If you are planning on moving to Costa Rica, you may be considering purchasing a vehicle to make your new home more accessible. There are plenty of housing options that do not require you to have a car, but simple things like getting water, gas tanks for cooking, or doing big shopping trips can be that much easier with your own transportation. If you would like to be able to explore the areas surrounding your new home on your own accord, having a car also provides you the opportunity to do so once you have made the move to Costa Rica. Send me South will give you a range of ideas and options for you to consider when deciding how you will get around down here. Depending on where you live, busses, bicycles, motorcycles, and cars can all be quite viable options depending on your budget.
With a current drivers license from your home country and your Tourist Visa (usually 90-days but can be as low as 30 depending on country of origin), you can legally drive in Costa Rica. Once your Tourist Visa has expired, you are no longer legally allowed to drive. There are routine, police check points set up around the country, so make sure if you are driving to have both your current drivers license and your passport, which is stamped with your Tourist Visa, with you at all times. One of the services Send me South offers is helping you get your drivers license quickly and painlessly.
You will also need insurance to drive in Costa Rica. If you rent a car upon moving to Costa Rica, the rental office will include the insurance in the process. If you are purchasing a car, you will need to also purchase insurance. If you do plan to purchase a car, be advised that the cost of cars in Costa Rica can be quite high. If you are planning on moving to a more remote region of Costa Rica, you will probably want a car with 4-wheel drive capabilities as during the rainy season, the roads can be quite treacherous. In certain parts of Costa Rica, many roads are still unpaved and can become impassible without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. This feature will add more value to your vehicle and as such, increase the cost of purchasing a vehicle, so make sure and hold off on deciding what kind of vehicle to buy until you know which part of Costa Rica you will be moving to. You do not need to have residency to own a vehicle in Costa Rica, just as you don’t need residency to obtain a Costa Rican drivers license. So, if you are in the process of applying for residency, or you are planning on living in Costa Rica for three months at a time (per your 90-day Tourist Visa) you may still own and legally drive a vehicle. Most people place their vehicles in the ownership of a personal corporation which they establish before buying their car. Send me South helps people establish these corporations and can guide you on the best and most expeditious way to get this done. Placing the car in a corporation helps reduce your personal liability in the event the car is in an accident, and this an important consideration when driving in Costa Rica.
Some people decide to import their own vehicle from their home country when they move to Costa Rica. If you have a nice car, this may be a smart option, as trying to buy a similar car in Costa Rica can cost more than shipping and importing your own car. There are several companies that you can use to ship your car, so be sure and shop around for the company with the best price and the best customer reviews. In addition to paying to ship your car, you will also need to go through the process of nationalizing your car once you move to Costa Rica. Send me South specializes in helping people with the car importation process and all of the paperwork involved in making your car legal to drive in Costa Rica.
Again, depending on where you are moving in Costa Rica, you may not need a vehicle. There are plenty of buses that run throughout the country, and public transportation in the cities is easily accessible. Taxis are prevalent throughout all regions of Costa Rica and bicycles work great in many of the smaller beach communities. Also, keep in mind that Costa Rican roads are not all well maintained and there plenty of potholes you’ll need to be on the lookout for. Driving is a bit more chaotic in Costa Rica, often times there are no lines painted on the roads, the street signs are in Spanish, and there is a lot of honking and passing that takes place. The cost of gasoline is higher in Costa Rica than it is in the United States. Gas prices are regulated by the Costa Rican government and are the same all across the country, at all gas stations. Gas station attendants will pump your gas and usually wash your windows. At the time of writing the cost of one gallon of gas is $5.30 (US).
Before you decide on whether or not owning a vehicle is right for you, you may want to rent a vehicle to see how you like driving in Costa Rica. This will also depend on where in Costa Rica you are moving. Take some time to consider if you want to be closer to town or deeper in the jungle. Once you know where you plan on moving to in Costa Rica, you can decide if you need a vehicle and if so, what type.