Driving Laws and Fines
The last thing anyone wants to deal with while on vacation is a traffic ticket (or worse, jail). Costa Rica’s driving laws are sensible and straightforward. If you are cautious and drive defensively, you will be fine.
The following will help you understand Costa Rica’s most relevant driving laws:
- Drivers and passengers are required to wear a seatbelt, and motorcyclists must wear helmets. The fine for not doing so is approximately $185.
- Driving faster than 120 kmh (75 mph) over the speed limit is considered speeding. In addition to highway police with radar, there are cameras positioned around the country that report license plate numbers to COSEVI which is the traffic institute of Costa Rica. The fine is approximately $617. A speed of over 150 kmh (93 mph) can result in imprisonment.
- Talking or texting on your cell phone is not allowed while driving. The fine is approximately $550.
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is taken very seriously. Driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.05 and 0.074 is considered under the influence. The fine is approximately $550. Driving with a BAC higher than 0.075 will result in imprisonment.
- Making a U-turn where one is not allowed can result in a fine of approximately $550.
- Running a red light or stop sign can result in a fine of approximately $372.
- A current driver’s license from your home country is required and you can only drive with a foreign driver’s license for three months. Driving without your driver’s license (or with one for longer than three months) can result in a fine of approximately $93 and void any and all of you Insurance coverage.
- Yellow lines denote areas where you are not allowed to pass. Passing in such areas (or along curves) can result in a fine of approximately $550 and of course this is very dangerous..
- Passing on the right is not allowed. The fine is approximately $200.
- Child’s seats are required for children under 12 or smaller than 1.45 meters (4’9”). Children not using a child seat can result in a fine of approximately $372.
- Carrying excess passengers can result in a fine of approximately $160.
- Driving on the beach is not allowed. The fine is approximately $200 and this can void any and all of you Car Rental Insurance coverage.
- San José has a rotating ban on rush-hour traffic, with the goal of reducing congestion and fuel consumption. The ban bars certain license plate numbers from driving during certain times of the day – Monday through Friday from 7 to 8:30 AM and from 4 to 6:30 PM. Cars with license plates ending in the digits 1 or 2 are banned on Monday; 3 or 4 on Tuesday; 5 or 6 on Wednesday; 7 or 8 on Thursday; and 9 or 0 on Friday. If you are caught driving a car with a banned license plate within the central part of San José on these days/hours, you will be ticketed.
As you can see, Costa Rica’s driving laws are similar to most other countries. The key things to remember include wearing a seatbelt, having your driver’s license handy, not speeding, not talking on the phone, not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and always using a child’s seat for children under the age of 12. By familiarizing yourself with these laws and being a cautious, defensive driver, you should not have any legal problems while driving in Costa Rica.