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Car Rental Near Airport

USA
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1,200 posts
136 reviews
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Car Rental Near Airport

We are flying into SJO, arriving late afternoon, and then driving to Arenal. I was going to rent from Service Car Rental, based on good reviews and reasonable price. But now I see that they are not located near the airport, but instead are "4 blocks west from Hospital Mexico, business center Plaza Uruka." They will pick me up at the airport and drive me to their office, I think, but how long will that take? And will I then be headed in the wrong direction from Arenal? Maybe it would be better for me to rent from a place that is located at or very near to the airport. Suggestions? Thanks.

Uvita, Costa Rica
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for Uvita, Ojochal
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1. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

Thats about 15 minutes away from the airport (depending on traffic) in the oposit direction to Arenal. There is quite a choice of rent a car companies located near the airport. Mapache, National, Dollar, Avis, Hertz, Budget.

Boston...
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2. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

Hospital Mexico is about a 15-minute drive from the airport without traffic, though that stretch can be thick with traffic, especially during rush hour. If you are arriving on a weekend, it should not be a problem. You will be going 15 minutes (maybe 10 miles) in the opposite direction from Arenal, but it could be worthwhile if your savings are significant and you feel comfortable with the company.

The bigger issue is driving to Arenal after dark. If you are arriving late afternoon, you will face that whether or not you go 15 minutes out of your way. It starts to get dark in Costa Rica around 5:30 and it is really night time by 6:15. Based on my recent experience, it can take easily 2 hours to get out of the airport (immigration, baggage claim, and customs) after you land, and then another 30 minutes or so to get to a car rental office even right near the airport (finding the right place to wait for their shuttle, waiting for the shuttle to appear, driving to the office, then waiting in line there), and then another 30 minutes or so to go through the paperwork, car inspection, and so on at the agency. That means you can't plan on hitting the road until at least 3 hours after your flight lands.

I do not recommend driving after dark in Costa Rica. First, most roads and streets are completely unmarked. Signage is almost nonexistent. That is difficult enough during the day, though GPS can help. However, lighting along streets and roads is virtually nonexistent outside of major cities (which present their own driving challenges). It can be difficult to find your turn in the dark, even with GPS. Also, there are many one-lane bridges between the airport and Arenal, and roads are extremely curvy and windy. It would be very easy to go off the road in the dark. Finally, there is the issue of speed bumps and potholes. It would not be fun to have a broken axle in the dark in a remote village in the mountains you will have to drive through.

For all of these reasons, wherever you rent your car, you should consider staying near the airport your first night and setting out the next morning.

USA
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1,200 posts
136 reviews
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3. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

Thanks Mark. We are pretty much committed to driving to Arenal the afternoon/evening we arrive. (hopefully that is not a mistake, but we will have a GPS and I am experienced driving in difficult environments, including in developing countries). But trying not to drive any later than necessary is why I thought it might be better to rent near the airport rather than 15 minutes in the wrong direction.

Am I really nuts to drive to Arenal after dark? Has anyone here done that and lived to tell about it?

USA
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1,200 posts
136 reviews
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4. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

Thanks Mark. We are pretty much committed to driving to Arenal the afternoon/evening we arrive. (hopefully that is not a mistake, but we will have a GPS and I am experienced driving in difficult environments, including in developing countries). But trying not to drive any later than necessary is why I thought it might be better to rent near the airport rather than 15 minutes in the wrong direction.

Am I really nuts to drive to Arenal after dark? Has anyone here done that and lived to tell about it?

Uvita, Costa Rica
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for Uvita, Ojochal
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5. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

Hi, you need to calculate about 1 hour to clear customs and immigration and probably another 45 min to get into your rent a car. Gets dark about 6pm

I have driven all over Costa Rica at night but you need to know what to expect. Pedestrians and bicycles on the roads many without reflective gear or lights, bad signs including for road works or bits of road that “fell off”, two lane road becoming one lane on a bridge with the stop sign or yield sign missing, bad visibility due to fog and rain with possible missing road markings and no cat’s-eyes mixed in with some irresponsible driving.

So generally it is not recommended for first time visitors to drive at night until they get to feel comfortable with what to expect.

Is it possible to do it and survive, absolutely but just drive carefully.

Portsmouth, Virginia
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6. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

I've used Service and will use them again in May. They are #1 in my book.

They will bring the car to the airport if you request, check you in and execute paperwork there. Ask for Rember, he's a gem. This process will take at least 30-45 minutes. Getting through immigration and customs will take at least a half hour as well.

Like the other posters, I'd suggest an overnight in the central valley area and early morning departure for Arenal. If you are going to take the new Pista Del Sol toll road to Caldera, Casa Bella Rita in Santa Ana will be on your way and is highly rated.

If you have a GPS and a strong constitution it is possible to drive to Arenal after dark, but it won't be fun no matter how experienced you are.

In any case, hope you have a great trip.

Safe travels!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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7. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

I will keep saying good things about Service...maybe the only mom and pop rent acar in the country that I will recommend...the drive from SJO to Service not more than 15 minutes...not a big deal..once you get the car very simple to get back to main Pana Am Road and then to Arenal...

Rember is a great person..

roadadvisor

USA
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8. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

Thanks roadadvisor. Our flight arrives SJO 345 pm. Arenal Volcano Lodge told me it should be a 90 minute drive, or thereabout, from SJO to the hotel. Does that sound right? I would really prefer to drive there upon my arrival rather than overnighting near SJO. I am a confident driver but I am not suicidal. Should I change my plans and stay over near SJO?

USA
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9. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

I called the hotel in Arenal again and this time they told me it would be a three hour drive from SJO to the hotel (Volcano Lodge). So if my flight lands at 3:45pm, I probably don't get on the road until 5:30 pm and am doing three hour drive mostly in the dark. The prior comments suggest to me maybe that is dumb. I guess an alternative would be to have a driver take us from SJO to our hotel in Arenal, and then rent a car there the next morning. Does that sound like a good idea? Someone quoted me $150 for the drive, one way. Does that sound about right? Any recommendation for a car rental company that would allow me to rent in Arenal and drop off at SJO, without a high one-way fee? Thanks!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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10. Re: Car Rental Near Airport

The road is mostly in very good shape just go slower if it gets dark and you should be fine. No need to add the expense of a transfer, if you are renting a car