Anyone who has taken a long distance bus in Costa Rica will know how cheap they are and relatively comfortable, especially when it comes to riding over those legendary car-killer potholes. Getting to the buses can be a bit daunting.
Part of the confusion for foreigners and locals alike is that each bus company operates out of a different bus station in San José, which is fine if you are just going to one destination, but annoying if you are transferring.
Bus stations can be seedy places all over the world and San José is no exception, the ‘Coca Cola’ one being among the seediest. Travellers need to be cautious when waiting for the buses, but generally once aboard they are safe and fast- well fast for Costa Rica. Buses seem to follow their own rules of the road when it comes to overtaking, undertaking and intimidating lesser vehicles. My favourite one to witness is the ‘overtake on a blind uphill corner in the fog at Braulio Carrillo’ rule.
I was meeting someone off a bus recently, and luckily thanks to mobile phones, he was able to give me a minute by minute estimate of when he was likely to arrive. ‘Seven minutes’. I laughed back by text at his precision, reminding him this was Ticolandia. Sure enough, the responding text that followed contained expletives and references to traffic jams. Like all things in Costa Rica, the secret is not to be in a hurry when you are travelling by public bus.
A service which they also provide is courier delivery. I recently had to collect an urgent document from someone in Liberia, but didn’t want to drive four hours there and four hours back for it. The bus companies will do station to station delivery of letters and parcels or encomiendas for a fraction of the cost of using courier companies and more reliably than the post office. For example, at the entrance to the Pulmitan Liberia bus station there are two windows, one marked retirar and the other enviar ( collect and send). You pay when you send items, so all you have to do is tell whoever is collecting the items to bring their ID and your done. If you time it right the items will get there the same day. A letter from Liberia to San José costs just ₡750 or a buck fifty, which beats UPS hands down.
By Stewart Hird