Buses in Costa Rica

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Hey Guys, we get tons of emails about riding the buses in Costa Rica- "Are they reliable?" "Will they get me here to THERE?" "Is it a good way to see Costa Rica?" In this video we give you the answers and some good general INFO if you're planning on traveling Costa Rica by bus......

Traveling Costa Rica by bus can be a GREAT option, especially if you're traveling on a budget... and double especially if time is NOT of the essence. That said, there's a few things you should know about the bus system here:

Buses are reliable and pretty much travel anywhere you would want to go in Costa Rica. Reliability would usually only be a problem if their were traffic jams, bad road conditions or maintenance issues and obviously, those things could happen, but again, for the most part, the bus system is reliable. Costa Rica does NOT have 'chicken buses', ....just sayin.

Some 'Express' buses are nicer and don't stop before reaching their destination (like many of the ones leaving from San Jose to Limon ) but usually you'll be riding the 'local' buses, which tend to be older and seem to stop about every 100 yards or so, making the travel time much longer than it would be by 'car'.

You'll need colones and small change to ride the local buses, don't expect them to take your $20 bill. Some tickets you buy at the ticket booth while others are purchased from the driver as you board the bus. It's good to do your homework in advance so you know what to expect. It's a bit daunting to be carrying backpacks and luggage around a bus station while trying to figure things out.

Some bus stations are more 'user friendly' than others. The bus station in San Carlos (Ciudad Quesada) SUCKS! but others like Limon, San Ramon are nice. Don't forget, there's MANY bus stations in San Jose and the one you'll use will depend on where you're going. For instance, visiting our 'neck of the woods' in La Fortuna, you'll need to tell the taxi driver, "La parada de San Carlos por favor".

We did this VIDEO a while back about 'Theft on the Buses'. For those of us that use the public buses this information is going to come in handy...

The buses in Costa Rica have been know to attract criminals catering to Ticos and tourist alike. The bus usually has one or two storage compartments for your bags.

If your bags are larger items of luggage they will fit on the buses underbelly just fine, and to save room for passengers the drivers usually will insist on you using the underbelly of the bus for your backpack. However, It has been a problem with travelers in Costa Rica to find out that their bags were taken out from the bottom compartment during one of the stops along the route.

The other alternative is a small compartment above your seats. This top compartment has also been known to attract passengers to casually walk off the bus with someones bags. If you do any research at all on bus crime you will find that this is a huge problem in Costa Rica.

DO NOT fall asleep on those long bus rides and expect to wake up to your bags in the same place! DO NOT read a book or look out the window the whole time and expect your bags to be in the same place! KEEP AN EYE ON YOUR THINGS!!

more from michael alan's blog...
1st crime on the bus incidence we came across.
2nd crime on the bus incidence we came across.
Crime on the Bus to San Jose
Theft Crime, and Stupid Tourist
Crime is your fault.

Traveling Costa Rica by bus IS very economical, but can be daunting, I would recommend you know a little Spanish. If traveling around the country by bus worries you about TIME, or SAFETY for you and your belongings there are privately ran shuttle companies helping travelers get from one part of the country to the other.

Two companies in Costa Rica run regular, fixed-schedule departures in passenger vans and small buses to most of the major tourist destinations in the country. Gray Line has approximately 10 departures leaving San José each morning and heading or connecting to Jacó, Manuel Antonio, Playa Hermosa, Liberia, La Fortuna, Tamarindo, and playas Conchal and Flamingo. They provide daily return trips to San José from these destinations and also a variety of interconnecting routes. Interbus is a similar service, but with a little more connections. These two services are obviously a little more expensive than regular buses, but they are quicker, usually more comfortable, and will stop when you ask them too. And they offer pickup and drop off services at many hotels. The downside- if you’re the first to get picked up or last dropped off, you may have to sit through a long period of subsequent stops before finally reaching your destination.

This painted on the back of a bus, "Can you tell Costa Rica is steeped in the Catholic Religion?"
This painted on the back of a bus, "Can you tell Costa Rica is steeped in the Catholic Religion?"

Info and Reservations:

You can book Interbus and Gray Line directly on their websites but we actually prefer sending people threw the Gecko Trail shuttle page which lists all the different shuttle company schedules together so you can pick the one that works for you. Oddly enough, Interbus also makes changing their ticket MORE restrictive if booked through their own website than if booked through an agency so this works better for changes and cancellations. Or you can go directly to their transportation planner which shows you all the options (shuttle, private and other) for a particular route.

 Here's a list from the Costa Rican tourism board that includes information on bus schedules for every inter-city bus in the country. click here.

The following are bus schedules to popular destinations in Costa Rica. All buses depart from the San Jose area. And go to our page about Getting around Costa Rica, complete with links, bus schedules and booking packages and MORE.

Note: Bus schedules may change and fares are approximate based on the exchange rate and fares at the time of the update. Always contact or pre-visit the bus terminal for most recent schedules and fees. Advance ticket purchases are also recommended.


ALAJUELA (Airport): $0.75; every 10 minutes 4:20 a.m.-11:00 p.m.; after 11:00p.m. buses depart every 30 minutes for the airport; 30 minutes. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 2 and Calles 12/14. 2222-5325.

ARENAL VOLCANO / LA FORTUNA: $4; 6:15 a.m., 8:40 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.; 4 hours. Departs from the intersection of Calle 12 and Avenida 7. 2255-0567.

