Taking the bus is a convenient, cheap, and culturally important option in San Jose. It’s also very confusing. This guide will help dispel some myths and answer a few questions.
Public buses run within San Jose, around the country, and even internationally. You can get to most places around the city with a bus and a little know-how. Buses run to tourist towns and to dirt road bound villages. And, buses run right next Veritas, connecting us to the center and by extension the rest of the country.
On all buses, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, double check with the driver that the bus is going to your destination, keep your belongings close, and pay attention so that you don’t miss your stop. Put your smartphone on airplane mode with wifi turned on to track your location on Google Maps. Talking to the other riders and making friends is also a good call.
Local buses can be fun, safe, and fast. Depending on the route, they run quite often and cost around 50 cents. Pay with coins or small bills. Bus stops are everywhere in the city and the best bet to figuring out how to catch the bus to your destination is to ask around: ¿cómo puedo llegar a … ? Ask lots of questions! Google maps can be useful to find bus stops near your location. There are a few good websites and apps that can help, too. Busmaps Costa Rica (http://www.busmapscr.com/) is an up-and-coming incomplete guide to local buses in San Jose which shows routes and stops. Mi Ruta is a smartphone app with which you can search a location or destination and find the related buses. Problem is, the app only tells you the name of the route, the bus company, and the cost. You have to then Google the bus company to look up the schedule and other pertinent information.
Long distance buses run from various terminals around the city. There is not one single terminal but instead many smaller ones serving one or a handful of bus companies. It is possible to get most places around the country for under $20. Taking a taxi to the terminal is a good bet if you have a lot of baggage or are sometimes navigationally challenged and lazy like me. To find bus schedules, prices, and locations, a thorough Google search is often enough. A national bus schedule PDF (http://www.visitcostarica.com/ict/paginas/LEYES/pdf/ItinerarioBuses_en.pdf) does exist but is not always super up to date. If you put your baggage under the bus, make sure not to lose the luggage tag and also keep an eye on your bag when people leave the bus before you. With these buses, it’s a good idea to get to the terminal at least a half hour early and keep an open mind. Sometimes missing the bus happens. Sometimes the bus is hours late. And sometimes everything works out perfectly.
Buses may be confusing and intimidating at first, but they’re actually a great tool for fun and cheap travel. Happy adventuring!