It’s cheap to get to places in Costa Rica, but you better know where you’re going.
The city buses in San Jose are cheap. They can range from about 235 colones to 350 colones (less than a dollar) depending on where the bus goes. However, I’ve yet to discover any sort of map for them or a schedule of when they get there. The amazing thing is though, you pretty much don’t have to wait more than 15 minutes because there are so many of them. Some bus stops are obviously marked with your typical overhang and bench, but some are completely random and inconspicuous and you only know they’re there if you’re familiar with the route. I’ve gotten to know the stops mostly from riding the bus; there’s really no other way. But if you can figure it out, it’s cheap and convenient.
Taxis are a decent way to get around. They’re very cheap compared to the U.S. and most taxi drivers are honest and take you the most direct way they know how to get to your destination. Obviously there are those that will take advantage of you as a tourist and take the scenic route, but, if you don’t know how to get where you’re going, there is nothing you can do about that. It’s hard though because sometimes the taxi driver will legitimately confess that he does not know how to get to the place you’ve asked and most drivers don’t have access to GPS like in the states. The fare works like always with the meter running. Here they call it a Maria.
Cross-country travel is a different experience. They have buses for that too and a variety of different bus stations you can leave from. Some will go direct to your location and others you may get to a city and then have to take one or two more buses to get to your final destination. Usually, you can buy your bus ticket a few days in advance to ensure you have a spot or that you don’t have to stand the whole way, but others you must wait until you get on the bus to purchase your ticket.
For example, last weekend going to Montezuma, we arrived early to the bus station and we boarded our bus. We didn’t pay until the ride was nearly over and we were given a ticket that we had to hold on to. We then got off that bus and bought a ferry ticket for 800 colones (less than 2 dollars). Apparently, the bus was on the ferry too because down below where the people were, was a place where passengers had parked their cars on the boat. It was a beautiful view, and we got to watch the sunset from the boat.
When we got off, we got on a different bus using the same ticket from the first one and we didn’t have to pay! That bus took us somewhere where we boarded yet another bus to our final destination. Most cross-country travel isn’t like that, but beware you could have such an adventurous experience!