What to Expect – Tourist Traffic Safety Season
High season is the time for welcoming more tourists than ever to Costa Rica. Tourism is the lifeblood of the Guanacaste area and brings economic benefits to all. Along with it comes the promise of increased traffic, which has an impact on small communities in particular.
Local drivers year-round are accustomed to the single-lane river bridges connecting routes between towns. Yield signs at each entry point generally seem to do a good job of controlling traffic. Drivers are used to taking turns crossing these bridges, several vehicles at a time. But high season driving in Guanacaste calls for extra care and patience as traffic volumes peak.
Universal precautions for vehicle traffic apply to the fullest extent, and then some. But don’t assume everyone else on the road is of the same mind. Be cautions of drivers who don’t use turn signals or run stop signs (regarding them as only a suggestion to stop). Don’t be surprised when locals stop in the middle of the road to converse with neighbors and friends. Look out for gypsy cabs stopping frequently to pick up locals on their way to work. And within tourist towns, roadways are commonly clogged with delivery trucks dropping off the goods you may be on your way to purchase.
Drive slowly by cyclists on their way to work. Lack of bikeways and sidewalks limits the road space everyone must share. The same goes for underpowered motorcycles, horseback riders and herds of cows.
Be on the lookout for wildlife as well. Driving within the speed limit is your best chance of being able to safely slow to a stop if a monkey or coati runs out from the bushes.
At all times — but especially at night— be aware of pedestrians on the roadways. Remember they have no place else to walk. Driving in Costa Rica after dark is challenging enough without this added risk. During high season, you can expect even more people walking on the roads. Be very vigilant!
For safety’s sake in every circumstance, simply slow down. Nothing is so important that you must race. This is obvious from the number of deliberately slow drivers here, the likes of which you might never have witnessed. That’s pura vida. Join the club … it won’t hurt and may prevent serious harm.
What if the police pull you over for a traffic check? Be prepared by always traveling with your passport and valid driver’s license. Traffic checks usually take just a minute or so. No matter what, be courteous. The traffic officers have a job to do. The main purpose is to make sure you are legally eligible to visit and drive in Costa Rica, and that everyone in the vehicle is wearing seatbelts. Costa Rica’s fines for speeding and not wearing seatbelts are quite expensive.
Remember to enjoy your time and travel in Guanacaste. Take things at a slower pace, especially when behind the wheel. Drive carefully and respectfully. Pura vida.