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Getting Around Costa Rica – Transportation

Costa Rica Info – Whether you are living in Costa Rica or travelling to Costa Rica you need to know how to get around. No matter your budget, traveling around Costa Rica is easy! There are a number of ways to get around depending on how much time you have, how much money you can spend. It’s possible to tour the country in a few weeks.

If you’d like to see many places in only a week, you should have the money to fly. Short flights are available between most tourist locations. You can fly Sansa or Nature Air for under $100. In 45 minutes you will arrive almost anywhere! Make sure to book ahead as there are not many seats available on these small planes.

Want more of an adventure and not afraid to drive in crazy conditions? Make sure you are prepared for unmarked streets full of potholes. This will save you money compared to flights and offer you more privacy than buses. To avoid stress you could also hire a driver.

Never leave valuables in your car and never pay money directly to a cop who stops you. Before accepting the rental car report all scratches and damage. Read your contract carefully for how much you will be responsible for in the case of an accident. During rainy season, only get a four-wheel-drive (a good idea year-round, actually!).

You may want to book your rental through a travel agency before you arrive because the companies often can’t keep up with the demand. One last warning- keep the tank full; in rural areas gas stations are very infrequent. Check with your insurance policy to make sure it extends abroad and for the type of car you desire. You may use your foreign license for the first 3 months you are in Costa Rica. Seat belts are required for both front seats.

You probably don’t want to drive after reading all that! The next, and most economical, choice for travel is by bus. For about 50 cents you can get across a city, and for about $5 half way across the country! Keep in mind that the buses don’t usually have bathrooms though they do make stops on routes over 3 hours.

If you are going only a few blocks you may elect a taxi. It’s easy to hail one but hard to tell if they are taking you the right way. Be aware that they may drive in circles to charge more money. If they refuse to put on the meter, just get out of the taxi and try another one.

Lastly, avoid hitchhiking unless you are in a rural area with no other choice. A rule of thumb for traveling by thumb is that if a bus doesn’t go there not many cars or tourists will go their either. Stay safe!

If you are thinking about moving to Costa Rica, moving out of Costa Rica, or importing a vehicle, get your free e-book from Shipping Costa Rica to help you obtain more information about the process.  They are also very highly recommended as a company to use for your shipping needs.

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By Kerry La

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8 Comments

  1. Joe de Tambor said:

    Also, some long distance buses and most local buses do not have air conditioning (oh…yes…they do…because if it is not raining most people open the windows so then you have nice, hot, humid air blowing in your face), and, for anyone over 5 feet tall, the seats have such a small amount of leg space that your knees will be bruised with only a short travel distance. HOWEVER, when ever I can I DO take the Tico buses, including the local ones. For just a few hundred colones you can (e.g. 150 colones, one-way, from Palmares de Alajuela to San Ramon) easily get around town or from town to town. Compare to 4 to 5 thousand colones by taxi. A hint, here: Taxis are farely reasonably priced for traveling within one town, but if they are taking you to another town the pricing goes way up) And, back to the buses: whether you speak Spanish, or not, you can have great conversations with most Ticos (most of the younger Ticos will speak fairly good English and some speak excellent English and many adults can handle an English, only, conversation, too). Also, you don’t have to be saying the Rosary so much as when you are in a taxi with those dare-devil drivers! 😉

    • Joe de Tambor said:

      A cautionary comment on using taxis in the capital, San Jose. Best be said by me giving an example: When I got off the long distance bus I had taken from San Ramon to San Jose, I was in a small neighborhood that I was not familiar with. I had reservations at the Aurola Holiday Inn in San Jose. This is the tallest building in the city and right across from Parque Morazán, AND, within walking distance of many of the most popular museums. The taxi driver asked me where I wanted to go and I gave him the name of the Hotel. I even showed it to him, as I had printed it out on a piece of paper. He shrugged his shoulders, with open hands and looked at me like I had asked him to know where a location was on the planet Mars. In, San Jose, especially you find this type of reaction from the drivers so that it will seem credible to the Gringo travellers that this guy spends 30 minutes going all over town to find a place that he certainly knew the location of when first directed by El Gringo. Well…even though I am Hispanic, from my manner of dress, the kind of suit cases I had, and the mangled Spanish I speak this driver immediately classified me as a Gringo and I’m sure thought he could really make a big fare off of me by seeming ignorant of the location of my hotel…when we first started talking. But, in this case I was familiar with the area around the Holiday Inn so I said to the taxi driver “El hotel es cerca de El Parque Marazán” (roughly translated: The hotel is close to Marazán park) he then got this resigned expression on his face and said something like “Sí, Señor” and took us straight to the hotel. So, I suggest you check out maps of locations you know you will be at in San Jose and will need to use a taxi from and write down the names of nearby landmarks, like parks, museums, names of statues, names of governmental buildings that are close to the location you will want to go and reserve that info to use when you get this innocent, questioning look from your taxi driver upon stating the place you want to go to.

