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Driving in Costa Rica, Waze or GPS?

Waze or GPS?

When renting a car in Costa Rica for your vacation, GPS it’s always offered for additional fee. But is it worth getting a GPS device? Would you be better off driving with Waze?

Waze without a doubt it’s a great popular app for many Costa Ricans in San José who face chaos, and traffic jams on a daily basis. San José it’s now the third city in Latin America with the most Waze users. But, why is Waze so popular in Costa Rica?

As a personal Waze user/lover I can tell you that it's very reliable when it comes to getting you places. Costa Rica has, or lacks, for the better term, real addresses, street names our house numbers. This is no joke, we use reference points, landmarks and meter distances in order to give an address, some as weird/funny/real as: “100 meters south from the soccer field, the house behind the church, with the mango tree in front, where the brown dog is laying down.” It is difficult to find street addresses or house numbers, this is why many popular places like restaurants, hotels, theatres, and attractions can already be found by name using the Waze search box. Many GPS devices lack information or are not 100% updated with names of popular places in Costa Rica. A lot of business would advertise their names on the search list in Waze, so it less complicated to find them.

So searching for a place and finding it it’s easy with Waze, but also getting there it’s why many love this app. With some many active users, Waze can definitely show you the shortest or fastest route to skip traffic jams and use alternate routes when needed. Waze it’s surely updated on a daily basis, with traffic jams, police reports, closed roads, accidents or hazards on the roads by the thousands of users that use it. You can read more from the Washington Post, on why Waze it's so incredible popular in Costa Rica.

Now that I have praised Waze, let me explain what you need to consider before you decide to use it during your next vacation in Costa Rica. I won’t be in San José that much, why do I need it? Waze it’s great outside the great Metropolitan area, in small rural towns, mountains, and both Caribbean and Pacific coast. Getting to Monteverde, La Fortuna, Puerto Viejo or Manuel Antonio, can be simpler using Waze.

I don’t have a working cell phone in Costa Rica, how can I use Waze? Make sure to check if your phone it’s unlocked and compatible with other SIM cards internationally. Purchasing a prepaid SIM card with data it’s easy and cheap. You can even purchase one directly at the Juan Santamaria International airport by the luggage pick up area. The office it’s called Kolbi and you only need your passport. Getting a prepaid SIM card in Costa Rica with data will not only help you use Waze, but can also give you the chance to use your favorite social networks on the road, from posting to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram those monkey pictures, to even using WhatsApp, iMessage or Facetime to communicate with family and friends back at home to brag about the amazing time your having on your Costa Rica vacation! It also gives you the chance to call locally in case of an emergency or just to get in touch with the next hotel or restaurant that you are visiting.

Would data be too expensive? There are different plans that you can opt for with Kolbi. Here is a link with some of the plans offered for the prepaid service. You can charge your SIM card using the number given at almost anywhere, from local small supermarkets, pharmacies, restaurants, to even gas stations. Renting a GPS device can cost you $10 daily, so if you are traveling for 10 days, that is a $100 dollars. There is no way you would consume $100 worth of date and phone during your vacation. Since it is a prepaid service, you control how much you charge and how much you use. I don’t have an unlocked phone, what do I do? If you are traveling in Costa Rica for 15 days, that would be $150 of GPS rental, it would even be cheaper to consider purchasing a $50 unlocked phone on Amazon and using it with a SIM card in Costa Rica.

Have you made the decision to use Waze for your vacation in Costa Rica? If so, here are some recommendations I would personally give for a better result using Waze:

Change the settings under navigation in the Waze application to fastest route, also do not check the avoid tolls option or the avoid freeways. There are only like 4 tolls in Costa Rica and they are located in the main freeways to the most important destinations. Avoiding tolls or freeways, would mean avoiding around 50 cents of a dollar, but would mean taking a longer crazier route just to avoid them, not worth it. Do not allow the dirt roads options, trust me, it can take you OFF road!

Navigation Settings on Waze App

My recommendations for deciding between Waze and a GPS device might be biased towards Waze because of my great experience using it, so the decision it’s ultimately yours. You now have some facts and recommendations to help you choose wisely.

Any questions about car rental, traveling in Costa Rica, or transportation services, do not hesitate to get in touch.

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