Driving in Costa Rica

This blog is for entertainment and your information!

No matter what country you come from in the “first world’ you haven’t experienced the type of driving they do in Costa Rica.

Let’s start with the ‘normal’ rules.

If you are driving in the city here there are stop lights. They are more or less used during the day unless they are accompanied by an additional stop sign, written ‘ALTO’. However, a couple years back the transportation minister officially declared that after 10pm officials won’t enforce traffic signals. Can you imagine? Word to the wise, after 10pm you better pay attention at intersections as someone just might barrel through it during their red light and your green!

Costa Rica has tons of one way roads in urban areas. They are as common as two way roads in first world nations. It is common to have another car or motorcycle come right at you whilst going in the proper direction. Relax, this is pura vida. Also, many times these one way streets haven’t been marked in years. Don’t let cars parked in the opposite direction fool you here.

Keeping left to pass slow vehicles around the world is widely accepted. Here it is mostly a recommendation!

“Oh no! There is a cop with flashing lights behind me”. Don’t worry! The police don’t pull people over like that here. They are required to have the lights on all the time while on duty. Here, there is usually a transit police officer on the side of the road with his radar. He will walk into the middle of the street, in the daytime, to pull you over. It is a shame that at least one officer is run over each year due to this archaic means of stopping you. The police can arbitrarily pull anyone over at any time to check that your inspection, car tax, license and others are up to date. Keep copied of your passport photo page and entry stamp with you at all times to show the police that your license is valid.

One of our biggest pet peeves is the double yellow line in the road. To most driver’s it doesn’t mean a thing. People will regularly pass you on a double yellow and often a blind curve. Sometimes we think it is a designated lane for motorcycles. Motorcycles will also pass you on both sides of your car! Take it easy on the road to insure your own safety.

When you see another driver flashing his lights at you here you must take heed. There could be one of many, many problems ahead. Most likely it is a transit cop pulling people over. However, it could also mean there is a herd of cows, horses, bike race, bridge out, road washed out, backhoe or farm equipment in the road, landslide, road work or our favorite….angry residents have planted banana trees in the potholes as a signal of protest!

Since the transit police pretty much stop working after dark here the road is an open palette for drunk drivers. There is a statistic that, at night, one in ten is drunk. Keep your eyes peeled.

The maximum velocity on roads can and does occasionally change every 500 yards from 50mph to 30mph. This is where the traffic police will be laying in wait. While there have been vast improvements in the road infrastructure here you will find that you are better off never exceeding the speed limit anywhere. The roads aren’t made for speeding and, most often, their state won’t allow it.

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