For the international visitor riding a public bus in Costa Rica can get as challenging and confusing as nice as that experience is. There is probably not a better way to see the country in a budget, to interact with locals and to experience Costa Rica, than using public transportation. As a plus it can save you a lot of money.
We have to be fair, public buses in Costa Rica are fairly new, very well maintained and they run in a somehow reliable schedule. Probably the most important fact is that this is a quite safe way to get from point A to point B. In other Latin American countries riding a public bus can be dangerous, but in Costa Rica it is just a fun experience.
One of the greatest challenges is how addresses work in Costa Rica. Most people do not use or do not know street names or numbers, but any address always given using geographical references, such as 100 meters to the North from the Catholic Church. The good thing is that locals are very familiar with such a system and they will be more than willing to help you. Always remember to carry with you a piece of paper in Spanish with the exact address or the point where you need to disembark the bus, and do not be afraid to ask those sitting around you for help.
Like almost everywhere else buses have fixed routes, there is a main terminal of arrival of departure, but some times such a place may be just a little sign on the side of a street. Once again almost anybody will know the departure place and the schedule, it is common to see lines being formed 10 minutes before the bus will depart.
Along the way the buses only can stop in predetermined places (this is almost always the case) it does not mean that it will always stop, most buses have little buttons that produce noise that you should push 100 meters before your desired stop. Once again a bus stop may be just a little mark in the street.
Try to carry the exact amount of the ticket in cash in Costa Rican Colones, but it is good to know that most bus drivers will accept USD or Euros and they will return the difference to you in Colones.
A great way is to avoid confusions is to take the bus from the starting point to the end, for example if one is in San Jose and needs to go to Heredia, take a cab fro your hotel just to the Bus terminal of buses to Heredia, take the bus and once you are in Heredia take another cab to your final destination. It will save you money.
There are buses to almost anywhere in Costa Rica, the schedules work quite well, even when it is not unusual to see a bus a little delayed because of traffic.
Visitors going to the Guanacaste Area, Cartago, Limon, Arenal and La Fortuna and even Monteverde and almost anywhere else can easily take a bus. If you need to know more information about a specific public bus route in Costa Rica, do not hesitate to post a comment or send us an e-mail.