San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

GPS, Other Extras Make Smooth Ride

Renting a car in Costa Rica? Vehicle make and size chosen? Driver’s license in order? Credit card deposit put down? Insurance option selected? Maps opened?

Check. Check. Check. Check. Check. Costa Rica has begun to move into the modern world with a few car-rental extras you can also check off that are guaranteed to make your journey smoother.

Global positioning systems, or GPSs, have been the biggest innovation in the field in Costa Rica in the past three years, and NavSat Location Intelligence ( has pretty much cornered their use in the rental-car market here.

“What do you do in a country that has no true addresses?” NavSat’s Fiorella Montealegre mused to The Tico Times. “‘Two hundred meters west of the supermarket’ won’t get you very far if you are just off the plane.”

NavSat’s EzFind GPS unit, developed in 2007, is offered as an option in the vehicles of 16 rental agencies here, totaling about 95 percent of the units in Costa Rica, according to Montealegre. Like all GPS systems, it takes advantage of satellite technology to navigate the way among the present 31,000 locations (and counting) entered into its system.

Most car-rental agencies here rent the GPS unit for about $9 a day.

As an add-on to the add-on, NavSat began offering a Tour Guide option for car rentals about a year ago with a voice-over description of many tourist sites around Costa Rica and a script penned by TT freelancer Dorothy MacKinnon.

NavSat also publishes a continuously updated En Route magazine with lodging and dining listings and their requisite satellite coordinates. The renter of a vehicle merely punches those coordinates into the GPS system and the process of navigation begins.

Cellular phone rentals can also go a long way toward making life in a rental car easier if you need to call ahead or ask for directions or simply want to stay in touch with the folks back home. Most agencies rent a phone for $10 to $20 for the duration of the car rental, plus the cost of calls. (As of this year, the law in Costa Rica prohibits drivers from using phones while the vehicle is in motion, of course.)

Use of child safety seats is mandatory in Costa Rica for children under 4. Expect to pay $3 to $5 per day for the seat.

Any car-rental extras should be reserved in advance at the time of vehicle reservation. Companies require deposits to be left or placed on credit cards for phones and GPS units.

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