. the three of as had a blast.
I was lucky enough to see the Volcano erupt.

At Cafe Britt , he waited for us ..he has been to these places numerous times of course, so he would just wait for us and talk to his friends ( In Spanish)just inside the gate.

In downtown San Jose ,he took us from place to place and we did a lot of walking about also.

When we met him at the end of the day after seeing all we wanted in San Jose, he had a Tica Times newspaper ready for us..it is an English written paper and comes out every Thursday (I think).

At the end of my full nine day, the driver said to me,"I have taken you to every major place in the whole Central Valley and more".

From Alajuela to San Jose to Cartago
San Ramon
Atena
Carara
Grecia
Sarchi
Zarcero
Escazu
Heredia
Psoas
Orosi Valley
Reventazon River

......You name it , if it is in the Central Valley, we probably went there.


But hey, just because it worked out so terrific for me ,does not mean ,you should not drive if you really want to.

Happy Driving
or Happy Touring

or Both !!!

Percy















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Old Aug 25th, 2004, 07:30 PM
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Percy,

I'm glad you're reading the board. I want to thank you and Peg for the Oscar referral.

Please read about our travels with Oscar in the post about the Truckers Strike and Joyce's post about private drivers.

I have to tell you that the last thing Oscar said to us as he dropped us off at the airport (after that hellish drive) was "Make sure you tell Percy about our adventure!"
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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 11:12 AM
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percy,
how much did it cost you for hiring 9 days of private drivers? where do they eat and sleep?
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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 12:44 PM
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Ivk you are welcome. As you can probably see I do not answer Costa Rica posts much anymore, so I am glad that everything worked out.

If it wasn't for Oscar we would have never seen the things we saw. Scarlet Macaws, the volcano erupting, eating at a restaurant with wild toucans sitting at the end of the table. And many, many more.

I know it is tough for some people because they are travelling as a couple, but I travel with two friends of mine, and that is the one thing we always saved extra for was a private driver. It worked out in Belize, Lao and Myanmar, and best was the private snorkelling trip we took to the Phi Phi and Bamboo Islands in Thailand. The guide we had took us places no one else got to go, and we were the only ones there.

For all who uses the now famous Fodors Oscar, don't let him forget who made him famous, I might go back there one day and need his services. (HA)
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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 02:18 PM
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How does one go about hiring the now famous Fodor's Oscar or another reputable driver ahead of time for an upcoming trip? Is there a contact number? Or should I work through the hotel?. Several of us are lost on the issue of how to make the initial contact. I'm looking for a driver to take us from SJO to Makanda in MA and then back to Xandari. Thanks.
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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 02:43 PM
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Ivk:

I am glad that Oscar remembers me...he sees so many tourist that I am sure it is difficult at times to keep track of everyone.

oneicebox:

I perhaps got a "deal " with Oscar, I do not know.
But I also stayed at Vista del Valle, for the duration of my Costa Rica visit.

Oscar works out of Vista del Valle.
So when I booked to stay at Vista del Valle I also told Elisa ( at the front desk) to book Oscar for me for the duration of my stay.

(Peg had stayed here and she told me about this place and Oscar).

It cost me $475.00 for Oscar.
Tour admissions were extra...but were very cheap at the gate of any our tour locations.

We ate at some very nice Tico places that Oscar knew about... we were dinning about 3 PM, at one place, over looking the Orosi Valley.

The food was terrific and with three meals and two Imperial meals the bill came to about $22.00...I bought Oscar lunch.

I paid him at the end of each day because I wanted it that way.

Some days when he would not have change for a $20.00, I just told that okay, tomorrow just deduct it off!!

Nest morning when he picked us up , he would say , don't forget I owe you $20.00 from yesterday !!!

I gave him a nice tip at the end , at the airport and I must admit , I was very sad to leave.

I had about $50.00 in cash left ( not counting my departure tax.
I thought to myself that since I can use my Credit Card in Houston, at the airrport for lunch, while waiting to change planes that I really do not need any more cash.

So I went back to Oscar and gave him the $50.00, BUT he was to take his two children to McDonalds, because they love McDonalds and the Play area .!!!

We shook hands and hugged and so ended my Costa Rica trip.

Peg:

Have a nice weekend and a safe flight to Miami tonight.

Oh yes here is how you contact Oscar;

name : Oscar Mora

email is [email protected]
Cell Phone 373-2736

or e mail him at Vista del Valle :

just put attention to Elisa Nunez.

emails is: [email protected]

Percy









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Old Aug 26th, 2004, 08:44 PM
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We drove ourselves and found it to be very manageable and very convenient. I agree with all the posters who say it is entirely dependent on you. I navigate, my husband drives. I enjoy navigating and in fact have a need to know where I am. In CR, navigating is a full time job. I finally figured out that to know where you were, you had to find the river on the map (get that really detailed one for $3 on Amazon and slip it into those clear report covers) and that would tell you how far you had gone because there certainly aren't any signs indicating the route number, and only at an intersection do you get info on distances to the next location. Use the trip odometer so you know how many kilometers you have gone and how many you have left. If this doesn't sound like fun to you, the driver is probably the way to go. Also, it is very dependent on what you want to do. One of our day trips was Playa Hermosa to Tamarindo for surfing (1 hr drive). I don't think a driver would add anything, but it would have enabled us to not plan to arrive back before dark. The roads were actually in pretty good shape except for sections of the InterAmerican highway that had huge potholes. Once again, this depends totally on where you are going. I would always get a car, but we spent much of our time on the Pacific Coast. I suspect in the Central area, a driver would be preferable because you will spend every day going somewhere. We didn't need a driver when we went diving, but we needed a car that evening to drive a mile to the restaurant. Not having a car in Playa Hermosa would be inconvenient. You'll love whatever you choose!
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Old Oct 7th, 2004, 04:23 PM
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ttt
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Old Oct 30th, 2004, 07:28 PM
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Peg, Percy,

How do we go about hiring a driver, and what are we talking (ballpark) for 6 or 7 days?

Do you recommend this for honeymooners? We want to relax a couple of the days... maybe hire the driver 4 or 5 days?

Leaving in a week. Any quick thoughts?

Thanks!
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Old Oct 30th, 2004, 08:03 PM
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aimeechristie:

Well you can contact Oscar.

I already gave his Cell phone number, just scroll up a little on this same thread.

Oscar pratically lives on the cell phone.

If he is not booked, you can certainly have him drive you on those days that you want him to ..and relax the other days.

Oscar can met you at the airport if you need a ride to your hotel.

Personally, I enjoyed Oscar very much and I was happy to have him drive me around.

As I stated my cost for the full duration of my stay was $ 475.00

It depends where you go,for example it is more costly to be driven to Arenal and Tabacon Hot Springs, then to La Paz Waterfall and Psoas Volcano.

Call him...you have nothing to lose..he might not be busy at the moment.

If you see him make sure you say Hi to him for me.

Thank you very much and do have a very nice time in Costa Rica

Percy



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