Renting a Car in Costa Rica
Requirements and advice for a trouble-free Costa Rica rental car.
If packaged tours are not for you, you’ll want a rental car in Costa Rica. If you want a vacation that takes you to infrequently visited areas, rent a car or, better yet, an SUV. With a rental vehicle, you have the freedom of choice—you choose where to go, when to go, and how long you stay once there, especially if you want to visit more than one area of the country. The best part? Costa Rica is so small that you can see a lot of the country, even if you only have a week or 10 days to do it.
Requirements for renting a car in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, car rental requirements are similar to those in the U.S.: you’ll need to be in possession of a valid driver’s license, a credit card in the name of the driver, and each driver will need to be older than 21 . Your license will need to have been in effect for at least a year before your rental begins. You’ll also need your passport (it also pays to keep a photocopy of the ID page with you). In some cases, and for an additional fee, drivers between 18 and 21 can be added to your rental agreement if they have at least one year of driving experience, according to the issue date on their driver’s license. You’ll have to buy the legal, mandated Third-Party Liability insurance offered by your rental company.
There will be a “hold” on your card (US$100 – $2,000, depending on the kind of vehicle you rent) for the rental period and up to 4 days following the return. Cash or debit card deposits are rarely accepted, so put the rental on a high-limit or second card.
Advice for a trouble-free Costa Rica car rental
- If you get a ticket, you can pay the fine to the car rental agency (get a receipt). If you think you can skip out on it, think again. You may not clear immigration when you’re ready to go home. For real.
- You can’t cross borders into Nicaragua or Panama, or any other country for that matter, in the rental car; you’ll have to return your Costa Rica rental car and rent another car in the next country, or use other transportation. Check with your rental agency to see if you can drop the vehicle at the border, walk across, and pick up another car after you cross. There will be a fee for an alternate return destination.
- During high season (mid-November to about mid-April), rental cars can be scarce as hen’s teeth. Book early and online.
- Additional drivers often mean an additional per driver fee; be sure to ask when you book.
- Insurance coverage offered by your credit card company is limited to 30 days. It’s also subject to verification and requires official written proof. Be sure to ask what constitutes proof and don’t count on that to be your only insurance. You will be required to purchase insurance on your rental car in Costa Rica.
- Always scrutinize the car before you sign off on it or you’ll be charged for any damage not on the condition report. No matter how small the damage, make sure it’s on the report. If it’s not, you run the risk of having to pay for it. Ask for a signed copy before you drive away.
- Always rent your car from a reputable agency like Poas Rent A Car; you’ll avoid mishaps and unexpected expenses that way.
As you begin planning your Costa Rica vacation, take the time to read and understand the car rental company’s requirements and policies. If you have questions, contact us; we’ll be happy to answer them and to help you plan your car rental.