Costa Rica offers many options on how to get around the country. The most popular by far is the public bus, however, more and more tourists are experimenting with other options. For example, you could rent a car for a day or for weeks, making it easier to see more of Costa Rica’s beauty in less time and granting the freedom of stopping along the way when you see something that you like. Or, you could travel from the top of the country to the bottom of the country in about an hour with flights available from Alajuela or Pavas. Flights are offered to many different locations in the country, making longer trips easier, and allowing you to spend the day at the beach or tromping around rain forest instead of being in a bus. And, becoming even more popular, is choosing to take a taxi for the longer rides, therefore, making trips a bit shorter by not stopping to pick up customers, without having to commit to a rental car. This option is becoming increasingly more popular with families as it relieves the stress of having to change buses, haul luggage and children, and not being able to stop to use the bathroom when needed. This option is pricier than the bus, of course, but much less when considering buying plane tickets for 4 family members. Here is some information to help you make the choices that best fit into your travel plans.
As I am sure that you have already heard, taxis are abundant in Costa Rica. All official taxis are painted red, have a yellow triangle painted on the side, and contain a meter. I have not heard of many taxi scams here in Costa Rica, but they are known to happen every once in a while. To avoid any hassles with your taxi driver, either agree on a price before entering the cab or be sure that the meter is started once the trip begins. All taxis have a base fee, so that will be the first number that appears. Make sure to have you and all of your bags out of the taxi before you pay, and be sure not to slam the door when getting out of the drivers car; gringos have a reputation for being too rough with the car doors.
The Local Bus
You will find that public transportation in Costa Rica is surprisingly efficient and comfortable. You can travel to anywhere in the country for less than $20 and in under 9 hours from San Jose. One of the great resources that you can use while traveling by public bus in Costa Rica is the thebusschedule.com website guide. It provides information about a plethora of routes within the Costa Rica and Central America. Among the information provided, you will find departure and arrival times, cost of the trip, location of the bus station, and even the phone number of the station. Note, that although this is the most up to date information circulating, there are sometimes changes within the schedule or fare that cannot be accounted for. If you should have any question about a fare change, be aware that all local buses should have their fare posted on the window so that you can verify as you enter the bus. If you should have a question as to where your stop is, please ask the driver to inform you when you have reached your destination.
International travel, by way of bus, is a very popular means of seeing Central America. The routes are very established, often leaving daily, and are inexpensive in comparison to traveling by plane. If you are looking to venture outside of Costa Rica, here are a few suggestions of transporters to use.
Tica Bus: Travels to Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, and Mexico. These buses are air-conditioned, have reclining seats, a restroom on board, and promises to entertain you with movies or local news. Tica Bus provides a very comfortable ride from San Jose to any of its destinations.
If you are going to travel by Tica Bus, you will need to purchase your ticket at least 1 day in advance, suggested 3-4 days in advanced, you may also purchase your ticket weeks in advance should you want or need to. In order to purchase your ticket, you will need to go to the station in San Jose, have your passport in hand, and will be able to pay in Colones or dollars.
Located: North corner of the Iglesia la Soledad, Calle 9/11, Avenida 4
Telephone: 2221-8954 or 2255-4771
TransNica Bus: Travels from San Jose to Managua three times per day. It offers reclining seats, air-conditioning, and onboard restroom. The Executive Bus Offers reclining seats, air-conditioning, TV, videos, music, stewardess and VIP service.
Prices One Way from San Jose: Regular $10/Executive $20 2256-9072
Although buses are an excellent choice for travel in Costa Rica, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to visit your top 10 priorities when there are hours between locations. In this case, a quick flight to Tortuguero or to Golfito can greatly reduce travel time, therefore increasing sightseeing time.
Sansa: Sansa is part of the Taca Group and provides affordable flights within Costa Rica. To check out their destinations, rates, and flight times, you can find them at www.flysansa.com or call reservations at 2221-9414.
Nature Air/Travel Air: This Airline provides flights within Costa Rica and flights to Nicaragua as well. They provide daily flights to Tortuguero, Bahia Drake, Nosara, and various other routes. To find their routes and prices, please log onto www.natureair.com or call 2220-3054.
Taca Airlines: Travels within Costa Rica, widely throughout Central America, and to various locations in North America. Their schedules and rates can also be found online at www.taca.com or call.
Rent A Car
Rental cars can make life so much easier when traveling with a family or when covering long distances in short amounts of time. It can actually be an inexpensive form of travel when a group of travelers share the expense. At this point in time we choose to work Mapache Rent A Car. We have found that their customer service has been excellent, they provide a safe and up to date fleet, and wonderful insurance coverage. If you decide that car rental is the option for you, please contact the Otiac front desk for more details and we will have a car delivered here to you in Orosi on the specified date.
There are many companies that offer private transport from one location to another within Costa Rica, and even some that will transport travelers to Nicaragua. This is a nice option if you are looking for a quicker ride than the bus, but don’t want to take a small plane or commit to a car rental. Prices and minimum amount of passengers vary according to the company, so you will need to call them for their individual prices.
You wont encounter many ferries in Costa Rica, but should you be traveling to the Nicoya Peninsula or the Osa Peninsula, it will be one travel option that you may take.
Puntarenas-Paquera: Should you want to head out to Montezuma or Mal Pais, this is the ferry for you. Ferry departs daily at: 6:30am, 10:30am, 2:30pm, and 6:30pm. The ride costs and can take anywhere from 1-2 hours.
One fun option for travel is to take the antique train from San Jose to Puntarenas. The train takes about 4 hours, much more time than the bus, but it provides you with a different view on the way to the coast. Additionally, you get a taste of a Tico outing: food, family, and fun. Food vendors are available throughout the entire trip providing coffee, soft drinks, juices, breads, tortas, chicken, the works…so make sure not to eat before the early morning departure. And be prepared to sing along when the entertainment makes its way through your car. For more information please call 2248-1196
Want to take the train as transport? There is now a train running from San Jose to Cartago but only offers morning and afternoon trips.
From the information above what do you suggest, I’m a single traveler?
The local buses are the best and cheapest way to get around but they do mean that you almost always must travel into San Jose to catch a direct buses to your destination. Although there are bus routes to everywhere it is actually better to run your trips through San José, as taking indirect buses through every small town stopping every 100 meters and as many local buses do not have coordinated connecting time which means waiting for sometimes up to 2 to 3 hours for each local connection, makes a short trip stressful.
Example – Orosi-Cahuita:
Orosi to San Jose and down with direct bus or Orosi to Paraiso, Paraiso to Turrialba, Turrialba to Siquires, Siquires to Cahuita. It can be done but will take double the time!
When in High season November to April be sure to buy or reserve your ticket in advance if travelling to popular tourist destinations. For travels times see link above or the link area for more details.
Is renting a car worth it?
Car rental can be done but they are fairly expensive especially around high season November to April. Driving will not make your trip that much faster as driving in the mountains can only go so fast. You’ll find the best thing about car rental in Costa Rica is that you can stop and eat, drink and enjoy the beautiful view whenever you like and you don’t have to be changing buses with a bunch of luggage. Why not get a group together and share a rental car for a week or so to see the harder to reach sites in Costa Rica.
How quickly can I organize a trip with a local driver?
Transport can be organized for what ever trips you would like to take. It can be usually be organized within 1-2 days notice upon arrival in Costa Rica. Taxi prices are all based upon where it is that you are going, what the terrain is and how long the driver will have to wait for you. In general they are not very expensive and even cheaper if you can find other people to share the