martes, 30 de agosto de 2011


At Guanacaste Car Rental-Costa Rica, we are concerned about your road safety so we will make every effort to assist you in having a pleasant, safe driving and touring experience in Costa Rica. It is our priority to provide safe road worthy vehicles for your stay in Costa Rica. We ask all our clients to drive carefully on our roads which are very often narrow. The number of cars has increased on Costa Rica roads in the last few years and it is now more important than ever that all drivers abide by the rules of the road and take great care and precaution when driving.
As in any unfamiliar country it is important to follow common sense when driving and there are a few tips that can be easily followed to ensure a safe, enjoyable driving and touring experience while vacationing in Costa Rica.

    1)  If you rent a car, while at the lot, make sure you go over the car very carefully and make sure the attendant marks down every nick and scratch on his sheet. Failure to do this can result in huge adjustments to your bill when you return the rental.
2)  Avoid driving at night. You are not familiar with the roads and it is dark, impeding you seeing the road completely. There are many areas on the narrow roads that do not have guardrails. Since there is no public lighting along the roads, bikers may appear suddenly  right in front of you, and if case of a mechanical breakdown, getting help may be difficult
3)    Unless otherwise indicated, minimum speed on highways is 40 kilometers per hour (kph) and the maximum is 80 kph. The speed limit varies and is posted by the road. On highways and secondary roads the speed limit is 60 kph. , unless otherwise indicated. In urban areas, the speed limit is 40 kph, unless otherwise indicated.The speed limit around school zones and in front hospitals and clinics is 25 kph.
4)    Always carry a photocopy of your passport, showing your photograph and the date you entered the country and your current driver´s license from home. Leave your original passport in the safety deposit box at your hotel.
5)   Driving on beaches is strictly prohibited everywhere, except when there is no other path connecting two towns.
6)   You need patience because the potholes are big enough to swallow a truck so it takes longer to get anywhere. The roads are narrow and that’s one reason why everyone drives smaller vehicles. But there is simply no better way to enjoy seeing the Costa Rica´s countryside than to meander thought it at your own speed, stopping whenever something appeals to you.
7)   When in San Jose or in slow traffic, do not leave anything valuable on the seat next to you if the windows are open. A person can and will reach in and grab stuff. NEVER leave valuables in plain view in your car.
8)   Farm traffic is common and can slow things substantially, especially while driving across Guanacaste Cattle Country. If you live a fast paced life you might find it frustrating. But chill out! You are on holiday and when in the Northern Zone or Guanacaste Pacific Coast do as the Ticos (Costa Ricans) do! Avoid honking, do not get upset, wait patiently and wave politely at the herding cowboys when the road clears. This way you will make good friends quickly.
9)  Never leave anything valuable in your car, this might be an invitation to be broken into and may be responsible for the damage to the vehicle as well.
10)  Don’t count on signage to get you to your destination – signs are few and far between and sometimes are not that accurate. Do plan your route well ahead.
11)  Pedestrians and animals use or cross the highways and roads everywhere; even where the speed limit is 80 kilometers/hour, pedestrians, bus riders, cyclists are to be found on the highways. The highways around San Jose and the Metropolitan Areas are notorious for people crossing the roads anywhere.
12)  If you get a ticket, do not pay it to the officer who has issued it, it may be interpreted as a bribe and you could be in more trouble than you thought.  Police officers are not supposed to take any money from you or retain any of your personal documents such as driver´s licenses or passports as a way to condition you to let you go. Tickets should be paid when the rental car is returned.
13)  The mountain roads and highways provide very limited opportunity for passing and caution   should be used. Exercise caution in your own passing strategy and be constantly aware of local drivers, most of whom are averse to following slow-moving traffic. This applies to cars, trucks and busses. Defensive driving is a must.

      14 )    The law requires you to wear a seat belt

15)      Be especially careful of motorcycles. They obey NO rules and can come out of nowhere. They also can be the vehicles used when snatching stuff from you car  through an open window.
    16)  Fill up your tank before you leave on any destination as gas stations are not readily available everywhere
17)  When parking at businesses and restaurants lots, be aware of crowded parking lots where someone might back up on your bumper or scratch you car. Keep in mind that any damage to the vehicle, you would be held responsible for.
18)  Roads can drop off suddenly. Over the years and several layers of resurfacing, roads get narrower and ditches gets deeper.
19)  If you are in an accident, don’t move your vehicle; wait until the police arrive and the insurance inspector can visit the scene and record whatever it is they need to record. Traffic can be blocked up for hours and for miles around. Call Emergency 911.

