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When traveling around Costa Rica on a budget, public transportation is definitely the best option. But there are certain things you simply would not know or could not possibly guess when trying to catch buses from one place to the next in this country, especially if they are not popular tourist destinations. We compiled a list of bus trip tips that might be useful on your next Costa Rican adventure.

1. San José, the capital city, is also the country’s main transportation center. The most popular stations are located here, with buses leaving and coming from all parts of the country. Examples include Terminal 7-10, Los Caribeños and Tralapa.

2. When you are at a bus stop waiting as the next bus approaches, you can see the name of its destination on the windshield.

Some bus stops are not marked, so when asking for directions pay attention to every detail.

3. Bus schedules can change from one season to the next, so we recommend always confirming the departure time when you buy your ticket or call the bus company beforehand.

4. Some bus stops are not marked, so when asking for directions pay attention to every detail. Be ready to wait for your bus under a mango tree or outside a small house.

5. When traveling longer distances, you should buy your ticket in advance — either at the bus station or online through the company’s website (although some don’t offer this option) — to save your seat and avoid standing throughout the whole ride.

6. It’s really helpful to know some Spanish. Some useful phrases to learn are:

Where is the bus stop?

¿Dónde está la parada?

How much does it cost?

¿Cuánto cuesta?

Does this bus stop at ____?

¿Este bus para en ____?

7. It’s important to know that long-distance bus trips include 15-minute rest stops where you can eat quickly or use the bathroom (some bathrooms can charge around 200 colones). Always keep an eye on your belongings.

8. If paying the bus driver directly when boarding the bus, you must pay in cash. You can expect change if you don’t give the exact amount.

9. When using buses in the Central Valley, be sure to notice whether there are two electronic bars on the stairs after entering the doors. Once you pass beyond these bars you MUST PAY, even if you find out it’s the wrong bus. Therefore, try to ask the bus driver from outside before you hop on board.

10. Last but not least, we recommend lots of patience. Public transportation does not always run smoothly in Costa Rica, for reasons unrelated to road conditions. Whether it’s the bus breaking down, someone falling asleep next to you, or having no air conditioning during your entire ride to the beach, our best advice is to expect the unexpected. Use these bus trips tips to help you on your journey.

Things can happen! But it’s always part of the adventure, right?

The Howler Magazine
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