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Rickshaw Travel
Costa Rica, Panama & Nicaragua

Self drive

Hit the road on a self-drive Costa Rican adventure and get close to this diverse destination. Cruise out of the city and explore mighty volcanoes, hidden jungles and deserted beaches along the different coasts. Driving abroad can feel a bit scary at first but with our handy tips, pre-programmed sat nav & free wi-fi, along with a sense of adventure you’ll be off in no time. A self-drive holiday gives you the freedom to travel at your own pace and the option to stop off wherever you want. There will certainly be potholes, large lorries and the odd sloth crossing the road, but you’ll also get the chance to explore off-road and discover places far away from the usual tourist trail.

Self drive or transfers?

There’s probably quite a lot of deliberating about whether you want to self-drive or take a shuttle bus, but most people decide that the freedom of a hire car allows you to take your time with your stays, discover more and also stay in more remote locations – perfect for wildlife spotting from your front door. We’d recommend self-drive in Costa Rica to anyone who enjoys making the journey between destinations part of the adventure. Driving in Costa Rica is surprisingly easy, with many of the main highways having smooth surfaces and very few other cars around.

car on road arenal volcano in distance
Costa Rica transport

Sat Nav / GPS

Apart from the obvious getting to and from a destination, a sat nav will be your partner in crime for seeking out remote restaurant locations, petrol stations and the ever useful ‘dangerous bridge ahead’ warnings. Simply pre-load your included satnav at the beginning of your trip with all hotel names and off you go.

Category B: (SFMR or SFAR) Suzuki Gran Vitara or similar

  • 2 litre – manual or automatic
  • Air-conditioning
  • Room for 4 pieces of luggage
  • Maximum 5 people
  • Wifi and satnav included
Hire car arenal volcano person standing in car
Costa Rica hire car

Category C: (PFMR or PMAR) Toyota Fortuner or similar

  • 3 litre – automatic
  • Air-conditioning
  • Room for 2 pieces of luggage
  • Maximum 7 people
  • Wifi and satnav included

Top tips

Parking – We’ve rarely had any problems parking in Costa Rica – you can almost always leave the car outside your accommodation. This will usually be free and parking on the streets is usually fairly easy as well.

Allow time – Leave an hour earlier than you need to. Costa Rica is a beautiful country and as you drive through it, you’ll see many opportunities to stop and admire the scenery. By giving yourself a bit of extra time you’ll be able to appreciate these moments rather than speeding on towards your next destination.

Tourist in San Jose with Costa Rica self drive hire car

Our favourite journeys

Reefs & reggae of the Caribbean

Drive along the Caribbean coast to the vibrant town of Puerto Viejo. Sample classic cocktails on the beach, learn to surf or explore Cahuita National Park. Having your hire car handy means you can get off the beaten track and explore more of this beautiful area.

Lava flows of the Arenal Volcano

Drive to the small town of La Fortuna to take a hike at the base of the Arenal volcano. With the flexibility of a hire car you can explore in your free time. Take a drive to La Catarata de la Fortuna Waterfall to cool off in the volcanic water.

Into the cloud forest of Monteverde

After a bumpy ride along the dusty road to Monteverde, you will be treated to the swirling mists of the cloud forest. This is a nature lover’s dream and the perfect place to explore for a few days whilst staying in a rustic lodge just outside of town.

Dolphins and bays of the Pacific Coast

Take a drive down the Pacific Coast to Costa Ballena, a place with palm trees, deserted beaches and the impressive underwater national park, Isla Ballena. Staying in a tented lodge amongst the jungle is a truly unique experience and exploring the area by hire car gives you complete freedom.

Monteverde canopy bridge

View our favourite road trip spots


Self drive terms and conditions Costa Rica

Doing a self-drive holiday in Costa Rica is the perfect way to explore this diverse destination at your own pace. About 80% of your driving will consist of good, quiet, albeit less maintained, dual carriageway roads and there are also a number of gravel roads, particularly around Rincon and Monteverde and the Pacific beaches. Most tourists will drive small 4x4s, which is thought to be the ideal vehicle for these types of road.

What’s included?
We think it’s very important that you are properly insured to travel and therefore we have chosen to include full insurance as standard with full coverage and no excess. This ‘all in’ insurance is included in our car hire prices, so you don’t need to worry about any hidden extras.


