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Driving in Costa Rica?

Driving in Costa Rica?

Old Jan 22, 08, 10:57 am
  #46  
 
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Part of Manuel Antonio is in a national park, so the beach there is totally unspoiled (and probbaly one of the best beaches around). However, once you step outside outside the park you have a host of small restaurants, B&B and hotels. While not exactly a resort feel like say Conchal, it's not a exactly desolate.

I would probably go to MA first, then Monteverde; if it's not to your liking you can always cut the stay there short and explore other places (say Arenal or maybe even head to Guanacaste). 3 nights in San Jose might be 1 night too much.
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Old Jan 22, 08, 3:21 pm
  #47  
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this is great info, I am really appreciative.
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Old Feb 4, 08, 8:28 pm
  #48  
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Beware of hammocks

I didn't see a current thread I could add onto, but thought I'd mention something strange I saw when flying back from SJO a few days ago. The security at the WTMD wouldn't let a German lady bring a hammock through security. This was one with the wooden dowel, at the head and foot of the hammock.

I've been going to Costa Rica for 20 years, and have always seen tons of these in the overhead bins over the years. I was a bit shocked that they wouldn't let her bring it on. I guess it's for security, but still seems silly to me.

I'd guess that a hammock without the wooden dowels would be fine.
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Old Mar 31, 08, 12:45 pm
  #49  
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Originally Posted by craz View Post
Just back and the worst road was the 1 from SJO to Liberia.The condition was good but it took for ever. We drove from Liberia via Tilirian to Arenal. I did this a few yrs ago and it took forever as the roads were potholed, but this time No potholes and we were able to maintain a very nice speed, so it took 1/4 the time.

BTW we rented a Toyota Yaris (Echo) economy car, far from being a 4x4, and had no problems except in Tamirindo where the street reminded me of the old road by Arenal

Now if they would only put up some signs to/from SJO and Arenal it would be a snap.
I believe Craz's description of road conditions is correct. I drove around Costa Rica for 9 days in a regular car (the SUV I reserved wasn't available -- another story) without any particular difficulty.

It seems to me that many of the Costa Rica "horror stories" (horrific roads, thieves who will puncture your tires, petty thieves everywhere) are more urban (or rainforest?) legends than reality these days. While there are certainly potholes on SOME roads, you certainly don't need a 4x4 to drive between the major tourist sites. Just get a decent road map (one that lists paved and unpaved roads), stick to the paved roads, and watch the road condition carefully. No big deal for any EXPERIENCED driver. I actually found (usually unpainted) speed bumps, often in front of schools, to be more problematic than potholes on most routes. Unlike others, I didn't find driving at night to be particularly more difficult than during the daytime (the car lights picked up the potholes well!)

But "experience" is the key. Costa Ricans roads are not like American roads. It's mostly from a safety standpoint. There are almost no guardrails, and there's usually a huge ditch where a road shoulder "should" be. Cheap drainage design, I think. I did not find Costa Rican drivers to be particularly aggressive (another legend, I believe), but the many hairpin curves in the mountain regions are definitely not for teenage or other inexperienced or under-confident drivers. You'll probably have to pass slow moving traffic (mostly trucks) with less room than you'd be accustomed to in the US or in Western Europe.

One thing that is horrendous about driving in Costa Rica is the lack of adequate signage. You simply cannot count on a road sign to direct you in the right direction -- they just aren't there, more than half the time. We used our maps, gut instinct, traffic flow (busy streets are more likely to be through streets), business signs (like gas station awnings would often tell you what town you were in) and general sense of direction to get where we needed to go when the road signs failed us. Amazingly, in 9 days we never got lost (THAT was lucky!). The good thing is that, outside of San Jose, there really isn't any city in Costa Rica big enough to get really lost in. But it would be nice if the gov't spent some of our departure tax fees to put up more signs!

Bottomline is that if you're a reasonably experienced driver, you should definitely opt to drive yourself around. That said, I met several nervous nellies with hired drivers who couldn't imagine driving themselves around. It depends on your confidence level, I suppose.
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Old Aug 27, 10, 8:11 am
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Just bumping this thread up to date; just returned from 10 days in Costa Rica. Was weary about driving or not since there were mixed opinions on the subject, but was very glad we rented a car for flexibility and freedom instead of taking shuttles and taxis.

We rented a GPS, but also bought the excellent waterproof CR map published by Toucan (easy to find on Amazon). We avoided driving on unknown roads at night, but had no problems after dark on roads near our hotels. It gets dark at 6pm, so unless you want to eat at the hotel every night or have restaurants next door you'll need to drive.

Just be wary of the potholes and let the local drivers past. The unpaved roads vary from fairly smooth to quite rough sections, but it suffices to take it slow and easy on the rough bits. Did hit some big potholes when not paying attention though, but our trusty SUV survived the abuse.

In more remote places there are no paved road options, so I would recommend an SUV if you want to explore, even if the locals seem to take their 20+ year old Corollas off-roading without too many problems. Did have to do one river crossing since a bridge had collapsed, but there was plenty of police to assure us it was fine to cross.

