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What will the Rent a Car want?

If you choose to rent, be aware that driving conditions in Costa Rica are challenging. There are potholes, very few road signs, and drivers passing on blind curves - sometimes all at once.

While you don´t need to be scared, do be aware that thieves and traffic cops looking for bribes routinely target rented cars.

Road signs are scarce, maps are approximate, giving precise directions is not one of Costa Rica´s national strengths, and, most importantly, the unwritten rules of the road are very different from what you are used to.

If you haven’t read it already, take a look here – the intent is not to scare you, but to brief you so that you will be prepared.

Picking up your rental car:

We normally book our rentals through Adobe Rent a Car, and many of their policies are similar to the other agencies. If you are booking on your own and with a different company you will probably want to check the information given here with them to make sure it applies.

Adobe, and many of the other rental agencies, offer a meet and greet service at the airport if you provide exact flight details. If you choose to use it then you will have to send them your flight information, and they will send an agency representative to wait for you at the external arrival gates of the airport (after customs).  If you choose not to, you can inquire at the airport desks on how to get a shuttle to the agency.

In the San Jose International Airport these are located after customs but before you step outside the airport. You will see a line of booths for the various agencies just before the doors to the outside.

In the Liberia International Airport desks for Avis, Budget and Economy are located in the customs area. If you have rented through us, someone will be waiting for you at the terminal exit to take you by shuttle to Adobe´s office. If you have not rented through us we recommend you talk to your agency and define how you will pick up your car, before you leave home.

Another option is for us to arrange assistance for you once you pass customs and immigration.

If you are receiving your rental car at a later point in your trip then you have most likely worked out the details with your Travel Planner. If not or if you are unsure, please make sure to ask them.

RENTAL REQUIREMENTS: Review before boarding your flight.

When you arrive at the rental agency you will need to have the following things to get your car. Again, the following is a general rule based on Adobe and you will want to check if you’re using another agency.

  1. Passport
  2. Valid driver license. A foreign driver license is valid in Costa Rica for 90 days after arrival to the country
  3. Major credit card (AMEX, VISA, MASTER CARD) with enough credit to cover the deductible of the chosen insurance, as well as your deposit.  Debit cards and cash are not accepted for the deposit. Only credit cards.

The minimum age for renting a car from Adobe is 23 years old, other companies vary; Europcar and Toyota, for instance, have a minimum age of 21 but this may imply extra insurance costs.

About the deposit: The deposit mentioned above depends on the type of car rented. Generally, for a basic car it is $1,500 US Dollars and for an SUV $2,000. This amount is charged to your card but placed on a hold. The charge is removed upon the conclusion of your rental, provided that no damage has been done to the car.  

Insurance

You will have to decide if you want to purchase anything beyond the basic insurance. You will be provided with various options and again it will depend on the agency.

Below is an example of the insurance policy Adobe, one of the agencies we use offers. If you are renting from a different agency the insurance will almost certainly be different. You can probably find information on the company’s website.

The following is our interpretation and does not in any way represent a legal agreement. You should be sure to carefully read your insurance conditions before leaving the rental agency.

There are three insurance options offered by Adobe:

  1. There is the basic insurance policy, which is included in the rental rate. This policy offers a protection of up to $20,000 for damages to third party property, and up to $100,000 in accident insurance for the injury or death of third persons not travelling in the rental car.
  2. LDW / Loss Damage Waiver: For an additional daily fee, the renter purchases a waiver which removes his financial responsibility for damages to the rental car produced by an accident, collision or roll over. This waiver also protects the driver from financial losses in case of full or partial (ex: tires or radio) theft of the automobile. The LDW has a deductible of US$1,500. The cost of the LDW varies with the car category and goes from US$14 per day to US$25per day. Purchasing this waiver is mandated by Costa Rican law.
  3. SPP / Supplemental Protection Plan: On top of the LDW described above the renter can purchase a Supplemental Protection Plan.  This covers cases of vandalism, ruined tires or broken glass, as well as providing free 24 hour roadside assistance, including towing in case of an accident (restrictions apply). This plan extends the limit of coverage for damage to third parties to US$2.200.000 per event, and covers moral damages (such as the alleviation of suffering for injured third parties) and profit loss.

Coverage exclusions

You will not be covered by your insurance if an incident occurs under any of the following conditions:

  1. When the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  2. When the car is being driven by someone not authorized in the rental agreement (additional drivers can be added to your rental agreement for a charge of $3).
  3. When damage is caused by driving through water (rivers, lakes, flooded roads etc.) or by driving on beaches and off-road.

