Renting a car and driving in Costa Rica have their challenges.

Many assume that when they book a vehicle and receive the rental fee quote, that’s the total amount due and all is good.

When arriving at the car rental office to pick up your vehicle, expect an upcharge for insurance. Costa Rica does have a mandatory vehicle insurance requirement. However, there are also supplemental full-coverage insurance options that are more expensive but cover most situations. Some visitors assume they are covered under either their regular car insurance from their home country or the car rental insurance that comes with many credit cards if used to book rentals. Well, that is not the case here.

Be sure to read your rental agreement carefully to know what the coverage is. The rental company will charge a deposit hold on your credit card of between $500 and $2,000, to be released once you return the vehicle.

Selecting an appropriate vehicle for the area you will be visiting in Costa Rica may make your visit more enjoyable. My suggestion is to get something with clearance for the possible adverse road conditions and rivers you might be passing through. I would recommend some sort of SUV. Once you secure your rental, walk around the vehicle before getting inside. Make note of what you see and take pictures if necessary. Also make sure the vehicle comes with proper equipment to change tires.

Renting a GPS with your vehicle is also a good idea. There are many cool roads to explore, and knowing where you are at all times is important. It’s also essential to fill up with fuel before you take off on any adventure; gas stations are NOT available on every corner as you would expect back home.

Always wear a seatbelt and drive carefully within the speed limits. Fines in Costa Rica are much higher than they are back home, and the car rental company will charge you for any incurred.

Don’t be surprised if you are waved over by a transit police officer to inspect your documents. This is common. Always carry your passport and driver’s license. The transit police are generally checking for seatbelt use and to make sure that your documents are in order. Don’t panic; stop when requested, be nice to the officer and you will have no problems.

Always drive with extra care, especially at night. Many people walk on the side of the road and may be very difficult to see, especially at dusk or when it’s raining. Caution beats speed every time.

When taking your vehicle back to the rental office, be sure the attendant signs off on the return. You should be present when the attendant does so after confirming all the items that came with the car are still there.

Get out and see this beautiful country, and have a blast!