Getting Around Costa Rica

  • Great view caught from our flight over Sierpe area
    Great view caught from our flight over...
    by BEETLE_VERTE
  • By Taxi around San José
    by Tom_In_Madison
  • Transportation
    by BLewJay

Most Viewed Transportation in Costa Rica

  • starship's Profile Photo

    Getting to Downtown San Jose from Airport

    by starship Updated Aug 23, 2012

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    Arriving at the new and modern Juan Santamaria Airport, we quickly cleared immigration and got the cherished stamp for Costa Rica in our passports. The airport is approximately 30 - 45 minutes from downtown San Jose, allowing for traffic. Originally we planned to take the free airport shuttle provided by the hotel we had booked for 2 nights in downtown San Jose. Although we would have to wait around the airport a couple of hours for that shuttle to arrive based on their pre-set schedule, we could have passed the time comfortably enough. However, we didn't do this.

    Previous research on how to get to San Jose from the airport warned tourists not to take unauthorized, unlicensed taxis from the airport --- licensed taxis are bright orange/red. However, upon exiting the airport, we were swarmed by "taxi" drivers and tried to bypass them which was almost impossible. A man approached us wearing an official-looking shirt with the name of the airport authority on it. Against my better judgement we accepted his offer which was that he would call our hotel, get their approval for us to take his cab, and that the hotel would pay him. Yeah, right!! His taxi wasn't even bright orange!!

    However, he was as good as his word---he took us directly to our hotel AND our hotel DID PAY the fare!! He also gave us a receipt, signed and stamped with his full name and contact information should we need it or perhaps to prove he was a licensed taxi driver --- we were never sure what it was for.

    I wouldn't recommend taking this method of getting to your destination, but for us it turned out OK this time.

    COST: Expect to pay $25 - $30 for two persons for a taxi to downtown San Jose hotels (2012 price). You may be able to negotiate a better price if business is slow for the driver. For solo travelers, it would be a good deal if you could share a taxi with another traveler to split the price the location is convenient.

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    Rent a 4 Wheel Drive Car

    by frank_delargy Updated Aug 25, 2004

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    The roads are very good in most places, but curvy and hilly in others and unpaved in some areas. You will appreciate and need the clearance of a 4WD to get over a lot of the non-highway roads in comfort.
    I rented from Avis and from the HQ a few miles from the airport, not the airport. This avoided the hefty airport charge.
    I was very happy with the rental company, except for the compulsory insurance that you need to pay.. At least I think you need to pay it.. Often, in Costa Rica, you don't have the energy to argue..

    Our 4WD rental car on the beach
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  • Suzie3's Profile Photo

    Private transportation

    by Suzie3 Written May 3, 2004

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    After flying, busing, and driving, we have decided that the most relaxing way, as well as very informative, is by private driver. The picture I used for my photo is actually me with our driver Orlando. Over the last couple of years he has not only become our one man travel agency, driver, and guide but also our friend. We found him through someone else that had used him so he came highly recommended. He has gotten to know us and knows what we like and the types of places we like so time is not wasted every year worrying about that. He honored us this year with a night in his own home with his lovely family.

    Orlando with a wonderful CR smile

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  • kyoub's Profile Photo

    4 wheel drive

    by kyoub Written Jul 12, 2004

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    We rent a four wheel drive jeep and drive.
    It takes longer to get most anywhere than it should because the roads are full of potholes.
    Some places don't really have road signs either. we usually just guess. we have asked directions but it usually hasn't helped much.

    Waiting
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  • Suzie3's Profile Photo

    Lots of Choices

    by Suzie3 Updated Jun 1, 2004

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    Getting around is very easy now. The public buses go everywhere and are very inexpensive. Getting out of San Jose can be a bit tricky as there are several different bus stations.
    There are 2 private bus companies that have shuttles to the major tourist areas (Fantasy Bus, Interbus) as well as a small shuttle company.... (monteverdeinfo.com). Prices on these shuttles start at $25 pp.
    There are more and more private guide/driver services and every tour company will have a list of drivers available to them. Prices for private van transport start at about $100. If you want flexibility to stop when you want plus having a built in tour guide this is a good way to go. Costaricatransfers.com is one private transfer company. Monteverdeinfo.com has an inexpensive shuttle and does private transfers. There are tons of private drivers. We use one frequently. Orlandovargas2000@yahoo.com
    There are two private small airlines that make getting around quite quick if not a little nerve racking. Sansa and Nature Air both have flights to many of the tourist areas.
    Last but not least there is always the car rental. If you can avoid it, try to rent a car away from the airport. This would save you a hefty additional airport tax to the car rental. For those of you who arrive later in the day and will be spending a night in the San Jose/airport area just arrange for a car to be delivered to your hotel the next day. If they won't deliver the car you can have them pick you up and deliver you to the rental company. Car rental companies that have had good reviews are Adobe, Dollar, Poas. Most of the major car rental companies operate down there. The roads can be rough and signs non existent but this is always a good option for the adventurous.
    A fun option for travel between Arenal and Monteverde would be by horseback or jeep. If you have a car, they can drive your car up while you are going through the cloud forest. Monteverdeinfo.com.