Now getting back to central Paris driving seems much more stressful than our whole trip through Costa Rica. I would certainly advice against renting a car for driving in Paris considering the alternatives available.
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Old Jan 6, 11, 5:31 pm
  #51  
 
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Does a recently US purchased Garmin GPS work in CR? I've been reading multiple threads on this and get the roads are mostly unmarked. Is the GPS of major use or not - anybody have some recent experience with this?
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Old Jan 6, 11, 6:30 pm
  #52  
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BTW, seeing this thread, I'm reminded of a new problem with driving in Costa Rica these days. The gov't has recently raised speeding tickets to insane levels. Like $500 for a minor speeding violation. Because the fines are so high, most of the police won't tickets Ticos (locals), but they will ticket touristas.

I've already heard one horror story about this, from a traveller who is basically a fugative from Costa Rican law because he's not going to pay the $500 for a silly speeding ticket. My advice to anyone planning on driving in Costa Rica is to "google" this subject to get the latest info, and to drive VERY slowly! Like in many central American countries, it can be difficult in Costa Rica to know what the speed limit actually is.
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Old Jan 6, 11, 7:02 pm
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Originally Posted by iahphx View Post

I've already heard one horror story about this, from a traveller who is basically a fugative from Costa Rican law because he's not going to pay the $500 for a silly speeding ticket. My advice to anyone planning on driving in Costa Rica is to "google" this subject to get the latest info, and to drive VERY slowly! Like in many central American countries, it can be difficult in Costa Rica to know what the speed limit actually is.
was he driving a rental car?

Because I can guarrantee you that they will go after your friend (credit card ) if it was a rental and he doesnt pay

If its a friend or something..........it goes a different way
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Old Jan 6, 11, 7:12 pm
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Originally Posted by wolfie_cr View Post
was he driving a rental car?

Because I can guarrantee you that they will go after your friend (credit card ) if it was a rental and he doesnt pay

If its a friend or something..........it goes a different way
Not sure. I'd probably cancel that credit card if I were in that situation. Do the fees become due when you have to renew the plates?
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Old Jan 6, 11, 7:14 pm
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So is the risk of renting a car and dealing with the corrupt police/laws worth vice paying the extra fees for a cab?

Should I just avoid going there altogether?

If not still wondering if GPS works effectively there for travel..
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Old Jan 6, 11, 8:42 pm
  #56  
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Originally Posted by isle-hawg View Post
So is the risk of renting a car and dealing with the corrupt police/laws worth vice paying the extra fees for a cab?

Should I just avoid going there altogether?

If not still wondering if GPS works effectively there for travel..
I guess it depends on your itinerary. I would like to hear from some Ticos (or Ex-Pats) about what the ticket risk is these days. I do know from experience that it's very difficult to comply with posted (or non-posted) speed limits in these countries, so as a tourist you would run a real risk of getting a crazy-expensive speeding ticket in Costa Rica. That would suck, of course. If I return, I plan to drive very slow (easier said than done, of course)!
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Old Jan 7, 11, 3:54 pm
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Pura Vida Driving

Just got back from CR yesterday. We drove to Manuel Antonio from SJ. Not a problem with a GPS! That drive wouldn't be a problem w/o one though. But the GPS even warned us about speed bumps approaching near schools. Felt like the drivers were no worse than US drivers. Some insane speeds but most were just as you would expect in any US city. Pura Vida!
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Old Jan 7, 11, 4:47 pm
  #58  
 
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Originally Posted by iahphx View Post
Not sure. I'd probably cancel that credit card if I were in that situation. Do the fees become due when you have to renew the plates?
'renewing the plates' here equals to paying a yearly tax due on dec 31, at that point you have to pay any tickets that have been pending

so probably the rental agency would know about the tickets by now, unless they were written on December or something
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Old Jul 31, 11, 5:53 pm
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Originally Posted by Que-girl View Post
Just got back from CR yesterday. We drove to Manuel Antonio from SJ. Not a problem with a GPS! That drive wouldn't be a problem w/o one though. But the GPS even warned us about speed bumps approaching near schools. Felt like the drivers were no worse than US drivers. Some insane speeds but most were just as you would expect in any US city. Pura Vida!
Headed to CR in two weeks and am renting a van as we are traveling with a party of 6.

Trying to decide if I want to purchase a GPS unit here or rent with the car rental company.

If I do decide to purchase stateside, which GPS unit did you use and where did you get your CR maps from?
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Old Aug 3, 11, 9:10 pm
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Originally Posted by edbyu View Post
Headed to CR in two weeks and am renting a van as we are traveling with a party of 6.

Trying to decide if I want to purchase a GPS unit here or rent with the car rental company.

If I do decide to purchase stateside, which GPS unit did you use and where did you get your CR maps from?
http://www.navsatcr.com/en/

how long are you going to be here? the GPS with the maps costs about 350 dollars, if you already have the gps to load them will probably be 150 , cost/benefit depends on lenght of stay plus if you have an existing gps
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