– Use of the car
– Taxes
– Full insurance
– Loss Damage Waiver

Full insurance includes (unless there is negligence on behalf of the client):
– Mechanic damages
– Robbery
– Car crash (covers the rental car and the other car as well)
– Damages to the car due to natural disasters

What’s not included?
Full insurance does not include:
– Damage or loss of the GPS
– Damage or loss of the emergency kit
– Damage or loss of tires and rims
– Loss or damage of the car keys
– Loss or damage of the license plate and car documents
– Loss or damage of personal valuables inside the car
– Traffic tickets
– Non authorized drivers
– Not presenting police report in case of robbery or accident
– Not calling the insurance company in case of robbery or accident
– Emergency expenses

Rules and regulations – check before you travel
If you are planning to drive to abroad, you will need to be aware of your responsibilities to follow driving laws in your destination country. We strongly recommend you make your own investigations before travelling. The RAC website provides useful information and tips on driving abroad.

Additional driver policy
Additional drivers are allowed at a cost of $5.00 USD per day. 2 drivers are included in the rate

Age requirements
Minimum 21. No maximum age.

Cross border policy
Renters wishing to visit Nicaragua must prearrange at time of rental, for a vehicle exchange at the Costa Rica/Nicaragua border. A three (3) day minimum notice is required. Customers can only rent the following vehicles: MCMR, CCMR & CFMR. Upon vehicle exchange at the border, the original agreement is closed and a second rental agreement is issued for Nicaragua (same rate is applied). A vehicle exchange fee totalling $50 USD is assessed; $25 charged by Costa Rica when the original agreement is closed plus $25 charged by Nicaragua when the new agreement is opened. When the renter returns to Costa Rica, the same process applies plus an additional $50 exchange fee. Renters not planning to return to Costa Rica must notify the rental location in Costa Rica when prearranging the vehicle exchange.

License requirements
Full and Valid Driver’s License from country of origin and international drivers license. Should your driving license not be resident to the country of origin of your booking there may be a charge at an appropriate rate for your country of residence. Please note that you must have original driving license. Copies are not accepted.

Payment policy
An authorization of $800-$1500 will be placed on the credit card at time of rental. Authorization depends on car class. This is returned at the end of the rental in the event that there are no damages to the rental vehicle. The authorization will be placed on the credit card regardless if the customer purchases the deductible protection or not. No cash rentals are accepted.

Refuelling policy
All vehicles are supplied full and must be returned the same or refuelling charges will apply. The amount is the cost of fuel plus 100%.

Roadside assistance
Contact nearest location within Costa Rica. In the case of an accident, customer must complete a police report at time of incident.

Special equipment
Child/Toddler seats/infant seats are available to rent in San Jose Intl Airport & Liberia Intl Airport. Replacement fee of $350.00 USD if the GPS is damaged or not returned

Information subject to change
All information quoted here on rates, drop-off fees, insurance premiums and the terms and conditions are subject to change and can be changed by the car hire company or local government without any prior notice. Detailed terms and conditions will provided on the car rental agreement provided to you when you pick up your car.

Self drive terms and conditions Nicaragua

What’s included?

  • Unlimited mileage
  • CDW (collision damage waiver), this refers to the material damage to your own car. The cover for this is 100%
  • LDW (loss damage waiver), in case of theft of the car. The cover for this is 100%
  • SLC (liability to third parties), the material damage to third parties is covered 100%, other damage is up to U.S. $ 5000
  • PAI (insurance of passengers), coverage up to U.S. $ 5000.


What’s excluded?

  • Petrol
  • Any drop-off or pick-up costs
  • Credit card fees
  • US$800 Refundable Deposit
  • Added extras such as GPS, child seats, etc.


Please bear in mind

  • The lead driver must have a valid Credit Card (not debit card). The deposit amount for the car will be blocked on your credit card for the duration.
  • An international driver’s license is required when hiring a car in Nicaragua, as well as your passport, both of which you must have with you at all times when you’re driving.
  • The minimum age for Car Hire in Nicaragua is 21
  • In the event of an accident, you’re required by law to notify both the police and the rental office
  • Your insurance is invalid if driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs