A lot of highways have tolls on them, that you have to pay to get through. All tolls accept cash, just be sure to have a low denomination ready, i.e. don't pay a 250 colones toll with a 20.000 bill. Most tolls, except those on route 27 (new highway to Caldera) cost under 250 colones.
You will normally see three types of lanes:
- "Manual" or regular lanes: where you go through, pay your toll, and get your change.
- "Voluntary" lanes: these take only 100 colones coins. You cannot pay with anything else. You don't get change, it's understood that on this lane, you forfeit your change for getting through faster. It's normally worth it during rush hour.
- Quick pass: especially on route 27, you'll find lanes marked for quick pass. Quick pass is a transponder system that lets you pass the toll with only a few seconds stop. These lanes take nothing other than quickpass, so unless you have the transponder unit, don't use them.
There's a serious fine for going through tolls without paying, so don't try to skip them.
Tolls on Highway 27 (Caldera)Edit
The highway to Caldera is the most advanced, but also one of the more complex toll systems in the country. Whereas on other highways such as Limon (32) and Cartago you have to go through only one toll, Caldera has a whole collection of toll booths both on the highway and the offramps.
So if you're planning on taking Highway 27, either get a Quickpass, or have your tolls ready in small denomination bills or coins. You can find the current list of toll prices on Globalvía's website.
To go from downtown San Jose to Caldera (or Puntarenas) through highway 27, you'll be paying the following tolls: Escazú, San Rafael, Atenas, Pozón. The rest of the listed tolls are offramps that you don't pay unless you get off the highway at that point. If you're going to Jacó, Quepos or other destinations in the south pacific, you'll have to pay Pozón as well, since the offramp to highway 34 is after that toll.
Quickpass is a technology which is standard on route 27, and is slowly being adopted for other toll roads. It's a small device, similar to a garage door opener, that you put on your windshield. When you have to pay a toll, you take the special lane, wait until your device beeps, and then go through. These lanes have a wooden barrier that raises when your transaction is complete, but if the barrier should be missing, don't think you can just go through: there's a camera at the end photographing your license plate, if your Quick Pass doesn't register, you'll get fined. Once you hear the beep, you're good.
The amount from each toll is deducted automatically from your bank account, and at the end of the month you should see the charges on your bank statement.
You can get a Quick Pass at participating banks, which are currently: BAC San Jose, LAFISE, Cathay and Banco Nacional.