Video Guide: What It’s Actually Like to Drive in Costa Rica

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My partner and I recently flew to Costa Rica for just ~$85 per person plus 20,000 Southwest points.  We had never been to Costa Rica, and we were nervous about driving on the roads.  How bad could they be?

We put together a video compilation of driving in Costa Rica.  Overall, it was worth it to rent a car and drive ourselves around!

If you plan on going to Costa Rica and renting a car, check out our Real Life Guide to Booking a Rental Car in Costa Rica.  We had a great time enjoying our freedom!

What It’s Really Like to Drive in Costa Rica

Before I go on a trip to a foreign country, I always go to my bank and get a little bit of the local currency.  I like being prepared in case I can’t find an ATM at my arrival airport.

We picked up our rental car at Alamo Rental Cars at the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) after we landed, and went straight to our hotel.  The next day, we set out driving and came across several tolls to get out of San Jose, the capital city.  I would bring at least 10,000 Costa Rican colones to be safe.

You’ll Need Cash to Pay for Tolls

When we were driving from the airport to the hotel at night, we saw lots of drivers running red lights and not stopping at stop signs.  We didn’t drive like many locals and obeyed the rules of the road.

Outside of the city, we drove across many 1-lane bridges.  Go slow and pay attention to which direction has the right of way.

One Lane Bridges Like This Are Common in Costa Rica

Most of the roads we drove were in good condition, but the roads around  the popular tourist destination, Monteverde, are unpaved.  Because of this, we drove ~10 miles an hour.  A 30-minute drive ended up taking ~1.5 hours because of this.  We rented a 4-wheel drive, but were worried we’d blow out a tire.

We Spent ~1.5 Hours Driving on a Road Like This in Costa Rica

Add ~1 to 2 hours for your road trips.  This way, you won’t feel rushed and can enjoy the scenery, restaurants, and sights along the way.

Costa Rica Has a Lot of Stops Where You Can Pull Over to Enjoy the Scenery

We hardly drove in the dark, and for good reason.  There can be a lot of potholes and rocky roads.  At night, there may be more animals as well, and if you add rain to that, driving can become dangerous.  Unless you’re a very experienced driver in Costa Rica, plan your trips to utilize daytime driving.  The sun begins to set at around 5:00 to 5:30 pm most times of the year.

Avoid Driving at Night in Costa Rica

Have you driven in Costa Rica?  What tips do you have to share?

If you liked this post, make sure you never miss money-saving Costa Rica travel tips by signing up for our email newsletter (it’s FREE!)!