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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, Costa Rica's capital. 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. Signing up for one of the best tours in Costa Rica is another great way to sightsee without having to navigate the country on your own. 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. Official taxis at the airport are orange. If you're planning to explore Guanacaste and the Nicoya Peninsula in the northwest region of Costa Rica, you can easily hail a taxi from the Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR). 

Car-and-Driver Service

You'll have the luxury of sightseeing on your terms if you hire a driver to shuttle you around. If you're on a budget, consider hiring a shared shuttle. The shared shuttle will make less stops than a private one, but it'll be more efficient than the public bus system. That said, the cost of having your own personal driver isn't cheap. Expect to pay at least $100 per day. Ask your hotel for a trusted car-and-driver service. Some traveler-approved companies include, Costa Rica Driver, Gray Line, Tours By Locals and Tropical Tours Shuttles. Many are operated by knowledgeable locals who can provide a wealth of information about the country. Just note some companies impose a three-day minimum 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 of the country 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 each way. Gray Line additionally offers a weekly pass for $280 that provides passengers with unlimited access to the fleet's daily shuttles.


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 as a base fare and $2 per every mile. Starting at 10 p.m., taxis increase fares. Make sure the driver turns the meter on to ensure your fare is correct – some travelers have reported being overcharged by drivers who "forget" to turn on their meters. If you're in an unmetered cab, negotiate a price with the driver before you depart. Official taxis are usually red, though at the airport they may be orange.

A taxi ride from Juan Santamaría International Airport to downtown San José costs between $20 and $30. Collectivo taxis (or shared taxis) are also available in some towns. Uber is available in San Jose.


Flights throughout Costa Rica are quick, cheap and plentiful. Sansa operates flights to domestic airports across Costa Rica. It's easy to book a cheap flight, with rates starting at about $60, depending on the destination. However, only pack what you can carry (10 pounds or less) on domestic planes. If your baggage weight does not meet this requirement, you'll incur heavy fees and your bag may even have to go on another flight.

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