With the high prices of fuel these days, I decided to take a look at the bus service here in Costa Rica. Currently the price for a liter of gasoline is 1,024 colones for regular. This is a 35% jump within the past year.
Recently, I decided to take a journey with my friend Randy Nelson to the border of Nicaragua, for a relaxing trip to Ometepe Island on Lake Nicaragua. I was amazed at the ease of getting the bus in Liberia <Terry, please insert hyperlink to “Excursion to Ometepe” story (Cool Places, not Featured Adventure)> and how inexpensive it was. What a great option! The trip to the border cost $3.50 each. This trip on the local bus gave me the courage and knowledge to try out other places via the bus service.
Throughout the year, I’ve seen the many different buses making their journeys, picking up people at the local bus stops in Matapalo, Brasilito and Huacas. I’ve also talked about them with my friends. So curiosity got the better of me when I needed to make a trip to Santa Cruz. With the current price of fuel, taking the bus turned out to be a great idea.
Many might wonder at my initial trepidation: “Courage to get on a bus?” Well, I hadn’t been on a bus in probably 45 years. And it is a little intimidating in a foreign country. But now, I am amazed at how easy and inexpensive this means of transportation is.
I arrived at the local bus stop in Huacas, and in my broken Spanish, asked about the bus to Santa Cruz. The locals are always very helpful, and this was no exception. Given the right instruction by a nice gentleman, I waited only about 10 minutes before the local bus arrived. The cost was 1,250 colones, which at the current exchange rate is $1.80.
After finding my seat I was able to relax and see the countryside from Huacas to Santa Cruz — something as a driver you can’t always do. The bus made its tour through Portegulpe, then Cartegena picking up many people. With this being the local bus, many use it to get to work every day.
The bus route through Cartagena gave me a new insight. I haven’t spent much time in Cartagena and was amazed at what a nice city this is. It is out of the tourist traffic area, so filled with locals getting ready for the daily business. Cartagena seemed to be a bustling town and the square that was next to the beautiful church was very well maintained. I need to make another visit here to explore.
The bus driver picks up people not only at the regular bus stops but also if waved down by someone standing on the side of the road. I chatted with a few locals and found that they take this bus every day to work. Juan, a local from Huacas, said that he began taking the bus as the gas prices got more expensive. He is saving over $40 per week. Not only is he saving money it gives him time to relax before going to work at the ferreteria in Santa Cruz.
Yes I was the only gringo on the bus! I enjoy mixing with the locals. It is beneficial for practicing my Spanish, which is coming on slowly.
The trip took about an hour and was very easy.
The following day, I made a trip to Nicoya to pick up my car. I took the same bus, seeing the same people once again. Needing to change buses, I walked over a couple streets to a different station and picked up the Nicoya-bound bus. This trip in total cost me 1,750 colones, or $2.56. It cost me more in fuel to get from Nicoya to Santa Cruz.
There are many bus options. My excursions happened to be using the local bus. The larger tour buses, like Tracopa and Alfaro, look to be more comfortable and I am told they have fewer stops along the way. The fare for these buses costs a little more. I am going to try them out when I get a chance.
For anyone planning a similar experience, please keep in mind the need to watch your belongings and don’t give an opportunity for petty theft to ruin your day. Always be aware of your surroundings.
Throughout the country these local Costa Rican bus companies make their scheduled rounds and are very efficient. Viewing the schedule, it seems they run about every 30 to 40 minutes.
Try the bus; you will be amazed.