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Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

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Ottawa
posts: 6
reviews: 1
Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

My NEW hubby & I will be arriving in San Jose and have the option to have a driver bring us us to Liberia or we can rent a car and get there by ourselves. The thing is, everybody is scaring us saying things like "you'll be held a gunpoint while they steal all your belongings or you'll get raped". I REALLY want to have the adventure of driving our SUV in CR but not if I'm going to be scaredd and worried all the time. Any advice???????

USA
posts: 6
21. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

We had no trouble at all driving in CR, although we were mostly in the rural areas and not in the city.

However, we learned quickly that you don't want to drive in the dark (which occurs around 6:00 p.m.) The roads are potholed, there are only a few signs to direct you so you get lost easily, but most importantly, there are PEOPLE walking all around, in the roads, along the roads, etc. at any time of night. (In the daytime you can see them at least.) But some of them wear black clothes and walk in the middle of the road at night....we had several instances where little kids were running back and forth across the road, playing with the kids on the other side.

This was worst when going through the small towns, but there are continual small towns you come to as you drive, and sometimes even people (or horses or dogs) on the roads between the towns.

And when it was VERY late at night, there were a few inebriated ticos staggering in the middle of the roads.

Drive only in the daylight if you possibly can.

eureka, ca
posts: 1,031
22. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

My post may be a little late for Geneviva, but I'll bump it up anyways. luvtotravelontario has valid information. Over the last year there have been groups of locals who would 'stick' the tires of rental cars at the airport and then when the tire went flat on the highway, they would stop 'to help', but actually rob the tourists, usually at gun point. Even though these incidents, which became common knowledge and and were reported to the police, the police never did a thing to stop them until the local english speaking newspapers started asking 'why?'.

The lesson here is don't stop along side the road if you get a flat, but continue driving until you come to a populated area.

Last year on the coastal road on the Nicoya Penninsula between Nosarra and Samara, there were armed highway robberies of tourists and locals alike that went on and on like clockwork. When asked, the police said they knew about it but "they didn't have the resources to go out and look for the criminals".

These petty criminals are smart enough to know that if they rob you, even with a gun, and no one gets hurt, the police aren't going to spend their time looking for them. That's the bright side.

I prefer traveling by rental car when I'm there simply for the convenience. Before you go, double check your insurance if you use a VISA card for the rental. I believe they provide full coverage so you don't have to buy additional insurance when you rent the car there. Maybe someone else will chime in here?

Be advised that a rental car is a fair target. And motoring there can be very slow, and because of the many other forms of life on the roads, it deserves your full attention.

Rent a car and have fun, just be alert.

West Chester...
posts: 4
23. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

just returned from my second visit to cr.. the first being in 93... my last trip involved driving from the usa towing a trailer with motorcycle... basically drove over 14k round trip after returning... experienced driving during day/night through rain/fog/and what I call the car wash experience of rain at times... did this at times with suv or suv+trailer or on motorcycle.. most of the time by myself... so to make any comparisons I guess I should say that I have lived in LA, Boston, Phil., Buffalo, Cinn, Portland Me, NYC and various other locations over the years... I do not look for trouble nor do I change my plans to avoid the least bit of potential trouble... with all this being said..

concerning issues of criminal activity... personally I never had any in all of central american countries and mexico that I drove through twice... along with this I felt safer and felt far less 'attitude' and animosity in central america and specifically costa rica... than in norte america... my suggestion is pretty much what I tell my daughter.. be aware of your surroundings when in a new place... the only criminal activity that I heard about over a 4 month period was pretty much petty type stuff... such as having stuff stolen... .. I must temper my thoughts with two areas that you may be a bit cautious with... down town san jose at night and areas of the east coast such as limon... again I never had any problems but have heard of some in those areas... but at worse I would consider those areas like the bad parts of any medium size city in the usa.

In my opinion any fears you may have should be directed to driving relative to the style of tico drivers... and the type and quality of the roads... what someone in the usa may call a two lane poorly maintained backroad is basically the north to south main highway for both passenger and shipping... such as the pan am highway... after awhile learned to gauge where I was at night with rain or fog by aiming my car just right of the oncoming trucks headlights.. the road is typically not marked... no white or yellow lines and has a fairly non existent shoulder.. also signs that inform you where you are and where you want to go... are few if any... the country still operates on landmarks and experience to get around ... for me it was challenging with typically no street signs in more populated areas... but there are not that many roads and you can always depend on the thought that after a relative short period of time driving either east or west... sometimes south you will eventually run into a very large body of water.

but my experience has been that the people of cr are very open, generous and always trying to be helpful... if one approaches them without any attitude...

