Although getting gas in a foreign country seems like common sense, it can be a bit intimidating to get gas in a country where you don’t speak the language. Luckily in Costa Rica, it’s very easy since all Costa Rica gas stations are full service.
In this guide I’ll show you how to get gas in Costa Rica, talk a bit about the cost of gas and how to do it all in Spanish!
How to Get Gas in Costa Rica
Gas Stations in Costa Rica
You can find gas stations everywhere in Costa Rica and majority of them are 24/7. They are usually located in the small local town near the tourist destination or a few kilometers away.
For example, in Tamarindo, the closest gas station is on the road to Huacas, about a 15 minute drive. From Santa Teresa, the gas station is up the hill out of town. In Playas del Coco, there is a gas station on the road to Playa Ocotal and one on the road towards Sardinal about a 10 minute drive out of town.
Make sure to note that in rural areas, there may be only one gas station. Puerto Jimenez only has one gas station. Montezuma’s closest gas station is in Cobano.
Quality and Types of Gasoline in Costa Rica
You can find two different types of gasoline and one type of diesel in every single gas station in the country. Since there is only one oil company, you will find the same quality at every gas station in Costa Rica.
The Plus 91 type is known as regular and it comes with 91 octanes. This type of gas will be perfect for any car rental and it is cheaper than the Super.
The Super has 95 octanes and this is the premium gasoline.
Diesel is very popular in Costa Rica due to the its efficiency and the large number of diesel cars, especially SUVs. Costa Rica’s diesel has the lowest amount of particles of sulfur per million in Central America with only 50. Other countries like Nicaragua or El Salvador sell diesel with over 5000 particles of sulfur per million and this is another effort of the Costa Rica government to keep the contamination for fossil fuels as low as possible.
How to Find a Gas Station in Costa Rica
Gas stations look like just like any other gas station in the world. In Spanish, gas station is “Gasolinera.” Many of the gas stations will have a huge sign that says something like “Gasolinera X name of area” or “Servicentro X name of area.”
The best way to find a gas station in Costa Rica is by using WAZE or Google Maps. Type “Gasolinera” or click on the Gas Icon.
How to Get Gas in Spanish
Since all gas stations in Costa Rica are full service, the process is super easy. When you pull into the gas station, there will be attendants that will tell you which lane to go in. After you park, the attendant will come up to you to ask what you would like.
English note: Not very many attendants speak English so it will be helpful if you can learn it in Spanish or Spanglish. If you want to fill up your gas tank of diesel, say “Lleno de diesel por favor.” Lleno is pronounced jeh-no and that means full of diesel please.
If your car is gas, say “Lleno de gasolina regular” or if you want premium, say “Lleno de gasolina super.” Make sure to remember if your car is diesel or gas!
Filling Up a Certain Amount
Or if you want to fill up with a certain amount (price), you can tell him “Diez mil colones de regular/super/diesel” which is 10,000 colones of regular/premium/diesel. You can substitute the amount you want to put in instead of 10,000 colones.
If you want to fill up with a certain price, I would use Costa Rican colones instead of USD to make the exchange easier. Learn how to say numbers in Spanish here.
Once you tell him how much of which gas you want, he will put a sign on your window saying they are filling up with gas or diesel.
Paying for Gas
When he finishes putting in gas, he will tell you how much it costs. I recommend getting out of the car and checking the meter just in case to be safe. Not saying it’s common for attendants to rip people off but you just want to make 100% sure.
Remember, gas prices are measured per liter and prices are colones per liter. The top number is the price (ventas) and bottom number is the amount of liters (litros).
Using Credit Card
You can pay for gas in Costa Rica with credit card. If you’re paying with credit card, hand him the card and get out so you can always see your card. Make sure to check your receipt and see that the price on the meter matches what you are charged. Most gas stations in Costa Rica take AMEX and credit cards like Visa and Mastercard.
They will require a signature and after that, you’re good to go.
Paying in Cash
You can also pay in cash but we recommend paying in Costa Rican colones, not USD. Most gas stations do accept USD and will have the current exchange rate posted somewhere but they will not always use it.
Some stations still use the 500 to 1 rate but now it’s closer to 600 to 1 so you will lose out if the 500 to 1 ratio is used. The rule of thumb is that when things are quoted in colones, pay in colones so we recommend to pay gas in Costa Rica in local currency. You can learn more about handling money in Costa Rica in this post.
Gas Prices in Costa Rica
Gas prices in Costa Rica fluctuates once in awhile and it’s regulated by the government so prices are all the same in every gas station. The current cost of gas in Costa Rica is around 730 colones per liter which is about $4.50 USD per gallon.
Diesel is actually cheaper than gas in Costa Rica which is why diesel cars are more popular. Diesel in Costa Rica costs around 600 colones per liter which is about $3.73 USD per gallon.
How much you pay in gas/diesel for your trip will depend on the type of car you get and where you are going. When Yeison and I drive from Tamarindo to San Jose (246 kilometers or 152 miles), we spend 8-10,000 colones (around $15-17 USD) in diesel for a Mitsubishi Montero Sport.
Costa Rica Gas Stations near Liberia and San Jose Airport
If you’re renting a car in Costa Rica, then you need to fill up the gas tank before you return it.
Near Liberia International Airport, there is a gas station in Liberia city and a gas station near the Do-It Hardware Center (there is a large sign that says gas for tourists).
By San Jose International Airport, there is a Delta Gasolinera in Alajuela city a little over a mile from SJO Airport, close to the Holiday Express/Hampton. You can see them on the map above.
Renting a car in Costa Rica? Check out our car rental discount to save $$ and get extra benefits like free cooler and free extra drivers.
Things to Know and Watch Out for When Getting Gas
- Always check to make sure the price on the meter is the same as you are charged if you are using credit card.
- Keep an eye on your credit card. This is one of the scams I warn about in this post, common Costa Rica tourist scams.
- Always check your receipt before you drive off. If you find a discrepancy, point it out to them asap. They will give you the change or difference back in colones.
- If you’re a solo traveler and need to use the bathroom, go after getting gas. It’s better to always have one person in the car at all times when getting gas.
- Tipping is not necessary.