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Rental Car Robberies in Costa Rica

Beware if traveling to Costa Rica and renting a vehicle. Our rental car company, Poas Rent A Car, arranged by our travel agent, delivered our 4-wheel drive vehicle to us at our hotel in San Jose. Their representative did not warn us of an ongoing robbery scam targeting tourists renting cars.

The robbers work as a team; one flattens your tire, in our case at a stoplight, and then notifies their accomplices which direction you are heading. As we were changing the tire, and although we had been told not to let anyone help us, a young woman walked by and started a light conversation with my husband in Spanish. He continued to change the tire and did not let her assist him. She distracted me as he worked, by going to great lengths to examine the flattened tire on the ground, while her accomplices stole our travel wallets and camera, including passports, $200 cash, and credit card from the other side of the vehicle. They managed to charge over $350 in the hour it took us to report the card stolen.

The local police in Alajeula (a suburb of San Jose, near the airport) although called twice, refused to come to our assistance or even make a report. After getting directions to the Poas Rent A Car to return the vehicle; upon our arrival we saw warnings posted describing this exact situation. If their representative had not notified us when delivering the car, we could have certainly taken measures to avoid the robbery.

When the same representative picked the car up, one week later at our hotel in San Jose, he feigned no knowledge of this ongoing scam, even though it was posted at the Poas Rent A Car office. We talked to another traveler, whose rental company, Dollar, had made him sign a paper that he had been warned of the problem. Another said Alamo had not warned him either.

The US Embassy, although familiar with the scam, has failed to post it on their website. They told us they had visited each rental agency and requested they notify tourists. Obviously, this has not been done. If Costa Rica hopes to build their eco-tourism business, the authorities must respond to distress calls and make an effort to stop these robberies.

We will spend our dollars in countries that make an effort to protect tourists and will never return to Costa Rica.




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