Is Costa Rica Easy To Travel Around?
One of the first things that a traveler should check when going to another country is the ease of transportation.
Since everything is foreign to you — even the places and their directions, it’s important that you familiarize yourself with the different ways that you could go from point A to point B.
It’s best to go to a country with variations of private and public transportation going around. Just like Costa Rica where it is easy to travel around.
This country in Central America is small enough that you can drive across it in a day.
Your mode of transportation will depend on what you have to do for that day and if you’re willing to try out their public transportation.
Here are the different modes of transportation available in Costa Rica.
Taking the public bus in Costa Rica is a great way to travel if you want to do things the way the locals do.
Traveling by bus is one of the cheap ways to go around the country. Their system is reliable too.
However, it might be a bit challenging for travelers because it’s not that straightforward unlike in developed countries.
You might need a bit of advanced planning if you’re depending on the buses to get to your destinations.
The good thing is, the majority of Costa Rica is covered by their bus system. Also, buses are privately-owned, so you’ll find a lot of bus terminals and stations.
If you’re confused about the route it’s going to take, huge signages are posted in front of the bus windshield as well the price of the fare.
When paying, most of the buses require you to manually pay with cash and it’s better if you have the exact amount.
A bus ride will cost you an average of 250 colones depending on where you’re going. Although USD is accepted in Costa Rica, you need to pay the fare in their local currency (colones) since the drivers just don’t have the time to convert it with the current exchange rate.
If you’re on a longer route which will take about more than three hours, you can purchase your bus ticket using credit cards at the bus stations.
But if you already know where you’re going in advance, it’s best to book your tickets especially if the destinations are popular with the tourists and the locals.
If you don’t, there might not be enough buses to accommodate you or if there is, you will need to stand.
Renting a car
Car rentals are a great option for travelers who want to have more control over their traveling means and don’t want to go through the hassle of public transportation.
An average rental car in Costa Rica will cost you around US$9 per day while the gas is around US$1.17 per liter.
But rental scams in Costa Rica are prevalent especially with tourists. They will slap you with fake government taxes and outrageous hidden charges so make sure that you’re renting from a credited rental agency.
In order for you to rent a car, you don’t have to have an international driving permit if you’re driving for less than three months, but you do need a valid driver’s license from your country and you’re of legal age (18 years old).
Fair warning: driving in Costa Rica can be difficult especially if it’s your first time in the country.
Traffic laws are generally the same with other countries but the road conditions and driving etiquette will make it harder for you.
Roads in the capital and other cities are smooth and nice to drive in but once you get out of the city, it will be harder for you.
Potholes are left unchecked and you might need to cross a river or two. Plus, not every place is accessible by car. You might need to rent a motorbike or a 4×4.
You have to practice your defensive driving because Costa Rica is infamous for having bad drivers.
You have to be careful especially at night especially on mounting roads since some of them have to guard rails or warning signs.
There’s always a taxi around Costa Rica and you should only take their official red taxis or orange ones if you’re in an airport.
Same as every other country, taxis can be a rip-off for tourists and travelers. Always ask for the driver to turn their meter on so you’ll be charged with the right amount.
The rates depend on where you are and how big the taxi is.
Pirate taxis are all over the country so as much as possible, avoid taking them. They can charge whatever they want since they don’t use the standard fare matrix.
Also, they aren’t as safe as the red or orange taxis because they don’t have insurance for you and your belongings.
If you’re uncomfortable taking a taxi, Uber is available in Costa Rica. You can see how much it will be and they won’t add any additional charges.
Getting a private shuttle is definitely one of the best transportation options for you. If the cost is too high for your budget, then a shared shuttle will help you save a couple of dollars.
The reason why private or shared shuttles are recommended for travelers and tourists is that it’s hassle-free, your comfort is guaranteed, and it’s safer than having to drive on your own.
These shuttles employ professional drivers who know the ins and outs of your destination. Plus, they will also serve as your tour guide!
You can hire either private or shared shuttles in your travel agencies or accredited companies in Costa Rica.
It’s better if you give them your itinerary in advance so they can plan and arrange the transportation for you.
If you don’t want to have a private or shared shuttle for the whole duration of your trip, you’ll have the option to arrange one for a specific destination.
For example, you can get a private or shared shuttle for your airport transfer at San Jose to your hotel.
If you value time among others, air travel will be your best pick especially if you plan to go to multiple locations in Costa Rica that will take you a solid day to get to.
There are two airports located in Costa Rica: one in San Jose and another in Liberia. Currently, there are four airlines available for daily scheduled flights with at least 14 destinations connected to the two airports.
So if you’re planning to go to isolated or areas that are out of the way, flying is a convenient option for you.
Commercial flights in Costa Rica aren’t like in other countries where you’ll find large airplanes to carry all the passengers and their luggage.
They only have varieties of single or double prop planes that can only carry between nine to 25 passengers at a time. Baggage space is limited too so it’s important that you only pack the essentials.
If you’re using air travel, you have to properly plan your trip to avoid unnecessary flights. Book your flights in advance so you can get the best deals.
On a regular season, most domestic flights can go as low as US$80 but the prices go up during tourist seasons.
But if you have a bit of travel money to spare, booking a charter flight for destinations that can’t be reached by car or a boat is also a good option especially if you’re traveling with a group.
One good off the grid destination is Carate which is a secluded town located in the Osa Peninsula.
Boats can’t reach this area because of the waves and it will take you around five hours to drive. The best way to get here is by a chartered plane with an hour’s flight from San Jose.
A 4-person chartered aircraft will cost you a minimum of US$240 depending on the schedule, type of aircraft, and destination.
If you’re on a group, US$60 for a flight is not bad considering the amount of time you’ll save. You won’t have to deal with sitting on an uncomfortable car ride for hours.
Plus, you’ll get to see Costa Rica in a bird’s eye view which is a whole other experience worth paying for.