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Bus

Local Buses

  • Local buses are a cheap and reliable way of getting around Costa Rica. Fares range from less than US$1 to around US$20.
  • San José is the transportation center for the country, though there is no central terminal. Bus offices are scattered around the city: some large bus companies have big terminals that sell tickets in advance, while others have little more than a stop – sometimes unmarked.
  • Buses can be very crowded but don’t usually pass up passengers on account of being too full. Note that there are usually no buses from Thursday to Saturday before Easter Sunday.
  • There are two types of bus: directo and colectivo. The directo buses should go from one destination to the next with few stops; the colectivos make more stops and are very slow going.
  • Trips longer than four hours usually include a rest stop as buses do not have toilets.
  • Space is limited on board, so if you have to check luggage be watchful. Theft from overhead racks is rampant, though it’s much less common than in other Central American countries.
  • Bus schedules fluctuate wildly, so always confirm the time when you buy your ticket. If you are catching a bus that picks you up somewhere along a road, get to the roadside early.
  • For information on departures from San José, see www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/bus-itinerary for a reasonably up-to-date copy of the master schedule, or check www.thebusschedule.com/cr for route planning. Another useful site for planning point-to-point bus trips is www.yoviajocr.com, which has a phone app as well.

Shuttle Buses

The tourist-van shuttle services (aka gringo buses) are a pricier alternative to the standard intercity buses. Shuttles are provided by Gray Line, Easy Ride, Monkey Ride, Tropical Tours and Interbus.

  • All five companies run overland transportation from San José to the most popular destinations, as well as directly between other destinations (see the websites for the comprehensive list).
  • These services will pick you up at your hotel, and reservations can be made online or through local travel agencies and hotel owners.
  • Popular destinations include Quepos, Monteverde/Santa Elena, Manuel Antonio, Jacó, Dominical, Uvita, Puerto Jiménez, Arenal, Montezuma and Mal País.
  • Easy Ride offers international services directly from Jacó, Tamarindo and Liberia to Granada and Managua in Nicaragua and from Monteverde to Managua.