Getting around In Costa Rica: A Beginner’s Guide

A little 'unseasoned' as a traveler? Keep calm and read on; you'll get there.

Traveling by Bus in Costa Rica

The bus service is better in Costa Rica than in the United States. Better, of course, doesn’t mean that the buses are in better condition than in the U.S., but it does mean that public bus transportation in Costa Rica is much more abundant, frequent and cheaper. However, the bus isn’t the only means of transportation that tourists can use while they visit Costa Rica.

Renting a Car in Costa Rica

There are rent-a-cars in Costa Rica, in the airport, in the capital city of San Jose and other cities and some rural areas. Lots of these cars are four-wheel drives, but they’re not used only for rural roads since potholes abound in main streets in major cities. Lately, the roads have been well-marked, and one can get maps and directions from the ICT (Tourism Bureau) in downtown San Jose, under the Plaza de la Cultura. Some legal facts that a driver and car renter should be aware of, are: driving age is eighteen and over but if you’re a foreigner, you must be 21 years old and always carry a passport; a tourist’s driver’s license is valid only for three months after arrival, after which he/she has to apply for a Costa Rican license. People who have never driven in Costa Rica before must be psychologically prepared to do so. Some drivers here are reckless and rude, especially in a major city. Although the speed limit is usually 50 mph, Costa Rica holds the world’s highest auto fatality rate (18 deaths per 100,000 kms., as opposed to 2.7 deaths in the U.S.) Driving outside of San Jose is not nearly as stressful, but one must beware of potholes and sharp curves, especially in mountainous regions.

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Taking a Cab

Taxis, like buses, offer excellent service, and they are much cheaper than in other countries. All taxis in the cities have a meter, which you must make sure is turned on when you enter the cab. Taxis charge more if they leave the city, so you must make sure to ask about an approximate amount before being taken there. Buses are a good option if you want to travel cheaply, and as I’ve mentioned before, they are abundant. They can get pretty crowded sometimes, and people have to ride standing up and holding on to a rail, but this doesn’t matter for short rides. The ICT (Tourism Bureau) will gladly give out the information on bus schedules, fares and bus stops and major terminals. It’s important to keep in mind that buses are more crowded from Friday to Monday since a lot of people commute during the weekend. Also, luggage space is limited in most buses, and unless they are a tourist bus, they don’t have bathrooms, so don’t drink a lot of liquid!

Costa Rica by Plane

If land traveling gets a little boring, you might want to try out the aerial means. There are some local airlines that offer flights to several locations, and they aren’t that expensive. Two local airlines are SANSA and Travelair which is more

Two local airlines are SANSA and Travelair. Travelair is more costly, but many claim them to be more reliable when it comes to reservations.

Aero Costa Sol also offers trips inside Costa Rica, and sometimes to neighboring countries like Panama and Nicaragua. If you’re looking for a helicopter ride, you might want to call Helicopteros de Costa Rica.

Going back to the planes and helicopters, most of them leave San Jose from either the international airport, Juan Santamaria or the local one in Pavas called the Tobias Bolanos.

Trains are a great option for more romantic or adventuresome tourists, but, unfortunately, their service is extremely limited in Costa Rica. Since their future is uncertain, it’s better to check with two agencies that offer short tours on this means of transportation: Swiss Travel Agency and TAM travel. They usually run in the Atlantic region of Costa Rica.

So as you can see, there are buses in Costa Rica and plenty of them for that matter. There are also other means of transportation like taxis, rent-a-cars, planes, helicopters and some trains. Costa Rica might not be as advanced as other countries in many respects, but it does offer many different and, for the most part, cheap options for getting around the country.

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VIAThe Costa Rica News (TCRN)
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