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Costa Rica – Driving

Costa Rica is a Central American country known for its diverse wildlife, beaches, and rainforests. Driving is one of the best ways to explore the country’s beauty. Before hitting the road in Costa Rica, it is essential to understand the local driving rules, regulations, and road safety standards.

Road Safety in Costa Rica

Road safety is a concern in Costa Rica, with a higher incidence of accidents than in many other countries. The main reasons for this are poor road conditions, aggressive driving, and limited enforcement of traffic rules.

The quality of roads in Costa Rica varies depending on the region. Major highways and urban roads are generally well-maintained, but rural and remote areas may have unpaved or poorly maintained roads. In rainy season, some roads may become impassable due to flooding or mudslides.

Local Driving Standards in Costa Rica

Driving standards in Costa Rica are lower than in many other countries, with many drivers ignoring traffic rules and engaging in reckless driving behaviour. This can include speeding, overtaking in dangerous locations, and failing to give way to other drivers.

It is also important to note that Costa Rica has strict laws against driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Drivers who engage in such behaviour can face heavy fines, licence suspensions or imprisonment.

Equipment Required in Cars

By law, all cars in Costa Rica must have a reflective triangle, a reflective vest, and a spare tyre. It is also advisable to carry a jack, a tyre iron, and a first aid kit in case of a flat tyre or emergency.


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Road Accidents

In the event of a road accident, drivers in Costa Rica are required to stop their vehicles and offer assistance to anyone who may be injured. It is also important to report the accident to the police and exchange contact and insurance details with the other party involved.

Driving Rules in Costa Rica

Driving Side

Like most other countries, Costa Rica follows the right-hand drive system. Drivers must drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left.

Speed Limits

Speed limits in Costa Rica vary depending on the type of road and region. In urban areas, the speed limit is usually 50 km/h, while on highways, it can be up to 90 km/h. It is essential to follow the speed limit to ensure road safety and avoid fines.

Right of Way

In Costa Rica, drivers must give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings, and it is illegal to drive through a crosswalk while someone is crossing the road. It is also mandatory to give way to emergency vehicles with sirens and flashing lights.

Unique Rules

There are a few unique driving rules in Costa Rica that visitors should be aware of. For example, it is illegal to turn right on a red light, and drivers must always wear a seatbelt. It is also illegal to pass a school bus when it has its stop sign displayed.

Road Signs and Traffic Lights

Road signs in Costa Rica follow international standards and are usually in Spanish. The most important signs include speed limit signs, stop signs, and no entry signs.

Traffic lights in Costa Rica follow a standard system with red, yellow, and green lights. Drivers must stop at a red light and can proceed when the light turns green.

Getting Up-to-Date Road Traffic Information

The Costa Rican Traffic Police provides up-to-date road traffic information through their website (http://www.policiaconstitucional.go.cr). The website provides real-time updates on road conditions, traffic accidents, and congestion.

Other useful resources for road traffic information in Costa Rica include local news stations and radio broadcasts.

Parking Rules in Costa Rica

Parking in Costa Rica can be challenging, especially in urban areas with high populations of expats. Most parking spaces are limited, and there is a high demand for them.

Drivers must park their vehicles within designated parking bays and avoid parking in no-parking zones. Failure to comply can result in fines or even the vehicle being towed away.

There are several parking permit schemes available in Costa Rica, including residential parking permits and business parking permits. These permits allow drivers to park in designated areas for a set period.

Disabled parking bays are also available in Costa Rica, and drivers with disabilities are required to display a valid disabled parking permit in their vehicle. Failure to do so can result in fines or even the vehicle being towed away.

Driving in Costa Rica can be a rewarding experience, allowing visitors to explore the country’s stunning landscapes and cultural attractions. However, it is important to follow the local driving rules and regulations to ensure road safety.

By carrying the necessary equipment in their vehicles, following the speed limit, and giving way to pedestrians, road users can help prevent accidents and keep the roads safe for everyone. Staying up-to-date with the latest road traffic information and planning routes accordingly is also advisable.

Finally, it is essential to note that driving in Costa Rica can be challenging due to the poor road conditions, aggressive driving behaviour, and limited enforcement of traffic rules. Visitors should exercise caution and drive defensively to ensure their safety and that of others on the road.


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