The transport network in Costa Rica is strong, and because it is so easy and convenient for visitors to use, public buses are one of the best options as a main form of transportation when in the country. The network is so comprehensive that you really can get almost anywhere in the country via bus – the exceptions being the North Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, but that’s because the region there is swampy. Though there is no national network or central bus terminal, Downtown San Jose
is the transportation hub of the country, with buses leaving from here on a regularly scheduled basis headed to and stopping at terminals all over Costa Rica.
The Best Option
Buses in Costa Rica are not only convenient, they are also super affordable. If you are traveling on a budget – or just want to see as many sights as possible during your stay – you can use one of the dozens of public bus companies that offer both fast (directo) and slower (normal) bus services. Most of the trips that you’ll take on these buses will run about $10, and will be a comfortable enough ride. Each bus company is going to have their own standards for their fleet, but overall each company that is traveling on the major routes will offer a modern and roomy ride for everyone. Those that are using the bus to travel to a rural or remote will find a slightly different experience, as most of those buses are actually old school buses from the United States.
You need to be on top of making your bus arrangements in advance, even if you are a procrastinator. Since the bus system is so easy and convenient, it also means that it is a popular option used by many locals and tourists. Every day counts in Costa Rica, so make sure you don’t get stuck somewhere (though there is plenty to do no matter where you are!). If you’re going to be using the bus system, make sure you buy your public bus company ticket in advance – and that doesn’t mean the day before, either. Buy your ticket as far in advance as you can to secure your seat or seats.
You should also be prepared for the traveling conditions to be crowded. Since so many people are using these buses as their transportation option, the stations and buses tend to get crowded. Weekdays might not be as bad, unless there is a local or national festival in progress. The holiday season, and the weekends year-round, are going to be the busiest times.
As with any traveling conditions – crowded or not – you need to make sure that you are aware of your surroundings at all times. Unfortunately, pick-pocketing and luggage theft can be an issue at crowded Costa Rican bus stations. Make sure you that you are paying attention to all your belongings – don’t walk away from your luggage or leave it unattended at any time. Consider packing as light as possible for your trip, so that your luggage is light and easy to keep track of. Space is usually an issue when traveling around Costa Rica, also, so having minimum luggage will make it easier for you to use the public bus companies.
Choose Tourist Bus Companies by Region
Keep your wallet, money, passport and other valuables in a secure location would be difficult for someone to access with ease and quickness. Thieves are going to pick easy targets – don’t be one!
If you like, you can also use tourist buses specifically meant for tourists. Mini-buses that strap your luggage to the top, these buses are more expensive than regular public transport ranging from $15 to $25 each way per person. The cost of your trip can vary with different tour companies as well as on the length of your trip. Since most of the people on board these buses are tourists, one really good advantage of using them is that you don’t need to worry about looking after your stuff. Perfect for the non-adventurous traveler, these buses are more comfortable and safe.