Car Rental Costa Rica

To rent a car, you need a valid driver's license, passport, and credit card. The minimum age is usually 21 to 25. All major car-rental agencies have offices in Costa Rica , and there are several local companies as well. Offices are now not only in San Jose but in major towns, as well as some resorts. Few automatic transmissions are available.

Shop around. Deductibles can be high. Weekly rates are discounted, and travelers in the low season, May to November, may pay as much as 20 percent less. You may get better rates by reserving your car before you come, through online international reservations. Ballpark figures, based on current quoted rates, are $54 for one day and $330 for one week, including insurance and free mileage. Four-wheel-drives start at about $75 per day, $475 for the week. There is usually a damage deposit, up to $ 1,000. Ask for a map and a handout sheet on basic Costa Rican traffic regulations.

As anywhere else, be sure to check the car over for dents, scratches, or other damage before you accept it and have those noted in writing by the agent. Also be sure to check the spare and jack and such details as brake fluid, oil, water, and lights.

Gas is sold by the liter. All petroleum is imported and refined in Costa Rica by RECOPE, the national refinery. Prices per gallon at printing range from $1 to $1.50, depending on whether it is regular, super, or diesel. In rural areas, watch the gas gauge. You will not find a service station at every intersection. In some small towns the attendant fills your tank not by pump but by pichinga, a plastic jug.

Speed limits are posted and the numbers are in kilometers, not miles. Before you rent a car, please read the Traffic Hazards section, above. Don't leave belongings visible even in a locked car, and don't leave luggage in the trunk at night or even unattended during the day. In fact, don't leave anything of value in an unattended car anytime. Use the seat belts.

Because of road conditions, driving times are usually longer than expected.

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