Overland Costa Rica Travel

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Visiting Costa Rica[edit]

With easy borders, amazing beaches and wildlife and plenty of ex-pats, Costa Rica is a favorite for all travelers.

Entering Costa Rica with a Car or Motorbike[edit]

Correct as of: October 2014

Required Paperwork[edit]

(To check if you need a travel Visa for Costa Rica, application instructions and fees see: Costa Rica Visa online application at VisaHQ.com)

Process at border[edit]

  • As you drive over the border you will pass through fumigation (free) and be given a receipt.
  • The owner of the vehicle gains entry at immigration (migración), including a stamp in their Passport. A copy of this new stamp is required.
  • Insurance for the vehicle must be purchased. (see below)
  • The owner must show the new Passport stamp (including a copy), Drivers license, the original Vehicle registration, vehicle insurance and the fumigation reciept to customs (aduana).
  • The owner is issued a temporary import permit for the vehicle.

NOTE: You may encounter locals offering to help you with paperwork to get across the border. See Border Crossing Helpers for advice.

Cost of entry[edit]

Free.

Permitted length of stay[edit]

90 days.

Not possible to extend the stay of the vehicle, and also be aware that you wont be allowed back in the country with the vehicle until the vehicle has been outside the country for 90 days, so going out for a day is out of the question.

Storing a vehicle and temporarily leaving the country[edit]

You can leave your vehicle in a bonded storage in Costa Rica to freeze the temporary importation papers, you can do it for as long as you want. Prices range from $3.00 USD to $8.00 USD per day depending on facilities and if it is indoor parking or outdoor. By mindfull that during rainy season you might want to leave it indoors, during the dry season a tarp is recomended to keep some of the sun out. Once you drive the vehicle into a bonded storage facility they freeze the permit for you, once you want to pick it up you have to go to customs first (there is an office by the airport but it is not inside the airport), get the permit reactivated (you will need proof of identity and to have a valid insurance) once the permit is active again you can go and pick up the vehicle.

There is an excellent writeup, along with Spanish translations for some important terminology on this site: http://headsouth.travellerspoint.com/19/ Followup article about steps to pick up are here: http://headsouth.travellerspoint.com/24/

Another good writeup, with GPS coordinates to specific places to park and optain the correct paperwork: http://30forthirty.org/2013/04/07/long-term-costa-rica-parking/

Exiting with a vehicle[edit]

  • The registered owner is stamped out of Costa Rica at immigration.
  • The registered owner presents the temporary import paper to customs, where it is cancelled.
  • VERY IMPORTANT, If you are planing to get back into Costa Rica make a photocopy of the temporary importation paper and get it stamped by the official, if you dont do that they will hassle you when reentering.
  • Costa Rica has a $7.00 USD exit fee for people. Some people have been forced to pay on credit card which has then been charged multiple times. Say you don't have a credit card and pay with cash.

Driving in Costa Rica[edit]

Recommended books for Overlanding in Costa Rica[edit]

Lonely Planet Costa Rica (travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Costa Rica (travel Guide)
by Lonely Planet, Wendy Yanagihara, Gregor Clark, Mar...
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die. And Other M...
Don't Go There. It's Not Safe. You'll Die. And Other M...
by LifeRemotely.com
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
Americas Overland - The Driving Handbook
by Donald Greene
99 Days To Panama: An Exploration Of Central America B...
99 Days To Panama: An Exploration Of Central America B...
by John Halkyard, Harriet Halkyard
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route And Planning Gu...
Overlanders' Handbook: Worldwide Route And Planning Gu...
by Chris Scott
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Gu...
Adventure Motorcycling Handbook: A Route & Planning Gu...
by Chris Scott
Costa Rica Handbook, 3rd: Tread Your Own Path (footpri...
Costa Rica Handbook, 3rd: Tread Your Own Path (footpri...
by Peter Hutchison

Insurance requirements[edit]

Insurance is mandatory in Costa Rica and you will be forced to buy it at the border before you are allowed to enter. There are always agents at the border to buy from.

Cost of insurance[edit]

$35.00 USD for 3 months for a 4x4.

Where to purchase insurance[edit]

Right at the border. The customs guys will tell you exactly where to go.

Driving license[edit]

Technically an International Driving Permit is required.
In reality, showing a license from anywhere in the world seems to be good enough.

Driving side of road[edit]

Right.
Right hand drive vehicles are permitted without problem.
One person had a problem in early 2014, which has been followed up with this: below is the response from Kenneth Waugh, GM of Land Rover in Costa Rica and President of the British Costa Rican Chamber of Commerce. The El Salvador LR Club will gladly assist any RHD overlander with a permit to drive through El Salvador, just write us with enough notice.

"I have confirmed that there is no restriction for RHD vehicles to be accepted temporarily and to be driven within the tourism access time (less than 90 days) on Costa Rican territory. I am requesting the Ministry of Transportation to issue the written statement and also requesting the National Insurance Company to issue the written clarification that there is no restriction to insure this vehicles during their passage. As well I am doing the written question to AIVEMA as an extra assurance that this vehicles are only temporary."

So RHD vehicles should be fine.

Mandatory items in vehicle[edit]

None.

