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  • Writer's pictureJoanna

Feliz Cumpleaños

Updated: Jun 18, 2023

So… today was my 49th birthday… and although my real present is being here, in Costa Rica… what I would really like would be the actual rules & regulations manual for driving in this country.

It‘s baffling!

Absolutely and undeniably. Baffling.

I know I have experienced this type of ridiculously & unruly road shenanigans before… but this time, I too, am on the road. I’m not just dodging and weaving as I cross from side to side, merely an innocent pedestrian.

No longer.

It becomes a completely different story when you’re behind the wheel and trying to dance right alongside the lunatics.

I feel like I should have a helmet, for added safety measures… and cheaper insurance. Speaking of helmets, I rarely see anyone on a motorcycle wearing one. A lot of ball caps, mind you… but hardly a helmet in sight. I left my ball cap at home or else I might have been tempted to rent a motorcycle. Probably would’ve saved myself a lot of money in the long run.

So yes, today I rented a vehicle and hit the road.

It was not cheap.


Not cheap at all.

There are three different price grids I was given the opportunity to choose from.

  1. I would pay $1200 for the entire month of rental. BUT if anything happened ~ anything at all ~ regardless of fault ~ I had to pay $3000 US to cover the damage. Any damage.

  2. The other fee was in the ballpark of $1500 for the month ~ and if anything happened, I would responsible for $1500 of it.

  3. Finally… I could pay just over $1800… and if there was any damage, I would only have to pay $300.

Triple-edge sword.

It didn’t take long for me to look back over my life and recall all of the times I had made the wrong decision and found myself having to sell off a limb in order to rectify the situation.

~ I’m a shitty driver at the best of times. I can admit this.

~ Anything can happen here. Right?

~ Most things do happen to me. If they’re going to happen, it’s going to be to me.

Although maybe $1800 might not seem like much for a car rental… one must remember it‘s in US dollars and actually came to just under $2400… for a grand total of about $78 per day. So much for my grand Expedia deal of $11 per day.



My new best friend, Edwin, from Payless car rental in San Jose, told me that I should contact Expedia immediately and insist they refund me some of the money I already paid to them. I intend to… really, I do… maybe…

I have to admit… those four words ~ contact, Expedia, insist and refund ~ are not words that align with me trying to align with zero stress for a month or so…


Back to my new wheels.

Contrary to what I might have suggested in my blog yesterday, I did not get a Jeep as a rental.


It’s actually the polar opposite of Jeep. It’s a Suzuki Jimney ~ stick shift, four-wheel-drive ~ but it’s rather clunky. I had to set the record straight before Jeep owners lynch me!!

When I’m in it, it’s a bit of a tin can and I’m not completely comfortable going around tight corners yet. Even at a reasonable speed, it still feels like I might just topple over. It doesn’t ride like it’s on rails… Like my Toyota Matrix.

Maybe it’s me? What do I know? Maybe it’s the best thing out there and everyone is on their way to Costa Rica, as we speak, to rent this gem. Who knows?

To be honest, leading up to the moment where I actually turned the key in the ignition, started up the engine, put it into gear and drove off the lot, it was generally one of the most stressful nerve-wracking lead ups of my life. I have been driving since I was 16 years old… Right?


But the thought of joining the ranks of aggressive driving, little to no rules, ornamental street signs and a country full of potholes… Well, that was seriously beyond my wildest imagination.

Driving has suddenly become a new extreme sport.

Rest in peace, me.

That’s exactly how I was thinking.

Not exactly a bucket list moment.

I did arrive at the car rental building with a facade of confidence. “Fake it till you make it,” was my motto of the day ~ until Edwin handed me the keys and waved me off. It was right then that the facade crumbled and apprehension took centre stage.

Edwin suddenly had that look of both regret and disbelief. I could see the “this nut doesn’t know how to drive” look written all over his face. He finally managed to call me down and assured me I would be perfectly fine out in the killing fields.

He even gave me his number and told me to call anytime.

Anytime??? Anytime.

I assured him that I would probably calling many times… and to prepare.

It was like I was driving for the very first time. With my parents car.

in the midst of all the rental paperwork, I had to sign an affidavit which outlined the Payless rules I was expected to adhere to.

Two in particular struck me as quite odd…

1. If I get a flat tire. I’m not allowed to change it myself, nor am I allowed to pull over. I have to drive to the nearest safe place and call the rental company.

