Jan 10 2012

Paul’s Monthly Tip to Live for Less in Costa Rica: Taking the Bus

Updated 4/12/15

Take the bus!  Well, there it is, my money saving tip of the month. Okay, okay, I’ll explain the savings and the side benefits, but first, you’ve got to leave the car at home. It should be easy, with regular gas currently over $5.00 per gallon.

You probably won’t believe this, but some people live in Costa Rica and never, never take the bus. Why?  Because they’ve got a car.  If you have a car, it’s certainly more convenient and efficient.  You can do more, buy more, and go more places more quickly.  Almost by definition, you complicate your life, while taking a bus has the effect of un-complicating your life because you just can’t do as much.  Your life becomes more about the bus schedule, going to town, and getting the basics.

The buses in Costa Rica go everywhere and they’re cheap.  A bus ride from where we lived (Money Saving Tip #1) to our local town, 4 miles away, costs 38 cents per person each way, runs into San Ramon eight times per day, and returns nine times.  Our local bus runs between Rio Jesus and San Ramon.  Every town in this country of 4.8 million people, and just under 1.3 million cars, is connected by the national bus system. Our town has two bus stations, one for more local runs, and another that offers direct and indirect bus service to the airport, San Jose, and Puntarenas.  It costs a little over $2 for the direct runs, while the local service costs less.  Even the local one to La Fortuna (a three hour ride) costs only $2.00.

But what the buses really do is help you integrate into the culture — you mix with the locals, speak a little Spanish, walk some, save money, simplify (you automatically do less), and probably lower your blood pressure in the process.

As I said earlier, there are approximately 1.3 million cars in Costa Rica, and we have one of them. Even before coming to Costa Rica, we had planned on purchasing a car for our Retire for Less in Costa Rica Tours.  Our tours focus on rentals, rural tourism, and living in the culture, in order to show others how to save money and simplify.  We also do airport pickups and drop-offs.

It’s hard as “Norte Americanos” for us to give up the car.  For over 100 years, it’s been a big part of America’s culture and economy. Our first two months in Costa Rica, we didn’t have a car and I took the bus every day along with occasional taxis from town when loaded down with groceries.  I even had to walk about ¾ of a mile to get to the bus stop.  What do you think happened?  I lost 10 lbs. in 30 days.  But then we bought a car and darn if I didn’t gain those 10 lbs. back.  So…if you can, just leave the car home once in a while.  I guess this is one of those “do as I say but not as I do” things…however, when we lived at the cabinas, I really tried to take the bus more often, but where we live now isn’t on a bus route. If you would like more information on bus travel in Costa Rica, here are a couple of links to the bus & ferry schedules:

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