How will you get around on your trip to Costa Rica?
Plane, train (ok no trains), or automobile?
Find out everything you need to know about Costa Rica transportation!
Are you looking to book your flight to Costa Rica? Did you know that there are actually two international airports? It’s true! Most people fly into the San Jose airport but Liberia airport (located on the Pacific coast near the Nicaragua border) is also a great option. You can find out all about both airports in our guide to picking Liberia or San Jose airport.
For finding affordable flights we usually have the best luck with the Skyscanner website. However, you can find out all about our tactics for finding good flights in our Costa Rica flight guide. We are frequently looking for flights to and from the US and Europe so we have accidentally become really good at finding good deals.
To make your travel day a little smoother we suggest you read our guide to landing at the San Jose airport. We go into detail about getting through Customs, exchanging money, transportation from the airport, etc.
Within Costa Rica you have multiple modes of transportation options for getting to and from your destination. Here are the four main choices that you have….
Domestic Flight – There are a few domestic airlines in Costa Rica at the moment. Sometimes you can even get decent deals. However, you will still need to figure out transportation once in your destination.
Public Bus –We suggest using public buses if you are going to one destination and don’t plan on doing much exploring once there. Most busses run through San Jose which means it can be a total pain to move from one destination to your next destination.
Private Shuttle – Private shuttles are especially good if you are traveling with a group or family. They are nice for going long distances and not having to worry about the driving yourself. However, shuttle services are expensive and you will need to figure out transportation once actually in your destination
Rental Car – Renting a car is our preferred method for getting around. Having a car will give you more flexibility and allow you to explore off the beaten path things.
You can save 10% plus get other great perks with our Costa Rica car rental discount.
We definitely think that you should rent a car for your Costa Rica travels. It is by far the best way to get around.
However, there are some things you need to know about before you rent a car. For example, did you know that there is a mandatory insurance for renting a car in Costa Rica?
Unfortunately some companies don’t disclose this ahead of time and you will get hit with a bunch of extra charges when you pick up your vehicle. We suggest you read about our first few experiences renting a car so you know what to look out for.
Our favorite rental car company in Costa Rica is a local company called Adobe. We love Adobe because they have amazing customer service and are completely upfront with their costs.
Because we love them so much we asked if they would be interested in giving a discount to our readers (you!) and they said “yes!” If you rent with Adobe through our site you will get a 10% discount on your car plus other great perks like a free second driver, free cell phone to use, etc.
Driving in Costa Rica is total doable if you are a somewhat experienced driver. We do suggest that you avoid driving in San Jose (people are crazy there) but you should be fine in the rest of the country. To feel more comfortable with street signs and what to expect we suggest you read our guide to driving in Costa Rica.
For directions we suggest the free app Waze. It is the best for giving up to date traffic info. However, you can read all about directions in Costa Rica with our maps guide.
It can be difficult to determine what is the best car to rent for the places you are visiting. Sometimes you will need 4 wheels drive and for other places it is not necessary. To determine what car is best you can check out our destination guides for the places you are visiting.
If you are planning to travel from the San Jose area or the Southern Pacific part of the country to the Nicoya Peninsula (Montezuma or Santa Teresa) the best way to get there is by ferry from Puntarenas. This ferry leaves about every two hours during the day and the trip takes about 80 minutes. You can find out all the details in the Puntarenas Ferry guide.
We love Uber and frequently depend on it for getting around, but Uber exists in a legal gray area here. Uber says they are legal in Costa Rica but the taxi drivers say they are not. Ugh!
Anyway, if you take a taxi just make sure it is a registered taxi. You will know a registered taxi by their red color (or orange if from the airport) with a yellow triangle (or green triangle if from the airport) on the side of the car that has the taxi details.
Please please always use Uber or registered taxis. Pirate taxi drivers are a problem here and they will charge you wayyyyyy more than you should pay.
Check out our Uber vs. taxi guide for all the details.
It is good to have a working cell phone while traveling in Costa Rica for driving directions but also in case of emergencies while driving.
If you rent with Adobe through our discount they will provide you with a cell phone to use for your trip. This is not a smart phone (so you can’t use it for directions) but it is great for emergencies.
However, you can read all about getting a pre-paid SIM card in our guide to using your cell phone.
Are you going to Nicaragua or Panama over the border after your travels in Costa Rica? Border crossings are always an experience….
Nicaragua border: If you are traveling from San Jose the best way to get to Nicaragua is with Tica Bus. If you are traveling from another part of the country it is best to take a public bus to the border. You can read all about how to do the border crossing here.
Panama border: If you will be traveling to the Panama border on the Caribbean coast from San Jose the best way to do it is by taking the MEPE bus from San Jose to the border town of Sixaola. There are also busses from all Caribbean coast towns to the border. You can find out all about the border crossing here.
We hope this helped with planning your transportation in Costa Rica. If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section below. We are happy to help you out!
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