Choosing a city
Transportation to & within other parts of the country How will you get to school each day? What is the cost? How will you get around seeing other parts of the city/country?
The extensive public transport system in Costa Rica allows people to travel literally anywhere for as little of $0.50 to $5.00. Buses are generally kept in good repair and are an easy and cheap way to move around the country.
Within San Jose you will find buses going to ever outer part of the city, with a constant flow during the day and evening.
If you are staying with a host family, the bus is the easiest way to get to Universal de Idiomas. All families live within a 2.5 3 miles range, or 4 5 kilometers, and buses are simply accessible. The cost for a ride is shown on the front window of the bus, ranging from 250 to 355 colones, which is $0.45 to $0.65. This is the cost for your whole ride, indifferent on if you get of the next stop or ride along for an hour to the other side of the city. When getting on a bus, you should preferably pay with coins or small bills.
Taxis are another common way of getting from A to B inside the city. In San Jos, always try to find a taxi which activates the meter, called mara, when you get in. If the driver does not agree on paying according to the meter, either get out of the taxi and find another one, or bargain for a fixed price if your Spanish is good enough and you have a sense of the area.
Be aware that San Jose has several bus stations, all with different destinations outside of San Jose. For an overview of every inter-city bus in the country, please check this schedule from the Costa Rican Tourism Board. In general, bus tickets can only be bought in person from the bus company at the terminal. For popular destinations like Monteverde, it is advised to purchase your bus tickets a few days in advance.
International bus tickets can be bought online; a lot of companies offer that possibility. Make sure you compare the rates between them; in some cases it is the cheapest to buy your tickets directly at the transportation company. Please find the Costa Rica International Bus Services here.
Bus terminals in Costa Rica can be dangerous places; in San Jose the most infamous are the Coca Cola bus terminal (located in the so called Red Light District) and the Terminal Caribe. You should watch your belongings really carefully here and do not let anyone else handle your luggage.
Besides the above mentioned extensive public bus system in Costa Rica, there are a variety of other options for moving between destinations. Of course your budget, travel routes and the length of your stay are important factors to consider before deciding on one or a combination of the options.
- Tours at Universal de Idiomas we can help you with your travel plans. Please visit this page for our recommended tours. It is the easiest and most enjoyable way of seeing beautiful Costa Rica! All the transportation, delicious meals and entrance fees are taken care of, you only need to relax and enjoy!
- Private vans (with a driver) are popular way of transportation if you are travelling in a group and would like a bit more comfort and flexibility than with the public bus system. If you would like to have an intermediate, consider A Safe Passage, Interbus, Greyline and Easy Ride are the major operators in Costa Rica.
- Shared Ride Shuttles are often used for transportation between a bus station and a hotel; usually this option is automatically offered after making a reservation. If not, Interbus, Greyline and Easy Ride are the major operators in Costa Rica. This option is efficient, safe and delivers you directly to your destination. Moreover, the shuttles are air-conditioned, non-smoking and include no more than 8 passengers.
- Rental cars People like the freedom of having your own car parked around the corner and deciding on what places to visit. And who does not want to have control over the radio during your trip? In Costa Rica and especially in busy cities like San Jose, driving is an intensive, risky experience. Read these instructions and be warned.
- If you are certain you would like to rent a car, adjust the route you are taking to the car that you rent. You will want to rent a four-wheel drive vehicle if you are going to be driving along rural roads, in the mountains, or in certain coastal areas. The following destinations are hardly impossible to reach without an SUV: The Nicoya Peninsula, Monteverde, Rincn de La Vieja, the La Paz Waterfall, Bajos del Toro, the south Pacific, the Osa Peninsula, and many places along the Caribbean coast.
- If you are planning on travelling to the coastal areas in the central and north Pacific, or to places between the Caribbean coast and the northern lowlands, as well as the surroundings of the Arenal Volcano, a compact car will be fine. These roads are among the fairly well traveled routes in which a two-wheel drive will be sufficient.
- Consider renting a GPS-system with your car and prevent the hassle of getting lost or not understanding the maps.
- Read-up carefully on the rental policies in order not to be unpleasantly surprised by deposits, fines, insurance and rental times.
- Make sure you understand the Costa Rican driving laws.
- The largest car rental company in Costa Rica is Adobe Rent a Car. Other car rental companies care Economy Car, Hertz and Mapache.
At Universal de Idiomas, we can advise you on the appropriate car for your destination and find a rental company that suits your needs. Need more tips for save driving in Costa Rica? Take one of our brochures at the reception.
- Domestic flights Costa Rica may seem like a small country, but due to the rough, windy and mountainous roads, ground transportation can take many hours. Depending on your travel route, budget and time to spend in Costa Rica, domestic flights may be the most time saving and comfortable option to travel, since it can cut back an 8-hour bus ride to a 35-minute flight. There are two major airlines in Costa Rica: Sansa and NatureAir. Please visit this link to check upon the international airports (Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamara, SJO, and Aeropuerto Internacional Liberia, LIR) as well as the regional airports for the domestic flights from the above stated airlines.
- Taxi In San Jos taxis have meters, called maras. Always make sure the driver activates the meter once you get in. If the driver refuses to put on the meter, get out of the taxi and find another one (or bargain for a fixed price if your Spanish is good enough). Outside the capital most taxis do not have meters and it is common that fares are agreed upon in advance; bargaining here is quite acceptable too.
- Boats and Ferries In order to visit the more remote places of Costa Rica and exploring the marine wild life, travelling by boats and ferries are a popular solution. When visiting Tortuguero to see the turtles nest, you will need to undertake a 2-hour boat ride through beautiful scenery. Whale and dolphin-watching in Drake Bay or Ilsa de Cao is only accessible with small boats leaving from Uvita or Sierpe. Another popular activity on the water is sport fishing; hundreds of companies organize tours on the Pacific Coast and in Guanacaste.
Reaching the southern area of Nicoya and visiting some of Costa Ricas pristine beaches, is easiest when using the ferry (Ferry Tambor). Please bear in mind these recommendations:
- Schedules are subject to change; always verify departure times with the ferry company in advance.
- No reservations can be made in advance.
- Tickets can only be bought at the ticket office of the ferry location and can only be paid in cash.
- Only the driver is allowed to stay in the car, other passengers must exit the vehicle.
- Arrive at the dock one hour before departure, in high season two hours is advisable.
- Never leave your belongings unattended.
- Horseback riding A popular and beautiful way of experiencing the wonderful natural settings is by horseback. Tours are organized throughout the country, but the most popular locations are Monteverde, Arenal, Manual Antonio and Rincon de La Vieja. The combination of an adventure tour and transportation is well known in Monteverde to La Fortuna (or vice versa). Plenty of tour operators also offer the exciting combination of horseback riding, adventure canopy (zip lining), farm/plantation tours, waterslide adventures and a soak in hot springs.
The above stated modes of transportation may vary in flexibility and comfort, but each of them is an opportunity to experience Costa Ricas amazing scenery. Please ask our helpful administrative staff for your ideal method of transportation for the chosen destination.