West Chester...
posts: 4
24. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

another thought... most cr policia do not carry firearms... cr does not have any armed forces... I never saw a gun store and once in a hardware store there were a few bullets for sale on an individual basis for the local farmers.... a very far cry from the usa and being able to go into any walmart, sporting goods store, etc and legally purchase ammo by the case along with assorted firearms and weapons ...

with that being said... having grown up around firearms and as a usa citizen having a concealed weapon permit and owning several guns... I bring this up to give some credence for being familiar with guns and their owners, I spent a fair amount of time.. basically most of it... around various locals... ticos, workers and travelers from various other central and s. american countries as well as anglos and observed and got the feeling that having any firearm... legally or not... was extremely difficult and would result in 'having the house dropped on your head' by the law... never ever ran into or saw anyone... except few official law enforcement type with firearms... one would have to smuggle a gun along with ammo in and I can tell you from my experience with border crossing... that they look for anything that is remotely like guns, ammo or explosives on a level above drugs ....

also.. why would anyone go to the trouble of having a gun when every other tico walking on the side of a rural road is carrying a machete... fwi... machetes in cr are the equal to lawn mowers, tree trimmers, etc in the usa. ...

the point of this post attempts to address the reality of the perception that there are numerous gangs of 'banditos' roaming the countryside armed to the teeth waylaying any tourist naive or crazy enough to travel without an armed escort... now in certain parts of mexico... this may not be so far off the mark.

Puerto Rico
posts: 9
reviews: 4
25. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

I imagine you came back from your trip fine...but I do have to say for other tourist reading this.... 2008

I see many people writing Costa Rica is no dangerous but it is!!!!

Me and my family almost ot car jacked...my step father had to punch the guy out of the window and step on gas...

Also the Rental car agent told us there is a mafia trying to steal cars from turist..And he even said if you are stoped at a street light if you have anything in the passanger seat they might break your glass and take it...so he said to put all n trunk .

which also we felt was going to happen ( I was in Costa Rica two months...and we got muged three times..

We didnt leave earlier because we are trying to get back a large downpayment we gave for a property and has been stolen so we are in justice process...which seems dificult. For us and many other foreigners from all over the world...same property situation.

SO COSTA RICA IS NOT SAFE.....although many people that try and undermined other peoples experience. We just speak to warn you.

Manuel Antonio...
posts: 1,304
reviews: 2
26. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

So sorry to hear your experience siento7. Costa Rica is a very save place in compare to other countrys in Latinoamerica, there are places where you have to be carefull. About the property, you are one more of the many people who thinks C.R is the place to invesmt, when you are going to buy anything you need to follow the normal title insurance search to avoid any bad situacion in the future. Where did all this happend to you? this is important because not all the places arent save. NATUREGUIDE.

Liberia
posts: 1
27. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

Driving from The airport to Guanacaste can be tiring and dangerous in a certain sense.Do not drive at night, park where you can see your luggage if you need to stop. Drive defensively as you would at home and use your common sense. A lot of bad things you hear on the web is from Transportation businesses beacause eveyone tries to convince clients to buy their services.

I do not advise driving in the city though, too much traffic and crime. the countryside is another thing.

eureka, ca
posts: 1,031
28. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

As for guns; http://www.amcostarica.com/111207.htm#31

Marcus wrote in Sept 2007: "I do not look for trouble"

Well Marcus had a good and safe trip and I'm glad for him, but driving on any roads there after dark is just looking for trouble. There are too many folks and critters sharing it with you. And borachos.

And Marcus says "most cr policia do not carry firearms... cr does not have any armed forces..." and "except few official law enforcement type with firearms..." CR does not have an army, but they do indeed have armed forces. Fuerzo Publico or something like that. And then there is private security. Walk into most banks and you will pass a security person with a shotgun who asks you to take off your hat and sunglasses.

I would just suggest that anyone going to CR visit the CR news websites first, and after for that matter. Tico Times, AM Costa Rica, and Inside Costa Rica.

So don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.

Enjoy CR, it's indeed beautiful as are most of the people you will meet. Just be observant of your surroundings.

29. Re: Is driving in Costa Rica dangerous?

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