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My family is visiting Costa Rica over spring break. We are staying at the Hyatt Andaz Papagayo on points, and we plan to relax at the resort as well as go on 1-2 excursions outside of the resort.
Last week, I figured it was time to solidify plans for our stay. I planned to reserve an airport transfer (about $100 round-trip) and book our excursions. Easy, peasy.
Until the resort sent me a list of the partner excursions. Most of them are at least $150-$200 or more per person. Multiply that by my family of five, and we’re talking about $1000 for my family to leave the resort for an activity. Ouch!
Next, I started looking at outside tour companies. While the cost was lower, it would still be pretty pricey.
So, I decided to look into renting a car. My family normally doesn’t like to rent cars on vacation if we don’t have to, particularly in international destinations. But, since we survived the car rental process in New Zealand, maybe Costa Rica wouldn’t be so bad.
Benefits of Car Rental in Costa Rica
The biggest benefit to renting a car is saving money. We can drive to a waterfall and pay $7 per person to get in instead of paying over $100 per person for a van tour to the same waterfall.
With a rental car, we won’t feel “stuck” at the resort. If we get tired of the resort restaurants, we can drive to a nearby town for something different.
Drawbacks to a Car Rental in Costa Rica
To me, rental cars on vacation add another layer of stress. Stopping to get a rental car can add another hour or more to the time we arrive at the resort. It’s just not as pampering as hopping into a pre-paid shuttle with a driver.
That aside, Costa Rica has complicated insurance requirements and deposits for rental cars. You can read about it here. The bottom line is that everyone must pay for base liability insurance regardless of the coverage you have on your credit card. In addition, the amount of coverage you choose determines the amount of deposit you must make. I looked at the fine print on a few rental car agreements, and some of the deposits are up to $5000.
It doesn’t help that I’ve been reading some horror stories from fellow travelers about their experiences renting cars in Costa Rica. I’ve read accounts of travelers not getting their full deposits back due to scratches that were already on the car, rental prices that have doubled due to this mandatory liability insurance and other surprise charges.
Our Decision…for Now
Believe it or not, despite all the negative stuff I read about renting a car in Costa Rica, we decided to do it. Because in addition to all the bad stuff, there are a lot of travelers who have great experiences renting a car in Costa Rica.
Based on reviews on travel forums, we made a reservation with Vamos Rent-A-Car. The thing that convinced me is that this company displays all the insurance fees and deposits online when you reserve the car so that there are no surprises. You can easily choose the required insurance and then select that you’ll use your credit card or travel insurance for the additional insurance. The site tells you exactly what your deposit will be. No surprises.
I hope we don’t regret this decision!
Have you ever struggled with the decision to rent a car or not? How does your decision change if you’re traveling internationally?
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids. Her favorite vacations include the beach, cruising and everything Disney.