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Renting a car gives you the most freedom in terms of going wherever you want whenever you want. However, do keep in mind that the bus system in Costa Rica is very extensive and provides reliable and convenient service to a number of locations throughout the country.
A number of car rental agencies, including National, Enterprise, and Dollar, have service desks at the airport. Budget is near the airport. If you are heading straight from the airport out to your destination, and not stopping in San Jose, getting a car at the airport is your best option. Otherwise. you can pick one up at one of the downtown car rental agencies. This option lets you have one less headache in terms of finding places to park and having to drive through the often congested streets of San Jose. Be careful, Budget charges a deposit of 750.00 USD. They released it within 72 hours of returning the car. Shop around. Companies outside the airport may provide better pricing and some provide pick up just outside the airport with no additional fees.
When getting a quote from a rental car agency, be sure it includes all fees. In Costa Rica, all rental car agencies charge for mandatory insurance regardless whether or not you have coverage from your car insurance at home or credit cards. This fee is significant and not all companies will include the price in the quote.
A great idea if you are staying in San Jose is to taxi or (public bus, cheap) from the airport to your hotel, save the cost and stress and have your rental car delivered to your hotel the next morning and off you go after breakfast and rested. Some companies do it others won’t, just inquire.
Your best bet is to ensure that they cab you get into has a meter. There are a number of non-sanctioned cabs that provide service throughout the city with cheaper rates, but why take your chances? Traveling from one location to another in the city should only take a few dollars. When going to a certain location, it's best if you know what other landmarks are in the area, specific addresses are sometimes not enough to get you where you want to go.