Sunday, September 4, 2011

Bus Travel in Costa Rica Is a Snap

Visitors frequently rent cars in Costa Rica. But that can be pretty expensive. The price of the car isn’t bad. It’s the insurance that’s the killer. Insurance can easily cost as much as the car rental itself. And gas is over $5 a gallon. So for one week, you can drop $500 or more.

Plus driving can be hairy ...

You'll likely discover why Ticos aren’t famous for having patience behind the wheel, and how the roads are not what we are used to in the U.S.

Well, my dad rented a house in Puriscal, a small town in the Central Valley, for two months. By the time I got there for a week’s visit, he had figured out how to travel just about anywhere in the country for darn near nothing. And he hardly speaks a word of Spanish!

The house was a 15-minute walk from the Puriscal bus station. From there buses go to San Jose for less than $1.50. The ride takes about an hour. Early in the morning and late afternoon it seemed as though they ran non-stop … one after another. Once you get to San Jose, it’s easy to hop another bus to where ever you want to go.

One day we went to Poas, another day to Jaco. It was a piece of cake. The cost: About $4.

Also from the bus station, you can walk to the Pedestrian Mall, the Farmers Market, the Teatro Nacional, and a bunch of other cool places.

The bus stations may seem chaotic: Vendors hawking their wares, families with groceries for the week, and cabbies hustling for fares. But it is organized chaos. Unlike in the U.S., people wait patiently in lines for their bus.

Of course safety is always a concern, no matter where you travel. And the media loves to play up crime against tourists. After two months, though, at no time did my dad feel in danger. Puriscal has virtually zero crime. And in San Jose, police were on every block — two or three together as a show of force. They were friendly, too. And the ones whom we asked for directions, spoke decent English.

I could go on and on. But if you’re looking for a unique cultural experience when traveling in Costa Rica, forget the over-priced air-conditioned rental car with a GPS. Travel like the Ticos do … take the bus. They’re clean, reliable and cheap.

Pura vida!

P.S. Have you dreamed about moving to Costa Rica? Then you should check out my friend George Lundquist’s retirement tour.


  1. The buses in Costa Rica are indeed a good way to expensively get around the country, often being used as a metro system of sorts between neighboring towns. There's no better way to meet all kinds of people! Of course, keep you belongings within eyesight to avoid temptation.

    Cheers, Tee

    Tee is Senior Editor of digital magazine about Costa Rica

  2. Tee,

    Thanks for your comment. I assume you meant "inexpensively."

    Best wishes,