Traveling by car is the best way to see a country. You can stop when you want…pop into that road side grub station if your heart or stomach desires and take any route you want.
This is my seventh trip to Costa Rica., but only the second trip where I have had my own car. The last time I drove most of the country, but it was almost a decade ago. I was pleased to see some new highways on the pacific coast. Costa Rica is one of the top destinations for tourism, but 10 years ago, Guatemala’s or Belize’s roads seemed to be in better shape. On the Pacific, things have apparently changed and we were able to speed down to Manuel Antonio rather quickly on the toll road. You can even pay the toll with USD dollars, but they give change in Colones at a pretty weak exchange rate.
We did have a bit of a snag at the car rental place. I had made my online reservation and received an email confirmation that told me I had to pay at the airport car rental. Just past immigration I walked into Budget and handed over my confirmation number. The agent couldn’t find it in the system. He made a few calls and reassured me that he would get the SUV that I had reserved. We filled out a form and everything seemed to be set. He handed me a receipt with some scribbles on it and as we walked out I realized that I didn’t have a total price on my receipt. My confirmation from the Budget website had been $140 for 3 days including taxes and liability insurance. I went back and asked the agent how much I was paying and he pulled out a calculator and started negotiating the price. Having received a quote prior to my arrival I told him that I wanted to pay the price I was quoted for on the website. He then told me that his system was down and that I could discuss it with the agent where I was to pick up my car. 20 minutes later the bus came and picked us up.
When we arrived to the car rental I spoke with the manager and he reassured me that he would hold the price that was on my confirmation. When we looked at the receipt it showed that I was being charged almost double from the first agent. The manager wrote over the old prices with the price I had expected to pay.
Having lived in Latin America for close to 1/3 of my life I can say that this is not the first time I have been given the “Gringo price”. The lesson here is to double check things, bring receipts and pay attention whether your renting a car, signing up for a tour or taking a cab.