Costa Rica Driving Pros:
Flexibility: You can go where you want (if there is a road going there) and when you want. You are not tied to a timetable. If you are enjoying yourself in a certain area and want to stay a little longer, you can. Of course, the opposite is true: if you are not enjoying where you are, you can leave!
Convenience: If the road conditions are good, you have a fast and easy way to get from one place to another. (“if the road conditions are not good” will be discussed in the “CONS” section)
Costa Rica Driving Cons:
Cost: See the “rental car insurance” section! This section discusses the many costs you might not be prepared for when renting a car. Renting a car is a little different in Costa Rica than most other countries. The cost to insure the car may be more than the cost of the rental!!!
Auto Insurance in Costa Rica is government run by the INS (Instituto de Seguros). Basically, liability insurance from the INS is mandated by law, but this only provides minimum insurance. You will also need supplemental insurance to cover everything else. Then you will also need to pay $1 US per day Government License Plate Fee, 12% Airport Concourse Fee (if you rent at airport), additional drivers fee of $2.50-$10.00 per day if necessary.
After paying all the insurance fees and additional fees, you still have the price of gas and any other expenses related to driving a car in Costa Rica (paying someone to watch your vehicle while parked, etc.).
Theft: Theft from parked cars is a problem in some areas of Costa Rica. You should never leave anything of value in your car (Most of you would not do this at home, why do it here?). If thieves do break in to your car, you will be responsible for the damage to the car. You must always leave your car in a secure, safe lot; or tip a security guard to watch your car. Most restaurants, hotels, shops etc. have a security guard on premise. A $1 - 2 tip is well worth it.
Getting lost: With hardly any road signs and non-existent street signs, this is almost a guarantee!
Frustration: In the United States and Canada we are accustomed to fairly wide roads and large highways. While there are many good roads in Costa Rica, they have wisely chosen not to crisscross this beautiful country with super highways. This would destroy not only the beauty of Costa Rica, but the wildlife! Consequently, you may find yourself behind a large truck on a winding road going 20 MPH for over an hour. Of course the good news would be, you will have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery!
Access: There are more than a few places that you just cannot get to by car – not even with 4x4. For those places, the car will become more of a hindrance than a convenience.
There you have it; the pros and cons of driving in Costa Rica. As you see, driving in Costa Rica can be another part of your adventure! The question is, are you up for the challenge?