There are a couple of questions I get asked all the time by travelers about to visit Costa Rica: What is it like driving in Costa Rica? Are there any special rules? Well, this is what you get: roads with more potholes than actual road, a bunch of reckless and careless drivers, and vehicles that should not be permitted ten miles of a road.
I am not saying this for you to get discouraged, but you need to be prepared. If you are going to be driving in Costa Rica it’s all about accepting and mastering these conditions. All you need to do is to be very careful.
IMPORTANT TIP: This might sound extremely obvious but in a country like this one you can’t, under any circumstances, take your eyes off the road and you should always be buckled up. Potholes abound here and you might have an accident if you miss seeing a big one.
There will also be no shortage of cars with no brake lights, no headlights, or enough emission fumes to suffocate an elephant. This is especially true in the smaller towns. Also, many locals don’t believe in putting their direction signals and they have a tendency to stop in the middle of a busy road to chat with a friend on the side of the road, or an oncoming car with a friend of theirs. This is a country where patience is a Virtue!
You will also find tons of people on a motorcycle with no manners who will get in between cars and race like they were immortal. Ironically, if you hit one, you will be the one to get in trouble. So be aware of them, especially during rush hour, they will just speed by and some night even damage your car.
So, What are the Road Rules?
None, as far as Ticos are concerned. However, don’t tell this to the transit police (MOPT) who pretend to instate them. Cars pass one another at astronomical speeds around curves and double yellow lines, motorcycles drive as though they are part of a video game and are immortal by cutting off cars and seeing how small of a gap they can squeeze through, and stopping for stop signs has yet to become a thing to do.
Another useful thing is how to calculate your time. If you plan a route and google maps is telling you a time frame, just add 30 minutes to it because of traffic, accidents, road work or just having to drive slow in case you find bad roads.
One more thing worth noticing is that for some reason courtesy is almost non-existent among drivers, so if you need to change lanes or cross a road, don’t expect them to allow you to, you will have to wait a little longer to ensure that it is safe to do so.
So the best advice to give you: Stay super alert, on your toes, and enjoy the crazy roller coaster called roads of Costa Rica.
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