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Should you drive in Costa Rica?

If you’re traveling to Costa Rica, you’ll definitely want to explore. From mountains to islands, and rainforests to beaches, the scenery is gorgeous and diverse. You can choose to rent a car and lavish in the rewards that the freedom of independent travel brings, but you may also consider hiring a driver and/ or guide to take you, as there are challenges with driving in Costa Rica.

Not all roads are ideal in Costa Rica. There are winding mountainside roads, where you may have to pass huge trucks (or they may pass you) and fast-driving locals. Many roads are unpaved and not always in great shape. In cities, you may contend with traffic and navigation may be an issue. If you don’t normally drive at home or on your travels, you may consider hiring a driver or flying between destinations. Watch the above video to see some footage and check out a few helpful travel tips below.

Our group traveling through Costa Rica.

Our group traveling through Costa Rica.

4WD
You’ll want four wheel drive for certain destinations in Costa Rica. If you’re headed to many places in the North or East of the Country or are driving in the rainy season (May to mid-Nov), on the Caribbean Coast, Monteverde, Bajos del Toro, the south Pacific, consider 4WD, which can be helpful in crossing streams and clearing potholes. Drive defensively and cautiously and be extra careful on unpaved roads, which may have their share of potholes.

Night Drives
Don’t drive at night if you can avoid it. Some roads are not well lit and neither are some of the cars or pedestrians who may be wandering alongside them.

Night views on the highway in Costa Rica.

Night views on the highway in Costa Rica.

Rental Insurance
Check your car insurance policy before signing your rental car contract in Costa Rica. Make sure the coverage is for international rentals and covers all people driving during your trip. Make sure that the specific type of vehicle you are covering is included and if not, get the additional insurance offered.

There are many other travel tips for driving in Costa Rica. Just remember, while there are risks involved with driving yourself, the benefits include the flexibility to set your own schedule and the feeling of freedom that driving off on your own on a vacation can bring. And, when in doubt, you can always hire a driver.

Dirt roads near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

Dirt roads near Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica.

1 Comment

  1. TicoRide

    May 23, 2016 at 9:30 am

    Hey Darley thanks for sharing your experience. I know Costa Rica is a small country but very diverse, full of huge forests. As a first traveler one do not have a idea where to travel I agree with your point that hiring a a car on rent is a great idea. Hiring professional transport services is a great idea as one can enjoy beautiful spaces and scenes here.

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Travels with Darley is a travel TV series broadcast on PBS stations and on digital networks, including the AOL On Network. Host Darley Newman of "Equitrekking" fame joins locals to showcase the top food, culture and adventure attractions in the USA and around the globe.

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