Bus Information for Costa Rica
Riding the bus in Costa Rica can be a real adventure and is a very inexpensive way to get around the country. Since many people do not drive and not have cars, there are several buses. A nice bonus is that most of the buses are usually on time.
Keep in mind, these are subject to change. Fares are current with the latest increases approved by the government agency ARESEP and published in the official government document La Gaceta and on the ARESEP website just click on Tarifas Vigentes, Transportes, and Buses and search on the route number. Additional increases are likely later this year. However, they should not increase the cost of travel by bus by too much. Local buses will only accept colones so be sure to have local currency. As for other buses, unless one are buying a ticket directly from the station where one can pay in dollars, try carry local currency. This is a good habit to maintain while anywhere in Costa Rica, even if it's only a small amount. Local bus fairs are usually less than $1 and regional buses are ususally around $5.
Local buses are located all over the country. Notice that in San Jose buses come in all different colors, shapes, and sizes. Buses usually stop somewhere in most areas and can generally take people to the center of San Jose. One can return by the same bus they arrived on. Many of the stops are on the main Avenue Avenida 1.
Request a bus schedule idea from the driver who can share when the buses come more or less. Many buses pass by about every 20 minutes. Local buses are very inexpensive, usually no more than $1. These buses can get people all over San Jose and even to other city areas in Alajuela, Heredia, and Cartago. Bus stops are all over the country, to stop a bus it is customary to put a hand out and shake it when one sees the bus, otherwise the bus may keep going.
The local buses maybe a little uncomfortable on occasion because in the peak times they can very crowded. Also, in the rainy season people use the buses more often as well. Sometimes one may see performers "performing/begging" for money on the buses.
Using buses to get around the country
If just visiting, or don't want to rent a car, or purchase a car the buses are the cheapest way to get around to see the country. However, if someone is known to get carsick easily they may not want to travel by bus as the roads outside of San Jose are very curvy and windy and the drivers go pretty fast. Many locals use these buses as well. Usually one will see lots of moms with small children on the buses. The cost to ride on these buses varies but the average one way fare is not usually more than $5-$7.
There is no central bus station per say. Instead, there are several different departure points scattered throughout the city. Most of the stops are in decent areas, but be a little cautious at the big one known as the Coca-Cola near Avenida 1 and Calle 16.
Tracopa, which offers service to and from southern Costa Rica, has moved to a new terminal at Avenida 18 to 20 and Calle 5 to 7, 200 meters east and 200 meters south of Clínica Bíblica Hospital.
If one would like to ride in smaller groups and with other foreigners, perhaps be little more comfortable, take a more direct mode fo transportation, and are willing to pay a little more, there are several shuttle bus or transfer services that offer service. Grayline Tours and Interbus can take visitors to up to 40 destinations around the country. Usually these services can pick people up and drop them off at their hotel location.
Buses to Explore Outside of Costa Rica
Ticabus is the countries regional provider. They are located at their new terminal location on the west side of the city, 200 meters west, and 200 meters north of the Scotiabank (formerly Mercedes) building on Avenida 3 between Calles 28 and 30.
Ticabus provides services to various locations including: Panama, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. Ticabus has a fleet of over 40 buses that are fairly new. The buses have TV, video, air conditioning, reclining seats, a restroom and room for around 50 passengers. To find out more information about destinations, routes and fairs you can visit the Ticabus website.