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  • TheTravelSlut's Profile Photo

    Transportation between San Jose & the Arenal area

    by TheTravelSlut Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    I decided to visit the Arenal volcano area and Tabacon Hot Springs area from the San Jose area.

    THE TRAVEL SLUT TIP: Rather than booking transportation North to these areas, for the same price you can book a one-day bus tour to these resort areas and then make arrangements (at no additional costs) to have the bus leave you at the last stop and then pick you up a couple days later for your return to San Jose. I did this and I not only saved some money, but I received a commentary on Costa Rica history & culture, visited a farmer's market, gift store and had a nice lunch in addition to spending an afternoon at the hot springs.

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  • Suzie3's Profile Photo

    Planes, trains, and automobiles a few links

    by Suzie3 Written Jun 14, 2004

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    Unfortunately, the train system was knocked out by an earthquake and they wisely decided not to rebuild. Costa Rica does have fairly frequent earthquakes, most you don't even feel but they are there.

    Public buses once you get out of the city are very easy and inexpensive. Don't fear.....there is lots of help out there to get you on your way.
    Below are a few sites to look at. Safe passage will prepurchase your bus ticket for you and pick you up at the airport or hotel and deliver you to the correct bus station. If you arrive late and need to get to a hotel or even need a hotel let them know and they can get you there.
    An inexpensive but great place by the airport if you are arriving late is Vida Tropical . They have free airport pick up 24/7 and can help you get on the road the next day.
    These are some very informative links.

    Monteverdeinfo.com

    http://www.1costaricalink.com/eng/transportation/trans-bus.htm

    http://www.costaricabustickets.com/safe_order_form.htm

    http://www.costaricabustickets.com/safe_order_form.htm

    costaricabybus.com/

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  • BEETLE_VERTE's Profile Photo

    Travel by bus!

    by BEETLE_VERTE Updated Feb 29, 2004

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    We didn't rent a car as it would have put a huge load on our budget (prefered to invest the money in activities like sportfishing!). Since we learned that the public bus service was pretty efficient and cheap, we went for it. And it was true.

    For each trip, we never paid more than 8$ for two peoples. Buses departed on time (give or take 10 minutes), with the exception of one that was 1 hour late. They were usually very nice and comfortable (think of a deluxe coach of the 70's). You carry your hand luggage with you (on some trips, it's better to keep them with you, like San Jose to Fortuna, on other trip, you can use the overhead compartment) and your suitcase goes under the bus (on some trip, they'll give you ticket for it, depending on the risk for the trip I guess).

    You can buy your ticket ahead of time, if you'll be boarding at a terminal. They'll give you a receipt with your reserved seat numbers. It's worth it if you plan on using a popular and thus heavily crowded trip. Otherwise, you'll end up in front, aligned with all the others that bought their tickets (they pack the bus row by row). If you think there wont be many peoples on the bus (check the day before), don't buy a ticket and choose your seat (they'll charge you inside). Back rows usually give more space for the legs...

    On long trips, the driver might stop at a soda in the middle of the trip. Gives you time to go to the bathroom, freshen up and buy food and drinks. There will also be vendors boarding.

    It takes longer than driving on your own (bus is slower and stops everywhere!), although some trips have an express schedule service (they usually depart very early in the morning but wont make any stop... a 4h trip becomes a 3h trip). And it's probably bumpier than a car ride. But you can enjoy the scenery and see the country and it's peoples. You wont have to learn the road, the signs, the itinerary (pretty tricky as some tourists we met there told us). And you'll save money... to put toward good use there!

    bus ride from Quepos to San Jose
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  • BEETLE_VERTE's Profile Photo

    Private bus...

    by BEETLE_VERTE Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    And then there's also private bus. We never used them as they are much more expensive (probably by a factor of ten... a 4$ ride would cost 40$) and we never had a use for them. But they could offer a schedule that better suit your needs.

    But don't go for them just because you don't know the public service!

    Okay, we used the private shuttle in our 2005 trip! We used it from Alajuela to Jaco. A bus ride would have been around 3-4$ each, the shuttle was 17$ each but pick us up at our hotel (we saved the taxi fare). The trip was so much more enjoyable than a public tour (the road to Jaco can be difficult!), comfy seats, air conditioned, music, 30 minutes stop for lunch, friendly staff, ...

    We also used a private shuttle when our bus was an hour late in Jaco. They pick us up at the bus station, saying they were going empty to Quepos. We paid 10$ each.

    I recommend the private shuttle for the long bumpy rides (still use the private bus to catch the color of the country on short easier itineraries).

