I hope everyone is doing great wherever you may be. I’ve been busy planning my husband David’s big 80th birthday party. Several friends will fly down for the epic event and have asked if they should rent a car in Costa Rica.
I figure you’ve wondered about it too. How accessible are cabs? Can I Uber in Costa Rica? Are there rental cars at the airport or should I have the concierge from the vacation home I rented take care of it for me? Which rental car company is best? These are all great questions. Let’s dig in.
Should I Rent a Car?
To rent or not to rent? That depends on what kind of vacationer you are. Do you plan to get to your vacation villa, unpack, kick back with a cold tropical cocktail, spend time at the pool, and escape from everything? Because, if that’s the case, I’d say you don’t need to rent a car in Costa Rica.
Besides, when you stay at the Discovery Beach House, you’re close to everything. Why leave a car sitting in the parking area when you just want to lay on a float in a pool and hang at the beach. The beach is a 30-second walk from your back door. Stores, ATMs, restaurants, bars, and shopping are just a 2-10-minute walk from the villa.
Taxis are readily available on the main road. Uber is in San Jose but hit and miss in our area of Manuel Antonio. If you’re adventurous and want a local experience, take the public bus, it’s easy. The public bus stop is right outside the Discovery Beach House gate. Buses pass by every 20 minutes, except for Sundays when they’re on a minimal schedule. It’s only $.60 to ride into town and takes maybe 15 minutes. It’s a cultural experience. Transport such as buses and taxis are always closely monitored by fleet management software to keep on top of travel times as well as rider and vehicle safety so people can rest easy about using different modes of transport when they are somewhere unfamiliar.
Do I Need a 4×4?
If you’re the type of vacationer who likes to get out and explore, then I suggest you rent a car in Costa Rica. You may want to visit nearby towns or get off the beaten path. You don’t need to rent a 4×4 vehicle unless you plan to visit rural areas of Costa Rica.
How Are the Roads?
The road conditions in Costa Rica have vastly improved over the past few years. The roads around Manuel Antonio are great in comparison to other areas of Costa Rica. When you’re off the main highways, there are still potholes that can swallow your car. So be careful and don’t be in too much of a hurry. Remember the maximum speed limit in Costa Rica is only about 50 mph. If you’d like to know more about driving around in Costa Rica check out my article “Costa Rica Map Tips: One Inch Does NOT Equal Five Miles.”
Mandatory National Insurance
The mandatory national insurance is the biggest complaint we hear from guests renting a car in Costa Rica. Online websites don’t include the mandatory national insurance in their online quotes. Imagine your surprise when you think you scored a deal on a car, then come to find out, it’s much higher than what the website says. The national insurance can add $10 to $25 a day (it depends on what type of car you rent) to the total cost of the rental.
Our concierge has received many phone calls from panicked guests at the airport asking for help. Their deal turned into a not so great deal fast. That’s why we suggest you let our concierge book your rental car. Our concierge service is free for our guests. We only work with reputable companies. We send them so much business, if any little thing pops up, we get priority.
INS a Costa Rican Monopoly
There’s one company that offers car insurance in Costa Rica. The company “INS” (National Insurance Institute) has a monopoly here. Don’t get tricked into purchasing international car insurance for your Costa Rica vacation. Unless your insurance is from INS it isn’t valid in Costa Rica. You’ll either lose your money or have to ask for a refund when you return from your Costa Rica vacation.
Reputable Car Companies
If you book your car on your own, make sure you use a reputable company. Don’t book with a company you’ve never heard of, no matter how good the deal seems to be. If something does happen, you want to make sure you have someone in the office that can help you.
Basic or Full Coverage?
Basic or full coverage is separate from the mandatory national insurance. I like the idea of full coverage because if anything happens (stuff does happen sometimes), it’s nice to know you’re covered.
Most major credit cards include full coverage on cars rented with the card. Call your credit card company and double-check. That’ll save you quite a bit of money and give you peace of mind with your car rental. Basic coverage is just that, basic. Most guests never have problems with basic coverage.
Rental Car Deposits
You’ll need a credit card for the deposit on your rental car in Costa Rica. Rental car deposits range from $300 to $1,500 depending on the company and the type of car you rent. If there’s no issues, the rental car companies will return your deposit within three business days after you return your vehicle. Keep that in mind if you need access to the deposit money after your vacation. Similar to the US, you’ll need a valid driver’s license and be over 25 years old to rent the vehicle.
Now You Know
I hope that by now, I’ve answered most of those daunting questions you had about how to rent a car in Costa Rica. As always, our concierge is here to help you with your Costa Rica vacation planning needs.
See You Soon
We look forward to your vacation with us. If you haven’t read my other articles, please check them out here. Please follow us on Instagram @discoverybeachouse. For more information or to check our availability, visit our website at Discovery Beach House. Watch our YouTube Channel for more details on Manuel Antonio, the best spot to vacation in Costa Rica.