Tips For Driving In Costa Rica & Adobe Rental Car Review

May 6, 2021

Driving in another country can be a bit nerve-wracking at times…signs in a different language, driver etiquette, crazy roundabouts.  And then there’s renting a car in the first place.  So when you can do a lot of research before your trip, it can help make you feel more confident and prevent problems or hidden costs.

So I wanted to share a review of my experience with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica, and then I’ve also provided some tips for driving in Costa Rica, and some of my detailed research on the intricacies of renting a car there.

(Note, it’s actually named Adobe Rent-A-Car but I didn’t realize that til just now and that’s not what most people are searching for so I’ll use them interchangeably here).

Review of Adobe Rent-A-Car, & What to Expect Renting a Car & Driving | A review of my experience with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica. Details about what it's like driving in Costa Rica, about the rental car insurance nuances, and more. #costarica #carrental

Posts that will help you plan your Costa Rica adventures

What To Pack For Costa Rica In Rainy Season

Monkeyin’ Around In Costa Rica’s Manuel Antonio National Park

An Afternoon of Ziplining in Costa Rica

Cocoa-Scented Dreams: A Chocolate Tour In Costa Rica

Fuego Brewery: A Must-Visit In Dominical, Costa Rica

Costa Rican Adventures With Locals: The Case for Spontaneity While Traveling

The first time I visited Costa Rica, we were only there a short time and staying in Manuel Antonio, so hired transportation to and from the airport and took taxis around town when needed.

But on my second trip, we were going to a more remote area and absolutely were going to need a rental car.  As I did my pre-trip research, I came across a ton of cautionary tales, advice, and incredibly helpful information that both made me a bit apprehensive and helped me feel prepared.

I eventually ended up renting with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica, and wanted to share details on my experience with them, as well as share a lot of my own tips and experience and the pre-trip research I did on renting cars in Costa Rica as well as *driving* in Costa Rica.

Review of Adobe Rent-A-Car, & What to Expect Renting a Car & Driving | A review of my experience with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica. Details about what it's like driving in Costa Rica, about the rental car insurance nuances, and more. #costarica #carrental

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What to expect from Adobe Rental Car, Costa Rica

We’ll start with my Adobe experience specifically.  I’ll just start by saying that overall it was great and I would absolutely rent from them again.  We showed up at their airport after our flights, found their counter, and then were driven over to their office.  It didn’t take long to get settled in our car, which was in really good condition, fairly new.

I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card’s rental car insurance benefit, which worked out well.  I did make sure to print out the Letter of Coverage ahead of time (call your credit card to get it).  In Costa Rica specifically, this only covered the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), not the Liability.  More on that below!

A couple other tips…drop a pin on your map app at the rental car place so you know where to return it.  AND THIS ONE’S CRITICAL:  Before your leave the rental car place, make sure to check that the spare’s in good shape.

On our first full day we drove (unknowingly) like two hours on horrendous mountain roads to an awesome cocoa farm, and as we finished the tour realized that we had a completely flat tire.  My friend changed it in the rain, and thankfully the spare was good.

The next day we were able to stop by a local Adobe office (I believe in Uvita) and they changed the spare tire for a new real one quickly, and then we were on our way again.

I don’t know if we would have incurred fees for that (the attendant there seemed to indicate we would), but if we did my credit card rental car insurance covered everything.

Review of Adobe Rent-A-Car, & What to Expect Renting a Car & Driving | A review of my experience with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica. Details about what it's like driving in Costa Rica, about the rental car insurance nuances, and more. #costarica #carrental

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What we experienced driving in Costa Rica

We experienced many different road conditions during our week in Costa Rica…the highways were great, town roads usually fine, and dirt roads generally filled with potholes and water.  There were tiny one-car bridges and steep gravel hills with sharp rocks jutting out everywhere.  It was an adventure.

The two most harrowing parts were our two-hour drive up to a cocoa farm in the mountains.  The roads were absolute garbage, and we did end up having a flat tire.  The other was the drive from Dominical up to our amazing Airbnb house, which we had to undertake LITERALLY any time we wanted to leave the house.

I mean, you can see below that the views were worth it, but the road was absolutely awful (partly because it had been raining constantly and kept it up the whole time we were there).  It kept us from going into town and exploring as often, because the drive was kind of terrifying.  So thankful we had 4WD.

The view from our amazing villa in Dominical, Costa Rica

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High-level tips for renting a car in Costa Rica

  • Before you leave on any trip it’s good to make color copies of your ID, drivers license, credit cards, insurance cards, and passport. Make copies, front and back, and store them away from your wallet or purse.  When we visited, we were fine with our U.S. driver’s licenses, but make sure to check before your trip.
  • If you are using your credit card’s rental insurance benefit for CDW, I strongly recommend getting a letter of coverage/waiver from them ahead of time and bringing it with you.
  • I strongly recommend you consider 4WD.  The highways in Costa Rica are good, but if you’re driving outside of that the road quality will vary quite a bit.  Do a bit of digging based on the area you’ll visit…if you’re headed to the Dominical/Uvita area, I think you should!
  • Make sure you have all the phone numbers for your rental car company, and I’d look up where their other offices are just in case you need it like we did.
  • Before taking a vehicle out of the rental lot check the air pressure in the tires (including the spare!) and that there is a full reservoir for the windshield washer fluid.
  • Never leave anything valuable in your vehicle, as break-ins happen all the time.
  • Waze is the best GPS if using data (our car also had GPS).

