1. Unless otherwise indicated, minimum speed on highways is 40 kilometers per hour (kph). The speed limit varies and is posted by the road.
2.On highways and secondary roads the speed limit is 60 kph. , unless otherwise indicated.
3.In urban areas, the speed limit is 40 kph , unless otherwise indicated.
4.The speed limit around school zones and in front hospitals and clinics is 25 kph.
5.Driving on beaches is strictly prohibited everywhere, except when there is no other path connecting two towns.
6.Driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs is strictly prohibited. The law enables police officers to perform alcohol test on drivers.
7.The law requires all car passengers to wear seat belts.
8.Pull over if a police officer signals you to do so. Police officers may ask you to stop if there is an accident ahead, a checkpoint or if you are violating the law by not carrying a license plate or exceeding the speed limit, for example.
Try to avoid driving in the City of San José, unless you are used to traffic-jams, narrow roads and complicated one-way sytems. Driving outside San José the situation changes. You will find from very good double-lane highways to dirt roads that go through rivers. Remember that the insurance doesn't cover damages caused by crossing rivers and most companies don't cover damage on tires and rims. Most roads in Costa Rica are single-lane, without shoulders, have potholes of all sizes, and are winding. Please drive defensively and always expect a cow, horse, oxcart, slow moving truck, a cyclist or a broken down vehicle around the bend. Certain roads have the reputation of being particularly dangerous. The stretch from San José to San Isidro El General and the road to Limón are two of them.
A few roads still have a whitish asphalt surface, for instance from Nicoya to Sámara. This surface gets very slippery on rainy days. The road to Guápiles goes through the Braulio Carrillo National Park and is famous for landslides and heavy fog. We generally recommend to drive early in the day and never at night. I personally had my first accident here driving at night. Since every other car blinds you with bad adjusted headlights, and cows, bicycles, pedestrians and horses on the road, you drive relatively slow. Blinded I didn't see a truck without backlights and loaded with watermelons going 3 miles an hour at midnight on the Interamerican Highway. I first saw him when I hit him. Since then I stayed without my own car, moved to San José and always rent a fully insured car for our inspection trips around the country. In San José I use taxis.
Should you get involved in an accident, call 911, never move the car until the police gets there. Injured people should not be taken from the scene until the Red Cross Ambulance arrives. Make notes or sketches of what happened and don't make statements to not authorized people.
If no other speed limit is posted, there is a 100km/h speed limit on primary roads and a 60km/h speed limit on secondary roads. Traffic police uses radar and limits are enforced by speeding tickets. Expect to run into speed controls at perfectly straight and maybe little downhill stretches of road. Between Santa Cruz and Nicoya you have to drive 75km/h on a perfect road with only wide curves but you will probably run into 2 speed controls. Not wearing a seatbelt or talking to the phone can also get you a ticket. If you get a ticket you have to pay the fine at a bank. Instructions are on the ticket. If you are renting a car, the car rental company most likely will do that for you. The police has no right to confiscate the car unless there was a serious accident, the driver was drunk or was driving without a valid drivers license.
Despite of all the above warnings, driving a car is the best way to see Costa Rica. Specially if you are interested in nature and remote areas. If you go to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, take your car to the Cahuita National Park and Beach. You will find one of the nicest beach stretches in Costa Rica and the best way to get there is by car.
If you want to see more pictures about driving in Costa Rica, click on this picture gallery.
Text and pictures by Jörn Malek. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
This Web-Site is managed by Angela Malek, Ciudad Colón, province of San José, CR-10701 Costa Rica, Central America.