  20)  If you rent a car, here is a common scam. Someone will punch a very small hole in your tire or loosen the valve stem. If you notice a flat tire, do not stop, drive soon to a well-lit area or to a near gas station; do not accept any help from strangers. In this case, any assistance means to separate you and whatever valuables they can find.
21)  Passing Slower Traffic is a national sport in Costa Rica. Many large trucks and busses, along with an assortment of ancient vehicles (usually pickup trucks) travel the highways at speeds well below the posted limit, especially in the mountains.
22)  Most roads in Costa Rica are single-lane one way, without shoulders and some are winding, have potholes of all sizes. Please drive defensively and always expect a cow, horse, oxcart, slow moving truck, a cyclist or a broken down vehicle around the bend.                                         

23)  Be aware of stopping buses in the middle of nowhere. The country is blessed with great bus service ……… some buses stopping anywhere someone flags them down (including highways). Others stop only at assigned stops. You never know which one you are following.
24)  When shopping to/from the airport or on the way to a destination with your luggage onboard, be sure  never leave you car unattended with your belongings and keep the car within your sight at close distance as possible or someone should stay with your vehicle all the time while shopping at nearby store.

Despite of all the above warnings and precautions you should be aware of and by exercising common sense, driving and touring in a car is the best way to see Costa Rica. Especially, if you are interested in nature and remote areas. If you go to the Pacific side of Costa Rica, you will find one of the nicest beach stretches in Costa Rica and the best way to get there is by car.

In all its perspective. With a little awareness and following the rules you are just fine to enjoy the local scenery, mountain landscape, people, food, lodge, forest, wildlife, just everything; and then above all, do not forget to do your own nature touring at your own speed and leisure. Relax and enjoy.

lunes, 22 de agosto de 2011

Car Rental Insurance in Costa Rica

When you go to rent a car, you will probably be offered an option to get rental car insurance. When considering getting rental car insurance in Costa Rica, you should think about the driving environment you’ll be renting in. In Central Valley, Costa Rica for instance, or San Jose GAM, you’ll be in a fast, urban metropolis in all likelihood, and therefore the odds of you having a collision, vandalism, or theft, increase tremendously compared to renting a car in some place like Guanacaste or Arenal.

As you know, when you go driving, you need to be covered to the extent of the minimum liability requirements for the country you’re driving in. Even if you have minimum liability coverage though, it won’t protect the car you’re driving unless you have additional protection. To this end, when you visit a car rental agency, you’ll be offered rental car insurance to protect the rental car while you’re using it. This will be a condition for renting as long as you are not insured or have a proof of CDW coverage, just in case there is damage to the car, obviously you’ll be responsible for it. So should you get rental car insurance or not? If you have only minimum liability coverage, you probably want to consider it strongly, since your own insurance will not cover damage to the rental car that you’re driving in the event of a collision or another accident. Personal auto insurance from U. S. and Canada will not cover you in Costa Rica. So you need to do you home work by following the simple steps:

Auto insurance in Costa Rica is a government monopoly of the INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros). Liability insurance from the INS is mandated by law, but provides only minimal coverage. Rental agencies offer supplemental programs that cover deductibles and contingencies other than a simple traffic accident.

First call up your credit card company and ask them what insurance coverage they provide with car rental in Costa Rica?    Each credit card company is different. .  Many credit cards cover Car Rental Insurance, but it is important that you check the fine print to avoid surprises when you're in the middle of an emergency and a huge repair bill is presented to you! Credit cards' coverage only covers the vehicle in case of collision, but will not provide liability coverage. You will need to purchase this from the rental car company as part of your rental.

Some credit card coverage plans do not cover 4 wheel drive vehicles, large vans and large sized SUV, others are not valid in Latin America or Costa Rica and still others do not cover car rental insurance on unpaved roads.  Call your bank (card issuer) and inquire if what you want to do is covered and if possible, get a copy of your coverage to present at the rental car's counter. You can be covered while renting a car in Costa Rica EXCEPT FOR LIABILITY.  So you need to purchase a separate liability insurance policy thru the rental car agency in Costa Rica.

The cost of insurance can approach or exceed the cost of renting. There are three types:
Required by Law—TPL, SLI, SLC or API—Liability Insurance from the INS is required regardless of your policies at home or the claims of your titanium credit card. The cost ranges from $US 10-28 per day depending on the vehicle. This insurance does not cover your rental car at all, only damages to other people, their cars, or property. Unless you purchase supplements, or have documented coverage from your credit card you are still responsible for all damages to the rental vehicle.

Optional—CDW or SLDW—Collision Damage Waivers are a supplement underwritten by the rental company to reduce your liability for your rental car to the deductable amount ($US 1,000-3,000 depending on the company and vehicle) only in the case of an accident. The cost ranges from $US 8-10 per day depending on the company and vehicle. You are still responsible for all losses or damages in the case of negligence, vandalism, road damage, or theft.

This insurance may be replaced by your credit card coverage. Check before you rent, and get it in writing. This document will be required at the time of rental in order for you to decline the CWD offered at the rental counter. Some credit card companies have exclusions specifically against Latin American rentals. Some rental companies do not allow you to waive this insurance regardless of other coverage.

