Road Conditions and Safety:?Take extra care when driving. Roads are often in poor condition, lack clearly marked lanes, and have narrow shoulders and large potholes. Signage can be inadequate. Visibility at intersections is often limited by hedges or other obstacles.
- In the event of car trouble or a flat tire, look for a well-lit, populated area such as a gas station to pull over. Be wary of unsolicited offers of assistance from strangers, particularly in less populated areas.
- Main highways and principal roads in the major cities are paved, but some roads to beaches and other rural locations are not. Many destinations are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance.
- Exercise extreme caution when driving across moving water, especially through riverbeds and over hanging bridges. Even a few inches of water could destabilize your vehicle.
- Landslides are common. Some roads, even those leading to major population centers, may be temporarily impassable during the rainy season. When staying outside of urban areas, call ahead to hotels regarding the current status of access roads.
- Avoid driving at night outside urban areas. ?
- Expect traffic jams in and around San Jose.
- Motorcyclists often drive without respect to rules of the road, passing on the right, or weaving in and out without warning. Buses and cars frequently stop in travel lanes, even on expressways.
Bridges: Bridges, even on heavily traveled roads, may be only a single lane. Rural roads sometimes lack bridges, compelling motorists to ford waterways. Do not drive through water.
Traffic Laws:??Drivers will need a valid passport and valid U.S. driver?s license or an international driving permit.
- Fines for routine traffic violations can be upwards of $500 USD.
- Laws and speed limits are often ignored, turn signals are rarely used, passing on dangerous stretches of highway is common, and pedestrians are not given the right of way.
- In the event of a traffic accident, do not move the vehicle. Both the traffic police and an insurance investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles can be moved. Drivers using rental cars should clarify their company?s policy in the event of accidents. Rental companies may levy additional charges on drivers for failing to file a report.
- There is a high fatality rate for pedestrians and those riding bicycles or motorcycles. In the event of a traffic fatality, a judge must arrive at the scene to pronounce a person dead, which could take several hours. If there is an ongoing investigation of a vehicular accident resulting in death or injuries, you may not be allowed to leave the country for several months.
Public Transportation: U.S. citizens have reported having items stolen while using public transportation across Costa Rica.? U.S. citizens should take care to maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid displaying signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry, and should always keep bags and other personal items under their personal control. U.S. citizens are strongly discouraged from using public buses, where pickpocketing is common. ?U.S. citizens should take only licensed taxis or familiar ride share services and should never accept rides from unlicensed or ?pirate? vehicles.
See our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Costa Rica?s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety.
Unpaid traffic tickets:??U.S. citizens have occasionally reported to the Embassy that charges for unpaid traffic tickets have appeared on the credit card that was on file with their rental car company. The Embassy cannot intervene in such cases.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Costa Rica?s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Costa Rica?s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the?FAA?s safety assessment page.
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Costa Rica should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts.? Information may also be posted to the? U.S. Coast Guard homeport website, and the NGA broadcast warnings.