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Finding a place to park your car hire that is safe, affordable, and close enough to your destination or daily activities will likely be a challenge you face in any city. Of course, parking and safety are much more relaxed affairs on any rural holiday, but you may still find you face a bit of city parking if you are picking up or dropping off your car rental at a major airport.
Today I learned something very important about parking your car rental at a secure public parking lot in Costa Rica. Just a simple social safeguard, but one that if misunderstood could throw a serious wrench into your Costa Rican holiday. When you enter a large parking lot that is guarded by security, such as a shopping mall, you will be given a wooden or hard plastic token. Upon exiting the lot with your car rental you will be required to present this token to the security guard, who will then trust that you are not stealing the vehicle.
See, vehicle theft is something of a problem in Costa Rica, at least in the city, as I'm sure it is in the major cities of most countries. The people take it very seriously, and if you are suspected of stealing any vehicle, even a rental car, you're liable to be held up until you can prove you own it or have the right to be driving it.
Here in lies the problem with the token system. First, that token should go straight into your pocket or purse. Leaving it sitting on your seat or in the dash is like an invitation for someone to happily exit the lot with your car (assuming they can break into it and get it started without security noticing). Second, if you happen to misplace your token, well good luck with that. The security guard will need to see all the documentation that says you have the right to drive the car, and if he has a problem with anything you say, do or show him he will have the police come check it out. All the while holding you up and possibly a long line of cars waiting behind you.
All in all though, it is pretty effective at giving mall patrons a sense that their cars are somewhat protected while they throw away their hard earned money on plastic from China. You can enjoy this and other great Costa Rican customs with a cheap car rental from Juan Santamaria Airport. How does your city help protect it's citizens from car theft? Tell us in the comments below.