Will I need to drive my own vehicle to conduct my everyday life (work/school/shopping) at my destination?
In the San Jose and central valley area, most people drive their own car. If you don't have a car and need public transportation to conduct your everyday business, you have the option of traveling by taxi or bus. Below are details on each service.
Taxis: Most metropolitan areas are well supplied with taxis, all of which are red in color. In San Jose, it is reported that there are 5,000 licensed taxis, but it is difficult to know how many "pirate" taxis are on the streets. Taxis are required by law to use a meter (commonly referred to as a Maria) when transporting passengers. There might be some taxis, however, that are not equipped with meters. Quite often, these taxis will charge based on the distance traveled. In this case, we recommend that you agree to a price before using the service.
Bus System: Costa Rica's efficient and elaborate bus system provides the most inexpensive and popular method of travel throughout the country. The vast road system makes virtually every region of Costa Rica accessible by bus. Recently, several transportation companies acquired more modern, air-conditioned buses for use on long trips, or for the most frequently traveled routes. Most bus service in downtown San Jose, as well as in the countryside itself, however, relies on older, more conventional-style school buses.
How can I legally drive a vehicle in this city?
You may use your current driver's license for up to 90 days if you are a tourist. After 90 days, you must get a Costa Rican driver's license. It is relatively easy to obtain if you meet the requirements. Please find official information at https://www.csv.go.cr/inicio or call Crown San Jose for assistance.
If you have a valid license from your own country, it is only a matter of taking a physical exam (in Spanish: Dictamen Medico para Licencia), paying a small processing fee, and then get your Costa Rica license.
If you do not have a current license or if your license has expired, you have to take a driver test and written exam (Spanish). This is all worthwhile if you plan to live and drive in Costa Rica.
What side of the road do people drive on?
In Costa Rica, people drive on the right side of roads.
Describe typical public transportation an expat might use to get around the city.
Unless you really know your way around, it is recommended that you take a taxi. Costa Rica has few if any street signs. There are almost no addresses. Where you wish to go is normally defined in relationship to a known building, church or other well-known landmark. For instance, one friend's address is 250 meters west of the cemetery, San Isidro. Another's is 400 meters west and 100 meters north of the church, San Antonio de Belen. Nearly every town in Costa Rica has a church as its center and this is often a reference point.
Sometimes, an address may be referenced to a landmark that is no longer in existence. But most taxi drivers will know about historical landmarks.
Note: The biggest problem with taxi cab fraud is the driver failing to engage the meter when you get into the taxi. In Costa Rica, the meter is nicknamed the "Maria," a reference to the Virgin and presumably, her honesty. When you get in a cab, check to see if the "Maria" has been turned on.
Could an expat also use public transportation to get out of the city—to surrounding towns, recreation areas or suburbs? If so, list options.
For expats who want to get out of the city and visit surrounding towns, the bus network is a very good choice and is comfortable. From San Jose, all buses depart either from terminals or from streets. Depending on your destination and time of travel, we recommend that you arrive early to purchase your ticket, particularly for weekend travel. The most popular destinations have hourly departures. Generally speaking, the bus system is quite organized and runs close to schedule.
If you prefer to travel by air, two major domestic carriers, Sansa and Travel Air, provide reasonably priced air travel within Costa Rica. Government-owned and subsidized, Sansa's fares are significantly cheaper than those of its privately owned rival, Travel Air. Sansa operates out of Juan Santamaria International Airport and offers a free shuttle service for all flights. Travel Air operates from Pavas Airport (Tobias Bolanos), approximately four (4) miles from San Jose.
In regards to transportation, are there any safety issues I should be aware of?
If you are driving your own car or renting one, avoid leaving your car in a conspicuous place, such as a main street, or in front of your hotel. Use the parking lots whenever possible since many of them are watched by security guards. When you use the bus system, always leave your belongings in a spot where you can observe them at all times or keep them with you. Don't get distracted by people wanting to lure you away from your things.
Where do I buy tickets/tokens/etc. for the major public transportation?
If you take a bus, you pay the driver every time you get on. If you are taking an out-of-town bus, you can buy your ticket at the bus station or at any ticket office.
Crown Relocations has made every effort to present accurate information. However, regulations, rates and other variables are subject to change and Crown Relocations cannot accept responsibility for the errors that might result. Should you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your local Crown representative.