Roads[edit]

General Road quality[edit]

Roads in Costa Rica are generally of good quality, except in some of the smaller towns where the pavement is cracked and broken. Lesser roads are gravel and vary greatly from very good, to extremely rutted and dusty to mud pits. Any gravel road on either coast will be horrendous in the rainy season.

Road signs[edit]

Road signs are mostly common and clear.

Toll Roads[edit]

Hwy 27 is a toll road, goes from Orotina to Limon.
Free option is Hwy 1 but it takes twice as much time and probably will spend the booth money on gas.

Bribery in Costa Rica[edit]

Police bribery is not common in Costa Rica, but it certainly does happen. Be careful, if you bribe the wrong one you risk jail!
See the bribery tips page for advice.

Checkpoints[edit]

Police checkpoints are not common in Costa Rica, though you may encounter them. You'll be asked to show your Passport, Vehicle registration, drivers license, vehicle insurance and the temporary import permit you were issued at the border. For the most part, Police will not bother foreigners too much.

Traveling with pets[edit]

According to travelers in 2012, you need: [1]
Travelers in 2013 wrote this when traveling from Nicaragua to Costa Rica: [2]

  • A Health Certificate for the animal in Spanish (updated at least every four months)
  • A vaccination record (the European Pet Passport works well)

You might not be asked for either one, but you should have them ready.

Gas and Diesel price in Costa Rica[edit]

Last updated: June 2012 (Diesel December 2013)

Currency and unit to display:

Gasoline Grade Price
Regular  ??
Super (90)  ??
Premium (95) $5.66 USD per Gallon (US)
Ultra (97)  ??
Normal Diesel $1.17 USD per Liter
Diesel (low sulfur)  ??

Gas and Diesel Availability / Frequency[edit]

Gasoline shortages in Costa Rica are not a problem.
Typically gas stations are not more than 100 - 200km apart.

Gas and Diesel Quality[edit]

Accepted to be good quality.
Sulfur content is low.

Safety and Security Considerations[edit]

Driving at night[edit]

Driving at night is not considered a huge problem in Costa Rica, though it's not recommended due to safety concerns and road hazards that can not be seen in the dark.

Vehicle parking[edit]

Parking vehicles on the street in smaller towns during the day is typically OK. Find a secure parking lot in big cities and at night. Do not leave personal belongings in the car to avoid theft. Secure parking will be around $20.00 USD per night.

Special driving considerations[edit]

None.

Security advisories and information[edit]

Camping in Costa Rica[edit]

Camping is popular in Costa Rica, both with backpackers and locals. Virtually all beachside towns have multiple sites to choose from for around $3.00 USD to $5.00 USD per person, per night.
Being far away from major roads is preferable for wild camping.

Camping guide books[edit]

No specific book exists, though the usual backpacker guide books mention a campground in virtually every town and city.

Drinking water[edit]

Tap water in most of Costa Rica is safe to drink. Every corner store sells 1 and 2 liter bottles, and 20 liter bottles can be bought at most large grocery stores if you don't feel safe drinking tap water. In very remote towns or small islands it is recommended to ask the locals if tap water is safe to drink.

Navigation[edit]

Paper maps[edit]

Reise Know-How are amoung the best paper maps. Purchase paper maps before arriving in Costa Rica

Panama & Costa Rica 1:550,000 Travel Map, Waterproof, ...
Panama & Costa Rica 1:550,000 Travel Map, Waterproof, ...
by Reise Knowhow
Costa Rica Adventure Travel Map (trails Illustrated)
Costa Rica Adventure Travel Map (trails Illustrated)
by National Geographic Maps - Adventure
Waterproof Travel Map Of Costa Rica
Waterproof Travel Map Of Costa Rica
by Ray Krueger Koplin, Suzanne Krueger Koplin
Lonely Planet Costa Rica (country Guide)
Lonely Planet Costa Rica (country Guide)
by Matt Firestone, Wendy Yanagihara, Guyan Mitra

GPS Maps of Costa Rica[edit]

  • Open Street Map: Appears to have good coverage.[3]
  • Garmin: Apparently no map of Costa Rica.
  • TomTom: No map of Costa Rica. [4]
  • Cenrut: Free Open Source GPS map of Central America. Coverage is occasionally better than OSM. [5]

GPS co-ordinates for camping, propane, gas, repairs, etc. in Costa Rica[edit]

Special Overland Travel interests[edit]

None.

Vehicle Maintenance[edit]

Dealers[edit]

4x4s / Trucks

Motorbikes

Local Garages[edit]

Add known good mechanics here.

Buy or sell a car or motorbike in Costa Rica[edit]

Buy
Unknown.
Describe how a foreigner can buy a vehicle. List any difficulties or limitations on where the vehicle can be driven.

Sell
Import taxes on a foreign vehicle are 79% of the assessed value of the vehicle, so it's unlikely anyone would import a vehicle into Costa Rica purely to sell it as a Costa Rican vehicle.

References[edit]

  1. Central American Borders and dogs
  2. Traveling with dogs from Canada to Argentina. Experiences and Infos.
  3. OpenStreetMap Costa Rica
  4. TomTom Map availability
  5. Cenrut Mapping Project

Helpful External links[edit]