How Alamo Almost Ruined Our Trip to Costa Rica

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On Christmas Eve the Michael W Travels family took off on our winter trip to Costa Rica.

With a limited amount of time during our visit, Kim and I decided that we’d limit our visit to one other area outside the capital, San Jose.  After some long debates we settled on the area around Manuel Antonio National Park.

We originally considered flying to maximize the things we could do but this would not work due to the cost of flights but more so due to luggage weight restrictions on the two local airlines.

Since Theo isn’t a fan of long car rides, we hoped to avoid long trips in the car but this would not be possible.

When I initially looked into rental cars the prices were a bit ridiculous. I then turned to Autoslash who found some better deals. The day after I booked our car (it was booked with Alamo Rent A Car),  Autoslash e-mailed me with a car rental option around $60 cheaper than the original price.

I was really impressed that Autoslash found such a great deal which was quite a bit cheaper than what was offered by reserving a car directly with Alamo.

And now to how Alamo almost ruined our trip…

After spending a night in Dallas, we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica around 7:00 PM on Christmas Day.

Kim and I were impressed with how the customs officials opened a lane for us due to traveling with young children. The customs officer that checked us into the country was also very friendly which was nice.

After quickly collecting our luggage we headed to the Alamo rental desk. The man took our name and highlighted it on his printout. We were then told to wait for a shuttle to the rental area right outside.

We waited and waited but no shuttle showed up. About 20 minutes later another family (about 10 people) came to the waiting area. Then 10 minutes after that the shuttle arrived- outside of where we were told to wait!

The family ran over and tried to get in the van but I wasn’t having it. I mentioned to the driver that we were waiting for a half hour and they just arrived. After a second complaint, the family told us to go ahead. Thanks I guess…

The shuttle ride took around 10 minutes and even had WiFi inside.

Once we got to the rental office Theo needed to be fed. I went inside to get our car. This is where the really interesting stuff happened.

The agent greeted me with his name and a handshake. I then handed him my passport, drivers license and a credit card. Copies were made and he then mentioned that he would go check on the car.

I’d say under one minute later, he told me there were no cars! WTF

If there are no cars, why did the guy at the airport desk have us wait and take a shuttle?And, why did you copy my info and check on a car you do not have?

I got some bullshit response about how he will try to solve the problem.

I was offered a shuttle ride to our hotel which was close by and then shuttle tickets to our destination near Manuel Antonio N.P.- Quepos.

My response was what good will that do? What do we do with a ride to Quepos without having a car to get around. (We also are planning to visit places 30 minutes – 1 hour away.)

Now I have to be honest, quite a bit of what I said was not polite. I dropped quite a few F-Bombs and also called him a few choice names… I was pissed and he sure knew it…

I asked him why Alamo would rent out cars they do not have and ruin people’s trips. (Everyone that showed up in the shuttles were sent away without a car including the line-cutting family.)

He then promised me he would have a car delivered to my hotel in the morning. Did I believe ? No!

As we were about to get in the shuttle to our hotel, another agent said something in Spanish (I understand very little) and I had a feeling we were getting a car.

Sure enough, they had one car now but it needed to be washed. Umm ok, I guess we can wait….

I was told 25 minutes which became over an hour but in the end (about 2.5 hours from when we got to the shuttle pick up area) we drove off in some small piece of crap 4X4. Oh and yes we made it to Manuel Antonio safely!

Thanks Alamo for almost ruining our trip to Costa Rica…

13 thoughts on “How Alamo Almost Ruined Our Trip to Costa Rica

  1. I understood you were very frustrated. If the agent was polite, there is no need to use the f word. You have such influence on the internet, there is no need to make it difficult for the agents there. It is Alamo’s, the company, fault. I wish you a nice holiday.

  2. Ken- Thanks for the comment. You are totally right- no arguments here and I honestly did apologize. I think what most pissed me off was the act- checking for the car and so soon after coming back to let me know they had no cars…

    Scott- Good to know & thanks for the info! I tried one local company but they were sold out.

  3. They pulled the same crap on me several years ago. Don’t ever use Alamo or National in Costa Rica. I reserved a real 4×4 but all they had was some pice of crap Ford EcoSport.

  4. I agree you need to go with Vamos in Costa Rica. No games, good vehicles and great customer service in the times we’ve used them. Even then, the last time we went, they only had stick shift, which I can’t drive and my husband hadn’t driven in a few years. Since driving in Costa Rica tends to be a white knuckle experience, having to use a stick was challenging.

    Fortunately, the one really well paved road In CR is the toll road between San Jose and Manuel Antonio.

    Costa Rica is my happy place. My family loves the Marriott San Jose and the kids keep asking when we are going back to the Marriott Los Suenos in Jaco. A little bit of paradise just a few hours away from BWI on SWA.

  5. Regardless of the content of the post, I can’t believe how long it took you to get to the point. OMG. The post was about Alamo but your introduction was massive. The introduction was probably longer than the Alamo section.

  6. On our recent trip to costa rica Alamo car rental would not honor our credit card rental insurance without a $2,500 deposit, which was not disclosed when we made the reservation. We ended up spending double the original quoted price with the purchase their insurance, and this was a special negotiated price after an hour of frustration. I saw this happen to several other people in line as well.

  7. Jessica- The rental insurance thing in Costa Rica is really confusing. I’m pretty sure that liability insurance is mandatory and costs around $15 per day. Those fees are not included when you book a car online. (I think it is with local agencies.) Collision is not mandatory so I mentioned that my credit card would cover it. The agent tried to talk me into taking their policy which I declined. From what I was told, if anything happened, I would be billed and then I would have to file a claim with my credit card company.

  8. Long time visitor and now resident of Costa Rica.. I advise using Interbus, a private shuttle company, and red taxis or Uber. For the more adventurous and light packers use the public bus system.

    Aside from the rental scams already mentioned, rental cars are known targets for criminals.

    Once off of what passes for main highways most roads are unmarked. Getting directions even if one is fluent in Spanish is often contradictory. Now that there are navigation devices everywhere this is less of a problem than it was five years ago but as one gets into more rural areas the little line on your device may turn in to a muddy cow path.

    Don’t get me started on potholes, landslides, lack of painted lines, lighting, underpaid transit police or the suicidal local drivers.

    Spend the money you would have on car rentals and let someone else worry about driving. Enjoy the scenery. If you’re lucky your driver is one of many great characters and storytellers.

    Pura vida and enjoy CR.

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