Costa Rica

Beyond San Jose

Getting around

Traffic is nuts anywhere in Costa Rica ! There are no street names, even though they do have names (on maps, eg. the ones that you can get at car rental agencies). People hardly respect traffic lights, lanes, etc. etc. Some people are such agressive drivers it’s unbearable. There are huge pot holes at the most unexpected locations, leading to unusual (ie. dangerous) driving patterns and frequently there are road sections (especially outside of the San Jose valley) that have descended into 3rd world status, slowing traffic to a near halt. Since many crucial road connections between cities/villages are two lane, with steep slopes and crowded with huge trucks that cannot accelerate/decelerate quickly, you may find yourself driving at a harrowing 20 km/hr for significant distances. You might as well step out of the car and get some exercise. People walk on the street (no matter whether it’s some dirt road or a six-lane highway) as if it doesn’t matter that passing cars miss them within inches at speeds over 100 km/hr). You might also find yourself driving with no street lights, no road reflectors, no vision whatsoever due to mist and even rain. If you’re unlucky they just re-did the asfalt so it’s black and drives great so people race like nuts even though it’s impossible to see where you’re going - the ravine might be right in front of you, and better not trust the car in front of you or you might find yourself ending up in some hideout village. Stories circulate that people (especially poor women of course looking for some extra income in exchange for favours) get abducted and killed along some of these roads, especially the one that passes by Zurqui. Finally, trucks drive as madly as scooters and anybody else, while there is no limit to how much soot and other bad gases big trucks seem to be able to exhaust. Don’t get lost if you’re behind such a mobile smokescreen generator.

Also, be careful what you do with your car, that is, where you leave it. Even though it’s a dumb characteristic of the Costa Rican society, the reality is that you better park it where there’s a dude watching over your car because it takes a second or two to break your rear window. I was lucky since my insurance (if you rent a car, sign the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) if your credit card insures your for collision damage, theft and vandalism) covered it all.


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