I still remember vividly the first time a local gave me directions in Costa Rica:
Go north 700 meters. At the “pulperia” turn left, and go west 300 meters. At the corner where the old fig tree used to be, turn right. Go 175 meters and it’s the papaya-colored house on the left with the black gate.
Sure. So … how do I count meters? Which way is north from here? And how in heaven am I supposed to know where the old fig tree used to be?
Or, how about the directions to my old apartment in Rohrmoser, where I lived during my first years in Costa Rica, which, by the way, were the same as the mailing address. Can you imagine?
300 meters north-east of the old “U.S. AID building”, 50 meters south. Two-story white condos on the left. Condo #2.
The old “U.S. AID building,” of course, had long since been renamed the Franklin Chang Institute, but never mind because everyone and his cousin knew it as the old “U.S. AID building.” And once directions in Costa Rica start with a big landmark, like a fig tree that has not existed for 25 years or a building that has changed names, the original landmark wins.
I’m so immune to it now, after 11 years in-country, that it just doesn’t faze me. Funnily enough, the other day I was giving directions to a couple recently arrived in Costa Rica from the USA, on where a particular hair salon is located in our little town. I said, “It’s just on the other side of the old chiropractor office, just down the hill.” See? Now, I’m doing it! All part of the charm of Costa Rica.
Directions like that, though, when you’re trying to drive around the country on a limited-time vacation, are sometimes not quite so charming. And that’s not all. A friend recently visited Costa Rica and he said the “Do’s and Don’ts of Driving in Costa Rica” from the car rental company worried him so much he nearly handed the keys back.
- Don’t drive at night.
- Watch out for all of the holes in the roads.
- Pay attention, if it is raining really hard, for sudden mudslides or flooding.
- Don’t ever leave anything inside the rental car when you park or it will get stolen.
- Park always in a really visible, safe place or the car may get stolen.
- Watch out for really crazy drivers (everyone else on the road).
- There aren’t very many road signs, so be careful not to get lost.
- You must use a 4×4 to go to places like Monteverde or the southern Nicoya Peninsula.
On the other hand, I have a set of friends who come every year to Costa Rica and who always, without fail, hire a private driver and transport. Their philosophy is, “Why should I stress myself out on vacation driving in Costa Rica, when someone who knows what he’s doing can easily do it? It’s better to avoid the headache and keep my serenity!”
You’ll be glad to know that hiring a private driver and transport in Costa Rica is actually very easy. There are many transport companies, and if you are using the assistance of a travel agency, your agent can help you.
Trans Mira Tours is a good option for leaving the driving to someone else. The tourist transportation company has been in business for 27 years, and their professional drivers are well-trained in how to drive Costa Rica’s roads, they know where they are going and will get you to your destinations safely. They have a fleet of buses, from 1-8 passenger mini-vans to 54-passenger first-class tour buses, and they offer all kinds of extra nice services.
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