You will also lose your coverage if:

  1. The accident is not reported to the rental agency immediately after occurrence.
  2. You do not cooperate with and follow the insurance claims process.

If you get in an accident you can also contact us, and we can contact the agency for you.

For information on how to get in touch with us click here. Link a como contactar CRE

To contact Adobe directly call this number: (506) 2542-4800

Add ons:

Additional add ons you may be interested in could include:

  1. Rental of Baby seat: US$3 per day.
  2. Rental of booster seat: US$1 per day. The use of a booster seat is mandatory in Costa Rica for children 4 to 12 years old.
  3. Coolers: complimentary
  4. GPS: $9 a day, plus an additional $250 deposit

In all cases: please reserve in advance as service is subject to availability

If you rented your car through us then the fee includes Adobe’s basic insurance policy and a GPS.

GPS in Costa Rica

Even with very good driving instructions and a map, there is a good chance you will get lost if you do not have a GPS. If you are planning to download GPS to your smart phone or other mobile, then we highly recommend the program iGO Myway Costa Rica.

Download GPS instructions via EZ-FIND Download GPS instructions via EZ-FIND at the Itunes Store©

There are no addresses in Costa Rica. The GPS operates by points of interest. Go to the Points of Interest on the menu and put in where you want to go. For example: “Manuel Antonio” or “La Fortuna ".

If you plan on traveling with your own Garmin or other type of GPS device, you will have to be certain that you have downloaded the latest software for Costa Rica. It may be advisable to just rent both GPS and software from your rental agency to ensure having the latest information.

If you have booked a rental car through us then we have already included the GPS in the booking.  It is always a good idea to check and make sure you have one before driving off the rental lot.

Automatic vs. Manual:

Most cars on the road in Costa Rica are manual (stick shift), if you need or want an automatic car the rental agency will provide it at no additional cost. It is always good to specify. If you booked your rental through Costa Rica Expeditions then we have reserved an automatic for you. If that does not appear to be the case when you arrive then request that they change you to one. Do not drive off the lot in a manual car if you are uncomfortable operating one. 

On the Road:

Traffic laws adhere to the same common sense rules as in any other country: respect the speed limit, put your baby in a car seat, pass only with a dotted line etc.  The difference is in the respect people accord to those laws, which as we have mentioned elsewhere is much lower. Click here for unofficial road rules

During your trip you may be stopped by police; there are often checkpoints, where they solely wish to review your papers. Make sure to keep your passport, license and rental agreement handy, in the same manner you would keep license and registration available when driving in your own country. If you do get stopped by a traffic officer, and you were speeding or violating the law and you receive a ticket, you should call either Adobe or Costa Rica Expeditions as soon as you can.

For information on how to get in touch with us click here. Link a como contactar CRE

To contact Adobe directly call this number: (506) 2542-4800

We can inform the rental agency and advise you on how and when to pay it. If you choose not to call us, be sure to call your rental agency, you are required to do so. You will also have to pay any fines incurred by traffic violations whenever you return the car. 

Drunk Driving (DUI) in Costa Rica

Charges for driving under the influence of alcohol are no longer in the "administrative fault" category. If you are charged with drunk driving you will be charged with a felony. This means that anyone caught driving drunk will be processed in the same way as someone who has committed a crime such as robbery. Besides facing charges of up to three years in prison, there will be the immediate confiscation of the vehicle and the payment of fines. Under the law, any person, caught driving with more than 0.75 ml of alcohol per liter of blood is considered drunk.

Based on this scenario, rental car companies are taking measures to protect themselves if a driver is detained for driving under the influence. These measures may include you incurring: all costs incurred if the rental car is confiscated; revocation of vehicle; and payment of fines in addition to legal and other fees.

Parking:

In Costa Rica when you park there will often be someone acting as a guard. He/she may be an official hired by the community or the hotel where you are parking. They may also be an individual who has simply opened up shop as the self appointed “guard” of a certain street or beachside. Despite their unofficial nature, it is very wise to tip these individuals, in order to ensure the security of your car. They will probably ask for some amount of money up front, normally around 1,000 Colones (2 US Dollars) which we recommend paying.

Hitchhikers:

Do not pick them up. If you wouldn’t do it at home, don´t do it here.  

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