      • admin said:

        Do not forget if a taxi driver sees you are gringo and you do not know where you are going exactly they know that and they will take you on the round about way that usually costs at least $3 to $4 more. He or she will do this knowingly. Also the meter on the taxi is called a maria. There are three things to watch for with this. The first is make sure it is at the starting rate which is 590 right now and ask them to reset it. Second, make sure they use it. Many times they will keep in on libre (free) if they know you are a visitor and charge you extra when you get to the destination. Finally, sometimes they have the maria tampered with so it will jump 100 colones or so every certain distance. I had this happened to me once and what should have been a $4 taxi ride was $8. I told the driver it was always about $4 gave him that much and left the taxi. They will threaten to call the police but never will as if they show the police their tampered with meter they get in trouble.

  2. Joe de Tambor said:

    It seems that most of the people who will come to read the above article will be those who are interested in taking a trip to Costa Rica. If they are from the U.S.A., most of them will be Anglo-Saxon (i.e. white) in heritage. In the U.S.A. when Anglos are referred to as a gringo, it is meant as a racial slur that is made by a Hispanic person…a very negative comment, in other words.

    I have learned that when a person is referred to as a gringo in Costa Rica it is NOT a reference to the person’s race, rather, it is a reference to a culture. So, when any of you Anglos from the U.S.A. are in Costa Rica and you become aware that you are being referred to as a gringo, DON’T BE ANGRY OR OFFENDED. All the Tico is saying is that you are not a Tico with no value judgment made.

    I’ll give you an example: My son is an adult who has lived in Central America, and mostly in Costa Rica, for more than 15 years. His father (i.e. me) is of Mexican descent and his mother is a Puerto Rican who was actually born in Puerto Rico. His skin is dark and he has dark hair and decidedly Hispanic features. And the people that he associates with in Costa Rica know all this. They also hear him speak Spanish just like they do, including with their local dialect and vocabulary because he first learned to speak Spanish in Costa Rica. And, I am told by many Ticos that he speaks Spanish “perfectly.” Yet, he is referred to by Ticos as El Gringo. Of course, in the U.S.A. no one (Hispanic people or Anglo-Saxon people) would ever call my son a gringo. However, in Costa Rica the Ticos see how he stands and walks (very erect, and walking faster and more purposeful than a Tico), and how he goes about his work in an organized and timely manner (unlike Ticos), and how he is more direct in how he speaks to people than ever is done by a Tico. Therefore, despite his Hispanic heritage, to Ticos he is a gringo and will always be a gringo to them. So, again, to you Anglos I say, don’t be offended if you are called a gringo, just relax and say ÍPura Vida! and have a good time with your Tico friends and aquaintances.

  3. Joe de Tambor said:

    HA HA HA! That *is* very funny. I got a good chuckle out of your admin humor. You probably have gotten the idea that I am much more Gringoish, from a Tico point of view, than my son; however, during the more than 3 months I have spent in C.R. I have yet to be told by implication or specific words to be gone…seriously. 2 of those months were in 2006 in which I spent about 65% of my time in the small town (I would call it a village) of Tambor which is located on the tip of the Nicoya peninsula. I do remember being reprimanded by one of the officials of the Banco Nacional in Cobano because I was apparently Hispanic but I was not fluent in speaking Spanish. However, I took that good natured *reprimand* to be an encouragement to join the local culture, even though I was apparently a gringo.

    You probably know there is no local political structure in Tambor (i.e. no mayor, no city council, etc.) and the old police station is a small vacant building and there are no police that ever patrol there from other towns that are several kilometers away (e.g. Cobano). And when I visited Tambor in April, 2012 there had been very little change from 2006 and still no political or police presence.

    I was sorry to see that the Italian Restaurant had closed down and that the Costa Coral Hotel had *upgraded* their restaurant to a Euro-American style menu so that the local kind of food (e.g. *real* casado de pollo) was no longer available. However, the laid back, very friendly feel of the local residents and the similarly laid back small expat community were still as I had remembered them which made for another very relaxing and enjoyable experience for me. And, if anybody reading this is wondering why I have not spent any time, in any of my posted comments, talking about the local drug culture that is because it is not an in-your-face type of presence like in some parts of the U.S.A. If you look carefully in the 2 local bars that are on the beach, or on the actual beach at night you will see some small evidence of mild drug use, but nothing that detracts from a very comfortable and safe place to be and have fun.

  4. Tilaran said:

    the beauty of the buses is that you wont have to struggle to carry all of that crap you bought at the mall to your house. By the time you reach your destination it will have magically vanished and the answer to who dun it, in Tico, is ” I dunno”. They really are a helpful bunch !

  5. Joe de Tambor said:

    Yeah…Tilaran…My backpack, or any packages, or my satchel are always on my lap during the entire bus ride. And when I take the long distance bus I only take a carry-on sized case that I put in the upper storage rack that is *opposite* my seat and a little in front so that I can watch it all through the ride, especially if there are any stops along the way. BUT…I have to do the same thing when taking buses in the U.S. AND…I cannot take the time to tell you about how many pieces of luggage I have *lost* or have been severely damaged by U.S. airlines. So while the explanations I get from the airlines are more lengthy and legalistic than “I dunno”, they mean the same thing. I really don’t think C.R. has a corner on petty theft. Especially because of a worldwide bad and getting worse economic situation, petty theft is on the rise in all countries.

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