BRAULIO CARRILLO PARK / GUAPILES: $1.85; every hour 5:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m.; weekends last departure at 9:00p.m.; 45 minutes; get off at the Quebrada Gonzalez Station or theZurqui Station; wait on highway for return bus. Departs from the intersection of Calle 12 and Avenidas 7/9. 2222-0610.

CAHUITA NATIONAL PARK: $6.75; 6:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.; 4hours. Departs from the Terminal del Caribe, located on Avenida 13 and Calle Central. 2257-8129. COCO BEACH: $5; 8:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., and 4:00 p.m.; 5 hours. Departs from Avenida5 and Calles 10/12. Buses also depart from and return to Liberia daily en route to Coco. 2222-1650.

DOMINICAL: 5:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.; 7 hours. Departs from Avenidas 1/3 and Calle16 (Coca Cola Station). 2223-5567. Also from San Isidro: $2; 7:00, 9:00a.m., 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. and 4:00 p.m.; 1 hour. Departs from two blocks south of the church. 2771-2550.

FLAMINGO BEACH: $8.25; 8:00 a.m., 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.; 6 hours. Departs from the intersection of Calle 20 and Avenidas 1/3. 2221-7202.

GOLFITO: $12; 7:00 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. (direct, no stops); 8 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 5 and Calles 14/16. 2222-2666

HEREDIA: $0.60; every 10 minutes 5:00 a.m.-midnight; 25 minutes. Buses depart from the intersection of Calle 1 and Avenidas 7/9 and Calle 4 and Avenidas 5/7. 2233-8392 or 2261-7171.

IRAZU VOLCANO: $2; 8:00 a.m.; 1.5 hours. Buses depart from the intersection of Avenida 2 and Calles 1/3. 2272-0651.

JACO BEACH: $2.60; 5:00 a.m., 7:30 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., 5:00p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; 3 hours. Departs from Avenidas 1/3 and Calle 16(Coca Cola Station). 2223-1109.

LANKESTER GARDENS / PARAISO: $0.75; every 5 minutes 4:30 a.m.-10:00 p.m.; 20 minutes; ask to be dropped of at Lankester Garden Turnoff, then walk seven blocks to entrance. Departs in Cartago from Avenida 1 and Calle 4. 2574-6609.

LIBERIA: $5.75; every hour 6:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m. (19:00 departure on Fridays only); 4 hours. Departs from the intersection of Calle 14 and Avenidas1/3 (Liberia Terminal. 2222-1650.

LIMON: $4.50; every hour 6:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. (direct/nonstop buses depart every :30); 2.5 hours. Buses depart from the intersection of Avenida Central and Calle 3 (Terminal del Caribe). 2222-0610.

MANZANILLO: $8.75; 12:00 p.m.; 4.5 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 13 and Calle Central (Terminal del Caribe). 2257-8129.

MONTEVEDE / SANTA ELENA: $5; 6:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.; 5 hours. Departs from the intersection of Calle 12 and Avenidas 7/9 (Terminal Atlantico Norte). 2645-5159.

MANUEL ANTONIO / QUEPOS (Direct/Nonstop): $6.50; 6:00 a.m., 9:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 12:30 p.m., 6:00 p.m. and 7:30p.m.; 4 hours; Departs from Avenidas 1/3 and Calle 16 (Coca Cola Station). 2223-5567.

MANUEL ANTONIO / QUEPOS (Indirect): $6.50; 7:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 4:00 p.m.; 5 hours. Departs from Avenidas 1/3 and Calle 16 (Coca Cola Station). 2223-5567.

NICOYA: $5.50; 6:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:00 p.m.; 6hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 5 and Calles 14/16 (Alfaro Terminal). Buses also depart from and return to Liberia daily en route to Nicoya. 2222-2666.

NOSARA BEACH: $7; 5:30 a.m.; 6 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 5 and Calles 14/16 (Alfaro Terminal). Buses also depart from Nicoya at 4:45a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 3:00 p.m., and 5:30 p.m. ($2; 2 hours). 2222-2666.

PANAMA / HERMOSA BEACHES: $7.50; 3:30 p.m.; 6 hours. Departs from the intersection of Calle 20 and Avenidas 1/3. Buses also depart from Liberia several times daily. 2221-7202.

POAS VOLCANO: $6.75 (round- trip); 8:30 a.m.; 2.5 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida Segunda and Calles 12/14. 2222-5325.

PUERTO JIMENEZ DE OSA: $12; 5:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.; 8 hours. Bus departs from the intersection of Calle 14 and Avenidas 9/11 (Blanco Lobo Station). 2257-4121.

PUERTO VIEJO DE TALAMANCA (Caribbean): $7.75; 6:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., 2:00 p.m. and4:00 p.m.; 4.5 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenica 13 and Calle Central (Terminal del Caribe). Buses also depart daily from Limon. 2257-8129.

PUNTARENAS DIRECT: $3.75; every hour 6:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.; 2.5 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 12 and Calle 16. 2222-8231.

SAMARA BEACH: $6.50; 12:00 p.m.; 5.5 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida5 and Calles 14/16 (Alfaro Terminal). Buses also depart from and return to Samara daily en route to Nicoya. 2222-2666.

SAN ISIDRO DEL GENERAL: $3.50; every hour 5:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m.; 3 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 5 and Calles 14/17. 2222-2666.

SARCHI HANDICRAFT: $1.50; 12:15 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6:10 p.m.; 1.5 hours. Departs from the intersection of Calle 18 and Avenidas 5/7. 2258-2004.

TAMARINDO BEACH: $8; 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.; 6 hours. Departs from the intersection of Avenida 3 and Calles 14/16 (Alfaro Terminal). 2222-2666.


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