After years of relying on a personal car to travel around their cities, retirees moving from the United States to Costa Rica will find a much different transportation system in their new country. With a greater emphasis on public buses and taxis, everyday travel is a lot different than in the United States. Here are six things to know about transportation in Costa Rica before retiring abroad.
1. The Roads Are Notoriously Difficult To Drive On
Although Costa Rica is a beautiful country to choose for retirement, one downside is the poor road conditions throughout the country. Many roads are unpaved, and potholes are common. Outside of the city, there is little to no lighting, making nighttime driving incredibly dangerous. Street signs, guardrails, and road markings are infrequent. In addition, Costa Rica’s rainy season can wash out entire roads, converting lanes into landslides.
For these reasons, expats can find it difficult to drive on their own, especially outside the city. Although personal vehicles are by no means nonexistent in Costa Rica, they are definitely much rarer than they are in the United States.
2. Costa Rica Has A Great, Inexpensive Bus System
In place of personal vehicles, the majority of Costa Rica’s residents rely on the country’s bus system, which is both cheap and reliable. Buses are often the easiest mode of travel, especially in larger cities such as San José.
The bus system in Costa Rica is largely government-subsidized, with some private exceptions, meaning travel is inexpensive throughout the country. The quality of routes and conditions of the vehicles can vary depending on which company is operating a bus. Some buses have Wi-Fi and air conditioning, while others have neither. This isn’t much of a problem for short, inner-city trips, but might be something to look out for on longer-distance bus rides.
Because Costa Rica is such a small country, it’s possible to hop on a bus and travel cross-country within the day. While bus riders can buy tickets ahead of time for popular and long-distance routes, often they can simply pay a fare upon boarding for shorter, everyday rides.
While U.S. dollars are accepted throughout the country, it is best to use colones, the Costa Rican currency, when paying for bus tickets. The average bus fare runs around 250 colones, equivalent to just $0.40 USD.
3. Shared Shuttle Services Connect Popular Tourist Destinations
Not all buses in Costa Rica are government-subsidized. The country also has a bustling private bus industry, transporting passengers via shuttle buses. Shuttle services offer a similar service as public buses, but with a little less hassle. Shuttles usually seat around 10 passengers, and the vans travel directly from one destination to another with no additional stops in between.
Shuttles travel to airports, beaches, and cities — almost all the popular destinations throughout the country. Rides usually cost around $50 USD per person but can vary depending on ride length. Shuttles are a great option for travelers interested in direct routes and a more personalized travel experience.
4. Costa Rican Taxis Are Great For Inner City Travel
If a resident is simply traveling from one part of a city to the other, sometimes taxis are the easiest mode of transportation. Taxis are common in the big cities, particularly San José. They are a great resource when there are no direct bus routes to a desired destination.
As in the United States, Costa Rican taxis have meters that charge according to distance traveled. The average fare is less than $1 per kilometer. All licensed taxis in the country operate under mandated standard rates.
5. Domestic Flights Are Fast, Easy Ways To Travel Across The Country
While buses are an inexpensive way for residents to travel long distances, the rides can be long. The same distance can be traveled in a fraction of the time by hopping on a plane and taking a domestic flight. Some flights are as quick as half an hour.
Domestic flights tend to use small planes, capable of seating approximately 10 to 20 passengers. There are frequent flights between Costa Rica’s biggest cities and most popular tourist destinations, flying from San José and Liberia to Quepos, Nosara, Tortuguero, and more.
While not as cheap as taking a bus, domestic flights are not overly expensive and are a popular choice for long-distance travel. Costa Rican domestic flights serve as both a great timesaver and an opportunity to take in the beauty of the country from an aerial view.
6. Some Areas Of Costa Rica Rely On Boats For Transportation
While the big cities rely on their buses and taxis, some areas of the country use ferries and water taxis instead. If visiting a coastal destination, residents may have to use a boat to reach their desired destination.
Most boat services have set arrival and departure times, just like a bus would. The cost of the ride and number of available seats vary greatly depending on the boat. Those planning on traveling in an area that will require boat travel are encouraged to look up schedules and services ahead of time.