The Traveler’s Guide to Driving in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, especially for those who love the beach, and those who want to get back to nature. You can take a trip up the Arenal Volcano, visit the Foundation Jaguar Rescue Center, the La Fortuna Waterfall, Cahuita National Park, the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve, and more. There is plenty to see and do.

Choose a rental car to see more

Costa Rica has a lot to see, and the best way to get the most out of your vacation is with a rental car. You can visit the areas at your own pace rather than having to fall in line with the schedule of a tour or public transportation.

Road conditions and safety

The major roads and highways are all in good condition and area easy to drive on without worrying about potholes or divots in the road. However, there are also many rural areas of Costa Rica that you might want to visit. They will have gravel and dirt roads, and travel with a regular car is not easy. Consider the places you want to visit, and then determine whether renting a 4WD vehicle is in your best interest. When you are driving, be on the lookout for animals crossing the road, as well as slow vehicles and vehicles broken down on the side of the road.

You should avoid driving at night and never park in poorly lit areas. Always keep the car doors locked and the windows shut. The traffic laws in Costa Rica are very strict. The police are always on the lookout for illegal U-turns, speeding, talking on a cell phone, and incorrect passing. Children who are 12 and under need to be in a booster seat of a car seat, which you should be able to get at the car rental agency.

If you receive a ticket, the police may try to get you to pay them rather than getting a ticket. However, this is a scam. You can take the ticket and then pay it when you check out at the rental car agency. Make sure you have the phone number and emergency contact number for the rental car agency in case you run into any issues.


In Costa Rica, the road signs are in Spanish. Before you leave for your trip, it is a good idea to learn what the signs for Stop, Winding Road, and Danger look like.

Toll lanes

There are three types of toll lanes in Costa Rica.

  • Manual lanes are regular lanes where you will drive through, pay the toll, and get your change.

  • Voluntary lanes will only take 100 colones coins. There is no change at these tolls, but they do allow you to get through faster.

  • The Quick Pass lanes are for those who have a transponder in the vehicle that allows you to pass the toll with just a short stop.

Never go through the tolls without paying, or you will have to pay a fine.

Costa Rica is a fascinating country, and the best way to see more of it on your vacation is with a rental car.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

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