Optional: Zero Liability-Under the names of Full Coverage, Vandalism Supplement, Damage Supplement, and Theft Insurance these extra policies are intended to reduce your liability to zero when combined with SLI and CDW. For example, if the trunk is damaged or a window glass is broken by thieves while they steal your luggage you will be held responsible for the damage unless you have purchased a third level of insurance. The cost ranges from $US 16-21 per day depending on the fine print and vehicle.
Roads of Costa Rica
Roads in Costa Rica are not tremendously developed.  There are plenty of single lane paved roads in Costa Rica.  Even the main highway that goes from Panama to Nicaragua has single lanes.  There are many unpaved roads in Costa Rica.  If you want the freedom to travel anywhere in the country, 4 wheel drive vehicles are helpful.  

If you want to rent a car in Costa Rica, you must be at least 21 years old (some rental car companies use 24 as the minimum driving age) and some rental car companies offer optional covers for young drivers aged 18-21 years.  Your country's license, issued a year or more previously, is valid for driving in Costa Rica for a maximum period of 3 months after your entry date into the country.
You will also need to possess a major credit card for the safety deposit that will be held on your card while you have the car. The deposits can run between $950 - $ 2500 USD depending on the car category. Take note that car rental companies do not accept cash deposits, and if you use a debit card, the amount of the deposit might be higher if accepted, and is actually debited by your bank and not "held" as is done with a credit card, so it will often take more than a month for the bank to return the money to you. Since the rental car has no way of knowing whether the card you are using is a debit or credit, use common sense when doing the transaction or advise you car rental agent about this issue.  
 Costa Rica has many volcanoes, mountainous land and unpaved areas.  What may look very close on the map may actually be a great distance away.  For example, Arenal looks very close to Monteverde on the map, but it is at least 3 hours away.  Driving to Arenal from Liberia looks very close, but is a long and winding road which also takes about 3 hours.  Driving from Playa del Coco to Tamarindo looks very close but is about an hour drive time away.  It could be less on the dirt road, but it is an adventure!
Most rental cars now have GPS systems available for rent and getting one will most probably save you time and add some confidence to your driving experience in Costa Rica. 
Some of the extra costs that may not be included in your rental contract.
  • Government License Plate Fee— $US 1.2 per day, rarely included in quoted rates.
  • Airport Concourse Fee—there is a 12% airport concourse tax added to the cost of any car picked up at, San Jose’s, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) or Liberia Intl. Airport (LIR). If you arrive late and plan to stay in the area (do not drive at night), take a taxi to your hotel and have the car delivered the next morning (often free of charge and saves you a day of rental). If you arrive early and want to get on the road, the car companies have off airport pickup locations a few minutes away.
  • Additional Drivers—$US 5-8 per day
  • Secure Parking—Recommended. Never leave anything in the car!
  • Damages—unless you purchase all of the insurance or your credit card covers it, you are responsible for damage done by potholes, vandals, thieves, falling trees, high tide, army ants, spilled food, and any other imaginable occurrence other than a traffic accident involving another party.
When renting a car, make SURE you do a vehicle damage check before leaving. The agency will give you a form to mark all existing damages. Take your time and do it right! Otherwise you could be paying for damage you did not do. When returning the car, walk the car with the attendant AND make sure he or she signs it off. Keep a copy of this report, and whatever you do, do not go with the BS that they will send it to you. You want a copy of that report now that has been signed and dated.

Also in that report, it should also state the extras that have also been returned like spare tire and GPS. I can not tell you how many horrid stories there are about travelers getting charged for a spare tire that is missing and/or GPS that were supposedly in the glove compartment when you first rented it.

When involved in a car accident, be sure to file your paperwork right away. Many credit card companies put a time limit on turning in your paperwork, usually capped at 45 days from the accident. Rental car companies may delay or miss sending you the invoice and other paperwork until after that period has passed, so be assertive in contacting the national/international franchise or local agency you rented from and asking them to send the bill and requested paper work immediately. Or else you may be stuck with the tab.

So if your rental car company sends you a bill for unpaid administrative fees or other bills, don't pay it until you speak with your credit card company. Insist that your credit card company receive the documentation it needs from the car rental agency to process the claim. You'll likely be referred to a third-party agency, not a staff member of your credit card issuer, and you may have be persistent to defend yours.

Know the terms of each company, and be sure they are clearly understood. This will help you through the process from beginning to end and make your car rental enjoyable and not a horrible experience.

Renting a car in Costa Rica is a great way to get around, because you will be able to do your own touring to different places off the beaten track and not tie up to somebody else´s schedule. The roads are well-marked, the sign are easy to read, and the traffic is pretty light outside urban areas. It is a good idea to have a detailed map when driving in rural area since it is easy to miss a turn.  


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