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The Ultimate Guide to Renting a Car in Costa Rica (Updated 2024)

A sunny, bright day overlooking the towering Arenal volcano in Costa Rica with lush jungle in all directions

Posted: 1/25/24 | January 25th, 2024

I love Costa Rica. It was the first place I visited by myself over 15 years ago and the country that set me on my nomadic journey. From its stunning beaches to its lush jungles, this biodiverse nation is popular with backpackers, honeymooners, and expats alike. And while it’s small, there’s a ton to see and do. You could easily spend a month and still barely scratch the surface.

It’s also amazing for road-tripping.

As much as a backpacking bus or hitchhiking adventure might initially sound appealing, the reality is that waiting in the hot sun and then bouncing along bumpy roads in an old bus without shocks or air-conditioning is not for the fainthearted. If you want real freedom to explore, you need a rental car.

To help you plan your trip, here’s everything you need to know about renting a car in Costa Rica.


Picking the Right Rental Car (and Rental Company)

Before you rent a car, read and compare reviews for car rental companies. While the standard big companies are available here, there are lots of local ones too.

Once you have narrowed down the list to a chosen few, ask for quotes for the type of vehicle and travel dates that you require. The quote should include mandatory third-party insurance, taxes, and any other surcharges, like airport tax. Most sites include all this info when getting a quote online.

Whether you are reserving online or directly with an agent, double-check the details of your reservation. Crossing time zones may mean that your rental pickup time or even date is different in Costa Rica than your country of departure. You will need to confirm the time, date, and location of your vehicle’s pickup and drop-off, the vehicle category, transmission, and coverage required.

Points to remember when renting a car in Costa Rica:

  • A manual transmission may be cheaper than automatic and more common in Costa Rica but should only be selected if you can drive a stick shift.
  • Returning your car at a destination different from where you picked it up will probably incur an additional charge.
  • Most rental companies will not guarantee a specific make and model within the rental category.
  • Expect to rent for 24-hour periods. Time your pickup and drop-off accordingly.
  • Provide your flight number before you arrive, so the company can track your flight.
  • If you have an early flight, consider dropping off the vehicle the night before and using a hotel shuttle to the airport.
  • Online travel agencies…

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