Getting a Rental Car in Costa Rica


rental car in costa ricaOnce you’ve arrived here, you’ll want to explore the back roads, and so the solution will obviously be… a rental car in Costa Rica! You might even wish to get off the back roads, and (why not) onto the beach. By getting off the beaten tracks, you’ll experiment sights that rarely make it to the tourist brochures!

But for that you need a car. And, bringing your own is out of the question. It’s a good idea to bring an international driver’s license (usually delivered for a small fee in your home country), but not mandatory. For any car rental in Costa Rica, you’ll need to show a valid driver’s license, plus… the money! Most Costa Rica car rentals will gladly accept international credit cards such as VISA and Master Card, but make sure you have a the very least a $1000 limit on it ($1500 recommended). Some of the Costa Rica car rentals may offer a discount if paid cash, but don’t assume they will – it’s ok if they offer it, but considered impolite to ask for it.

Besides, often times, you have to be at least 21 years old in order to rent a car, plus there might be extra fees if you’re less than 25 years old. Also – very important – make sure you have a valid passport – some Costa Rica rental car dealers ask to see them. The type of vehicle you’ll choose will depend on its intended use. Do you need a car to drive from point A to point B on well paved roads? Then a normal car will do. But if the small dirt roads are what’s on your mind, do not hesitate: a 4×4 might be what you need to ensure you don’t get stuck in a mud track after it’s been raining (because when it rains here… it pours).
Where to go

So let’s say you’ve landed in San Jose. If your trip is not a pre-planned, all inclusive package where you just sit back and let yourself be led to the resort, you’ll be wondering which way to head. The fact is, Costa Rica’s a small country; it’s about the size of Louisiana, so it can easily be crossed in any direction in less than a day. For instance, here’s the distance from San Jose (the capital located in the middle of the country on the central plateau) to a number of the major cities:

Costa Rica map

Cabuya: 240 km (150 mi)

Cartago: 20 km (13 mi)

Ciudad Cortes: 130 km (81 mi)

Dominical: 82 km (51 mi)

Garza: 225 km (140 mi)

Limon: 120 km (75 mi)

Liberia: 220 km (138 mi)

Manzanillo: 210 km (131 mi)

Marbella: 220 km (138 mi)

Montezuma: 225 km (141 mi)

Puerto Jimenez: 185 km (115 mi)

Puerto Viejo: 260 km (163 mi)

Puntarenas: 90 km (56 mi)

Rincon: 165 km (103 mi)

San Isidoro: 76 km (48 mi)

Tamarindo: 250 km (156 mi)

As can been seen, you’re never far from the beach! It also means that, contrary to some countries like Canada where the distance can be huge between major cities and attractions, this is not the case in Costa Rica, and it really make sense to search for Costa Rica car rentals when planning your stay in that gem of a country.
Related links:

Taking the Bus Around Costa Rica

Renting a Car in Costa Rica

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