That might be shitty for the rims … and all I could think of was my deductible. Remember? Everything is my fault.

2. If I’m being followed, I have to call the police or the office immediately.

Really? If I’m being followed, I think the last thing I would do would be to call the office. Hi Edwin…. ya… green car… been following me for miles… single guy at the wheel… no teeth… can you help???”

Police, it shall be.

OK… I signed my life away, confident that I can do my upmost to follow their rules.

I have to make mention of an app that is a godsend.


It’s like Google maps, but better… at least for here. Every wrong turn I took (and there were many,) it rerouted me and kept my journey positive and upbeat.


For the past month, prior to my Costa Rican departure, I have been glued to the Weather Network and completely disillusioned and disappointed with what the forecast was in my soon to be paradise.




Yes, it rained for my first two nights in San Jose, and it did drizzle as I made my way over the mountains, but other than that, it’s been sunshine and beating down heat!

All lies.

My Uber driver called all the weathermen mentirosos! All of the liars.


Once I got the hang of driving a new stick, learning to play REAL attention to the road,… AND the other drivers… AND the awkward road signs & lights… AND my handy Waze in the seat next to me… I was OK.

All over the city, there are stop signs. They say ALTO, meaning STOP. But no one here stops at them, because there are also traffic lights! So if the ALTO sign is there, but the light is green, there’s no stopping!! And if you stop under a light, you have to really strain to look up, waiting for it to turn green… because that is the ONLY place the traffic light indicator is!

All very confusing.

Stop… but don’t stop if it’s time to go.

Get it?

As I mentioned previously, I would very much like a copy of the rules of the road.

Let me learn.

My radio is rather difficult and I don’t understand how to operate it very well. There’s no Bluetooth, but it does have a USB outlet that appears to do nothing. So far. When I plug it in, and informs me that it’s foreign… And then nothing else happens.

My own private sing-along has gone from “Do you know the Way to San Jose” to “Despacito” and I am tiring of the torturous loop.

Finally, after pressing every button on the radio repetitively, like a toddler in an elevator, I managed to find a station. At first, I was enthused by the 1980’s complilation set to a never ending techno beat… but eventually that wore on me, and I was desperate to find something else. I managed to find an easy listening station, so that sufficed while I made my way over the mountains and down into La Pavona.

For a period of time, I was stuck behind a big truck that shot out horrendous black smoke every minute or two… and it was my disgust with him that finally pushed me to be more aggressive on the road. When I finally worked up the courage to pass him, I knew that this was the first step in securing my Costa Rican car confidence!

I‘d made it.

Might as well be confident, I’m paying $78 a day to be confident.

Everyone shares the road down here ~ pedestrians, kids on bikes, adults on bikes, smelly trucks, bananas, dogs, motorcycles… and so much more. We all share the same, winding, pothole-filled, single lane.

I made a few stops along the way… water and bank machine. Bank machine was BIG for me. I had to leave the car parked on a dusty, dirty road and make my way into town, thus leaving it far from my site. That was another thing I had to agree to… NEVER to leave the vehicle unattended with valuables in it.

Valuables… lol… my crap.

Well, slap me silly if that’s not the first thing I gone went and done…

Everything I owned was in the backseat, and I was 100m away, waiting in a line up to withdraw some money. Not being too familiar with the currency yet, I did all of this for an absolutely absurd total. I was under the impression I was taking out the equivalent of $300US.

Not quite.

And… as one should always be… I was prone to being cautious at bank machines.

… knowing my surroundings… protecting my valuables…

Here I was, less than 48 hours in a foreign country and now … feeling slightly uncomfortable with my recently acquired wealth… carting around this colossal amount of money.

It was dangerous.

I was alone… beautiful… naïve… rich (obvious to anyone that might have seen my Suzuki and my dirty backpack)… and I was a target.

Stealth like… I scurried back to the car and made my way out of there as fast as I could. Money in hand.

My big $300.

Later I checked my online banking because my money seemed to disappear faster than it really should have.


I was confused.

I had taken out an equivalent of THIRTY DOLLARS.


What a loser.


I honestly can’t make this shit up.

For someone who boasts international travel, I sure can be clueless.

But I’ll tell ya one thing I did do!

I made it to my ferry with time to spare!

I rock… 🇨🇷

**Apologies about any mistakes in this blog as I am working talk to text right now. I have to save draft every couple of minutes and it will only allow me so many edits to a time!

Tortuguero blog to follow!

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