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Tips for driving in Costa Rica

First let’s talk getting gas…

  • The best way to find a gas station in Costa Rica is by using WAZE or Google Maps. Type “Gasolinera” or click on the Gas Icon.
  • They don’t do self service at gas stations and not many attendants speak English.  You can tell the attendant you want lleno (“jeh-no”) de regular por favor (or “de diesel” depending on the car).  The Plus 91 type is known as regular and it comes with 91 octanes. This type of gas will be perfect for any car rental and it is cheaper than the Super.  Make sure you know whether your car is gas or diesel.
  • When he finishes putting in gas, he will tell you how much it is, and I always recommend getting out of the car and checking the meter just in case to be safe (not that it’s common for attendants to scam people, but it’s just a good habit to have)
  • You can pay with a credit card, and in that case you’ll hand the attendant the card…get out so you can always see your card, and check the receipt vs. the price on the meter.  I’ll say it again, ALWAYS KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR CREDIT CARD!
  • Gas prices are measured per liter and prices are colones per liter. The top number is the price (ventas) and bottom number is the amount of liters (litros).
  • You do not need to tip your attendant.

Review of Adobe Rent-A-Car, & What to Expect Renting a Car & Driving | A review of my experience with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica. Details about what it's like driving in Costa Rica, about the rental car insurance nuances, and more. #costarica #carrental

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Driving signs are in Spanish and in kilometers (see below for a few common signs).  Normally the speed limit on highways is 90 km/h, but make sure you watch for signs…tickets are really expensive (and just FYI they take even “light” drunk driving very seriously).

If a police officer stops you and you don’t speak Spanish, try to speak slow and as clear as you can (not louder). All the police officers have access to an English line in case they need it.

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Here are some of the most common road signs you’ll see.

  • Alto – stop
  • Velocidad maxima – maximum speed. Remember they use kilometers so you’ll see KPH
  • Puente angosto – narrow bridge
  • Despacio – slow
  • Una via – one way
  • No estacionar – no parking
  • No virar en u – no U turns

Review of Adobe Rent-A-Car, & What to Expect Renting a Car & Driving | A review of my experience with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica. Details about what it's like driving in Costa Rica, about the rental car insurance nuances, and more. #costarica #carrental

And if things go wrong…

If you get a ticket, call your rental car company. You will have to pay it when you drop the car off and it’s best to give your company a heads up so you can begin the payment process.

If you have an accident, call your rental car company immediately. And the emergency number is 911.

Costa Rica has changed the laws so if you get in an accident, you can move your vehicle if there is an agreement between both parties (or vehicle and object) and if nobody was injured, if one of the drivers accept responsibility, or it is necessary to move for traffic reasons.  Before you couldn’t move no matter what and it was apparently a traffic nightmare.

Some people will may approach and help you, but use your common sense…there have been cases of people acting like they’re helping but instead robbing the person so keep your valuables with you.

Finally, here is my research on rental car insurance in Costa Rica

While I usually find questions of rental car insurance pretty straightforward in most countries, it surprisingly wasn’t in Costa Rica.  Costa Rica has two important types of coverage, Liability insurance and Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)/Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). CDW and LDW are often used interchangeably.

Liability covers damages that you cause to other people’s property while driving the rental car (whether to their car, their property, etc).  It does NOT cover damages you cause to the rental car. It is required and it’s actually a pretty penny.  But under law YOU MUST PURCHASE LIABILITY INSURANCE!

It doesn’t matter what your car insurance is or covers at home, if your credit card usually covers everything…doesn’t matter.  It’s not valid in Costa Rica and you you have to purchase it from the car rental company in Costa Rica.

Why??  There’s a long explanation but basically it’s because car insurance in CR is tied to the car, not the driver (as it is in the U.S.).  Also a very long explanation about state-owned monopolies.  Fun times.  Bottom line is you have to pay for it so make sure your quote includes it.  I recommend 100% coverage, whether with or without a deductible.

This post from Costa Rica Vibes explains this further and also talks about what to look for on your rental car quote so you don’t end up paying way more than you thought you were going to.

The CDW/LDW protects you from (most) damages to the rental car itself.  One really important note:  it usually does not cover glass or tires! (My credit card rental car insurance does.)

You’re not required to purchase CDW/LDW by law, but it is REALLY recommended.  And whether you get your CDW from the rental company, use your credit card benefit, or buy from a 3rd-party company will impact how high of a deposit you’ll be required to put down.

If you use your credit card’s rental car insurance or a 3rd-party, here are a few ways to plan ahead:

  • It’s strongly recommended to get and print out a waiver/letter of coverage (with your name, and ideally listing Costa Rica as well) to prove you’re covered.
  • When you call your credit card company about the letter of coverage, you should ask them to outline all rules governing their coverage (e.g. if it were no unpaved roads, etc).
  • You should call your rental car company ahead of time too, to see what deposit you’ll have to give them.

SOOOO there you have it…my Adobe Rental Car review, tips for driving in Costa Rica, and a ton on dealing with rental car insurance.  Hopefully this has been helpful for your trip planning, and you have an amazing time in CR!

Other important tips for your travels:

Pin for later!

Review of Adobe Rent-A-Car, & What to Expect Renting a Car & Driving | A review of my experience with Adobe Rental Car in Costa Rica. Details about what it's like driving in Costa Rica, about the rental car insurance nuances, and more. #costarica #carrental

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