Getting Around Costa Rica
The best way to get around Costa Rica is by bus, which is reliable, navigable, inexpensive, and frequently runs through San José. Driving on your own is not highly recommended as some roads are tricky (speckled with potholes and ambiguously marked intersections). A better alternative to renting your own set of wheels is hiring a car-and-driver service recommended from your hotel, so you can enjoy the country's gorgeous scenery without having to tackle challenging roads with confusing signage. For a hassle-free means of getting to downtown San José from the Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), you'll want to flag a taxi. If you're planning to explore Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula in the northwest part of Costa Rica, you can easily hail a taxi from the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR).
You'll have the luxury of sightseeing on your terms if you hire a driver to shuttle you around. That said, the cost of having your own personal driver isn't cheap. Expect to pay at least $100 USD per day. Ask your hotel for a trusted car-and-driver service. Another option is hiring a car and driver through Alamo or Avis, reliable car rental companies. Just note most companies impose a three-day miniumum for driving services.
Taking the bus is the cheapest way to get around Costa Rica. Buses are reliable and operate on scheduled timetables and set routes. But, there is one major drawback: Buses are slow. Although Costa Rica is small, getting from one end to the other by bus will take several hours. The trip from San José to the Osa Peninsula on the South Pacific Coast takes roughly nine hours, while flying the distance will only take an hour. Public buses provide service from San José to major attractions like Manual Antonio, Jacó, and Monteverde comfortably and affordably. Consult Costa Rica's official tourism board for a current bus schedule. Another option is Gray Line, which offers several morning departures from San José to prime sightseeing spots Manual Antonio, La Fortuna, Jacó, and others, with prices ranging from about $40 to $80 USD each way. Gray Line additionally offers a weekly pass for $145 USD that provides passengers with unlimited access to the fleet's daily shuttles. An alternative company is Interbus, which boasts more routes (and more expensive fares) than Gray Line, with base ticket prices starting at $15 USD. Interbus' fares vary depending on the route.
Taxis are the most convenient way of getting around popular cities and towns. However, they can be difficult to hail during inclement weather. If you're in a more remote destination, you should also plan to call a taxi ahead of time. City taxis are metered, charging approximately $2 USD per every mile. Starting at 10 p.m., taxis increase fares by 20 percent. A taxi ride from Juan Santamaría International Airport to downtown San José costs between $15 and $20 USD. As soon as you hop in the vehicle, ensure that the meter is turned on to avoid being scammed. If you're in an unmetered cab, negotiate a price with the driver before you depart. Collectivo taxis (or shared taxis) are also available in some towns, with standard flat rates of roughly $0.50 for transport from one side of town to the other.
Flights throughout Costa Rica are quick, cheap, and plentiful. Nature Air and Sansa operate flights to domestic airports across Costa Rica. It's easy to book a cheap flight, with rates starting at about $50 USD, depending on the destination. However, only pack what you can carry (about 30 pounds or less) on domestic planes. If you're baggage weight does not meet this requirement, you'll incur heavy fees and your bag may even have to go on another flight.
Entry & Exit Requirements
U.S. citizens traveling to Costa Rica will need a valid passport that does not expire for at least three months after arriving in Costa Rica. Many airlines also require travelers to have a roundtrip ticket before boarding flights to Costa Rica to ward off fines imposed by Costa Rican Immigration. Travelers should expect to pay a $26 USD airport departure tax. Visitors can pay the fee upon arrival in Costa Rica or before departure at the Bancrédito counter in the airport. However, it is highly recommended to pay in advance as lines can get long at the airport. If you're planning to stay longer than 90 days, you are required to apply for an extension to the Office of Temporary Permits. To learn more, visit the U.S. State Department website.