Traffic Hazards

For a tourist in San Jose , there are easier ways to get around than by rental car: parking space is limited, car theft is a problem, and traffic is fierce. I would suggest you walk or take a taxi or bus.

In the countryside, roads are for cars, buses, trucks, cows, dogs, chickens, people, and landslides. Be careful out there. Some specific driving habits to look out for are passing on curves, use of climbing lanes by cars going downhill, and driving on whichever side of the road has the best pavement or fewer rocks or ruts. Tailgating is a national pastime.

Watch out for two-lane roads that feed suddenly into one-lane bridges and for lethal 'huecos' (WAY-kos), holes in the pavement, which can knock passenger and vehicle for a loop. Tree branches laid across the road warn of trouble ahead, and when an oncoming car flashes its headlights, it usually means 'police ahead' an accident, or some other danger. Slow down.

Geography and climate team up to create landslides big and small. Fog is a permanent possibility on the highest section of the Inter-American Highway south of San Jose toward San Isidro de El General-the range known as Cerro de la Muerte. The earlier you get through that section, the better (and the scenery is magnificent). The same advice goes for the highway to Limon through Braulio Carrillo National Park .

On the San Jose-Puntarenas highway, you may find yourself in a string of cars, buses, and diesel-fume-belching trucks on a narrow, winding road. Adrenaline flows as vehicles jockey for position without a clue as to what may be approaching just around the curve. Avoid that road on weekends and after dark. In fact, avoid driving at night in general.

Even with road map in hand, you'll need to ask directions when traveling off main roads. Additional signs are going up along main tourism routes, but choices outnumber signs, especially on dirt roads. In the rainy season, always ask about the condition of the roads you plan to take before setting out each day.

Traffic police equipped with radar are on major roads. Watch the posted speed limit and buckle up. If you are stopped by transit police and cited, fines must be paid to a bank or the rental agency will handle it for you. You should not pay the officer.

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