Like the Gare d’Austerlitz, Lyon, Nord and other train stations in Paris you need to find the correct bus station in San José depending on your destination. The big difference is that there’s no nifty Metro to zip you between them but there are city buses and taxis.
The location of the main Costa Rican bus stops and bus stations and the destinations served are shown on this map of downtown San José. Local central valley buses are shown as sideways “school” buses and intercity bus stations shown head on.
The Costa Rica Bus Schedule page shows 160 of the main routes with distance, pricing, departure times, and contact information for the operators.
The Costa Rica Bus Routes page shows an additional 600 minor routes currently in operation with distances, pricing and the companies that run them so you can contact them for current schedules
Tips For Public Bus Travel
- Advance reservations are strongly recommended around Christmas, Easter and if your departure or destination city is celebrating a local festival or fiesta.
- Advance reservations are a huge pain and probably not worth the effort at other times. Typically there is no way to make reservations online or by phone. There are a couple of limited online services but otherwise it has to be done in person. There are a few webpages out there that advertise advance reservations for “bus tickets” but they are all selling tourist shuttle services ranging from $30-140 per ride. There’s nothing wrong with shuttles but public buses cost 10 times less.
- Especially in San José the station you arrive at may not be the station you depart from when trying to make a connection. They may be miles apart. Check in advance.
- When trying to make connections it’s worth mentioning where you’re ultimately headed to the driver of the bus you start out on. They may be able to drop you closer to your connection than their terminal and at the very least they’ll probably at least point you in the right direction if they can’t get you closer.
- Buses and stations are prime targets for pickpockets, snatch and runs and thieves in general. I know of at least a dozen people ranging from unaware novice travelers to Ticos who ride buses every week who’ve been victimized. Do not put anything under your seat or in the overhead racks. Keep your valuables in a bag in your lap. Keep an eye on the baggage compartment at stops to make sure your backpack is not “accidentally” unloaded at the wrong stop.
- Your surf board, bicycle or trekking pole may be broken by a 100 kilo crate of casava being dropped on them unless you tip the porters.