Getting Around Costa Rica: A Transportation Guide

Costa Rica is a beautiful country that offers a great variety of experiences. Whether you want to explore the rainforest, climb volcanoes, or chill out on the beach, Costa Rica has something for everyone.

It’s one of the best destinations in Central America for nature lovers who want to get away from it all and relax in the quiet beauty of tropical rainforests. Costa Rica is also excellent for adventure travelers looking for something more extreme than visiting Machu Picchu or Yellowstone National Park.

When traveling to Costa Rica, it is vital to know the transportation. Different means of transport are available in the country you are visiting, and you need to know about them.

Here are some basic things that every tourist must know when traveling to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica’s Roads

Costa Rica is a small country with a good road system. A few toll booths, charging anywhere from 200 to 1100 colones, can be found on Highway 27 just west of San Jose. After that, there are exit toll booths, including ones for Jaco, Atenas, and other locations along this route.

Paying these tolls with either cash or a credit card is possible. Also, they accept both US Dollars and Cuban Convertible Pesos (local currency). Costa Rican roads are relatively well-maintained and repairable. 

The main routes, highways, and connectors in the country of Costa Rica are Highways 1, 2, 27, 32, and 34 connect the capital city of San José to the northern city of Liberia. These are the most frequented roads in Costa Rica. Costa Rica’s international airports are located in or near these cities.

Flying to Costa Rica

There are two significant Costa Rica airports. International flights land at Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) in San José. Liberia’s second-busiest airport, Daniel Oduber Quiros International Airport, receives international flights from the US, Canada, and other Americas countries. It serves regional flights from Panama and Nicaragua, US and Canadian carriers, and London charters.

International flights departing the United States are charged a $29 departure fee in dollars or colones. Nonetheless, this fee is currently included in the ticket price by most airlines. Travelers can only pass airport security if their ticket price includes surcharges.

Most airlines charge the highest rates during July, August, December, and January. The best costs are in summer’s wetter months (May to November). Weekend flights are always more expensive. Before booking, compare prices across routes.

Traveling to Costa Rica by Land

Taking a bus to Costa Rica is a simple option. Costa Rica’s official bus carrier, Tica Bus, connects San José to various American cities and villages. 

  • Managua trips cost US$28.75 and take 11 hours. 
  • Guatemala City-Managua-El Salvador takes 60 hours and costs US$86.50 for one trip. 
  • Panama City trips cost US$42 and take 16 hours.

During peak season, book your tickets a month in advance (up to three months in December).

You can also take a TransNica bus, which costs US$28 and takes 11 hours, or a Central Line bus, which costs US$29, takes 11 hours, and stops in Granada. A daily service to Panama City offered by Expreso Panama leaves at 11 pm and costs USD 40.

Traveling around Costa Rica


Budget-conscious backpackers like public buses, but tourists with only a week or two to sightsee sometimes find them too time-consuming.

San José is the nation’s transportation hub despite having no central terminal. The metro area’s bus firms’ administrative headquarters are distributed. Some of the larger bus companies have vast terminals where they sell tickets in advance, while others of the smaller ones have nothing more than an unmarked stop.

Two different kinds of bus service exist: directo and colectivo.

Directo buses have fewer stops and go faster than colectivos. Bus companies rarely turn away customers owing to capacity issues, even when complete. Buses will not run Thursday through Saturday before Easter Sunday.

Buses rarely have amenities; thus, long travels require rest stops. Travelers are advised to stay alert despite the luggage limit. While being rarer than in most Central American countries, overhead rack theft is common.

Bus schedules are known for being hard to predict, so you should always double-check the time before you buy a ticket. If you want to take a bus to pick you up at a stop along the way, you should get to the roadside early.


Taxis are best for getting around famous cities when having a vacation to Costa Rica. However, severe weather may prevent hail. Call a cab service ahead to secure transportation in a less central place. City taxis use meters and charge $2 each mile. Taxis increase at 10 pm. Check the driver’s meter to ensure you’re charged correctly. Drivers who “forget” to switch on the meter have overcharged passengers. The airport has orange taxis instead of red ones.

Taxis from Juan Santamaria International Airport to downtown San José cost $20–30. Colectivo taxis—shared cabs—are available in some places. 


Driving in Costa Rica requires a valid foreign driver’s license. Another kind of international identification is an International Driving Permit (IDP) issued by your country’s car association. After 90 days, you’ll need a Costa Rican driver’s license. Renting a car with mandatory insurance costs roughly $35 per day; most of the time, a four-wheel drive is not required.

The Inter American Highway has many 24-hour gas stations and fuel stations. The survey found a liter of fuel costs between USD 1.41 to USD1.49. Remote areas will have higher fuel prices, and the Pulperia may sell it (corner store). Replacement parts for cars with advanced electrical components and emissions-control systems can take a lot of work to find.


Air-conditioned shuttle buses connect most of Costa Rica’s top tourist destinations. While charging five times more than public buses, they are faster, more luxurious, and will pick up and drop off customers at hotels.

There are a total of 5 shuttles, and all of them offer San José-to-popular-destinations land travel. They also provide direct land transit between destinations.

Motorbikes and Scooters 

A trip to Costa Rica on a motorcycle is ideal for experienced motorcyclists. Renting a bike requires a license. In Jacó and Tamarindo, day-trip motorcycles (125–155cc) may be hired for $40.

Tour the country on larger motorcycles (250cc and above) or with San José-based guided trips. Beyond the city, winding back roads and picturesque gravel pathways abound. Due to the improved suspension, driving over the infamously bad roads of Costa Rica on a dual-sport motorcycle, also known as an Enduro motorcycle, is usually a lot of fun.

Wrapping Up

Costa Rica is a country with a lot to offer. The country has something for everyone, from its rich history and colonial architecture to its stunning natural beauty and tropical climate.

In addition to spectacular biodiversity and eco-tourism, Costa Rica is home to some of the most exciting people in Central America. The people here are friendly and welcoming, making travel more accessible than elsewhere in the region.

We hope this guide about transportation to Costa Rica will help you plan your trip better and avoid any inconveniences while traveling. 

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