    I'm posting the web site of the company we use, but there must be a lot more available.

    bus stop on our way to Jaco
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  • BEETLE_VERTE's Profile Photo

    Jeep - Boat - Jeep

    by BEETLE_VERTE Updated Mar 22, 2006

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Fortuna / Monteverde

    If you're like us, you've planned to go see the Arenal volcano in Fortuna AND the Monteverde could forest and you're travelling by bus. If you don't already know, let me inform you that this bus ride will take 8 hours. From experience, a 4 hours bus ride is enough to put you out for the rest of the day... you'll be looking for peace and quiet and a jaccuzi. So we were dreading the 8 hours (one bus will take you half way and then, in the middle of nowhere, you'll transfer to another)!

    But there's hope! They've put up a Jeep-Boat-Jeep service that will cut 5 hours off the trip! It's about 20$ (we paid 19$ in Fortuna but saw it advertise at 25$ in Santa Elena... for the same service!). It's offered about everywhere (hotel and tour operator).

    And you'll get a wonderful view of this part of the country: the volcano, the Arenal lake, the Monteverde green mountains...

    Absolutely worth it!

    Jeep - Boat - Jeep ride
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  • BEETLE_VERTE's Profile Photo

    Hep! Taxi!

    by BEETLE_VERTE Written Feb 24, 2004

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    At one point or the other, you'll end up needing a taxi. Even more so if you're travelling by bus like we were.

    They are reputate cheap, we found them just a little above cheap. A ride from the Bus stop to our hotel, which must be less than 2km, cost us 2 to 5$. From San Jose to Alejuela (the national airport is in Alajuela), it's 20$. Our 2km ride in the mountain between our hotel in Manuel Antonio and Quepos docks cost around 2 and 4$.

    So it's not all that expensive, but not really cheap either. And as you can see, there's room for bargaining!

    We were also suprise to find them in top shape and, mostly in the San Jose area, very luxurious. Always use the official red taxi.

    We were also proposed day-trip. We had a designated driver all day when visiting the Poas volcano and the area. We estimated that just the trip to and from the volcano would have cost a little more than what he charged us for the entire day. Ask around!

    Taxi in Costa Rica Taxi in Costa Rica
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  • BEETLE_VERTE's Profile Photo

    San jose to Tortuguero

    by BEETLE_VERTE Written Mar 15, 2005

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    There's two ways to get to Tortuguero.
    First one: fly. Get more info at www.flysansa.com or www.natureair.com

    Second one: the long and peaceful journey through the costarican country side! We were given two bus/boat options, both costing about 25$ round trip.

    1. Bus from San Jose to Limon at the Gran Terminal del Caribe. Transfer to a bus going to Moin and get out at the docks. Take the boat shuttle to Tortuguero that leaves at 10h.

    2. Bus from San Jose to Cariari at the Gran Terminal del Caribe, leaving at 9h. Buy in Cariari a ticket that will get you by bus to Geest Casa Verde and then from there to Tortuguero by banano boat, reaching Tortuguero at around 15h.

    A long trip with a thousand sights and sounds. For a limited budget like ours this is the perfect option (we took the second one through Cariari), combining a cheap itinerary with a sightseeing tour (we got to see sloth, monkeys, turtles, caimans, bananas plantations, ...).

    The operating company: Rubens Viajes Bananero
    Departure from Cariari: 13h30 and 15h30
    Departure from Tortuguero: 7h30 and 11h

    Boat shuttle to Tortuguero
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  • yelli's Profile Photo

    Buses in the Green Season

    by yelli Updated Sep 4, 2004

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    IN the green season (May-November), it is best to take buses to get where you want to go. The roads can be very slippery and FILLED with potholes - I have heard in two instances from people who rented cars, getting three flat tires in one day. They are quite cheap, and depending on the exchange rate, usually won't cost you more than $5. Also if you're not used to driving in Central American cities, you will most likely be run into by the INSANE drivers there. Really, take a cab if you need to get around in San Jose.

    use a bus or cab in san jose
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  • Paul2001's Profile Photo

    Costa Rica by Bus. You Have No Choice!

    by Paul2001 Written Nov 24, 2004

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    Costa Rica does not have any railway service at the present so unless you have a car, you are limited to travel by bus. This can mean either a large bus or a minibus. There are generally two types of bus services. They are the local buses and the express buses. I took a local bus from Liberia to Tamarindo and this route seemed to take forever. That was because the bus seemed to stop in every little town in between the two points. They are cheap however. Far better is the express lines by such companies as Grayline or Interbus. These buses tend to be more modern and a little more expensive. Grayline will take you to any point in the country from San Jose for $21.00.

    Costa Rican bus
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  • SanguiniA's Profile Photo

    Cruising the Canals to Tortuguero

    by SanguiniA Written Dec 12, 2003

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    Tortuguero can only be reached by boat or by plane. There are no cars whatsoever in Tortuguero and no roads lead to Tortuguero either.

    To get to Tortuguero the best thing to do is first go to Moin (near Puerto Limon) and get on one of the various boats to Tortuguero (trip costs around $20-$30; but bargain for the price, you may get it cheaper!)

    The 80 km boat ride through the canals in the middle of the rainforest is a great experience (unless it is raining in which case you will get thoroughly soaked!) There are loads of birds and other animals to be seen along the way and the scenery is gorgeous.

    Moin

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