San Ramon is an easy town to navigate. It is a 10×10 block square and easy to see from one side to the other with the church and park in the middle as landmarks. The bus system consists of two systems – local and long distance. The local system, for the most part, services the local surrounding communities making several round trips all day. Because the province of San Ramon stretches from Atenas in the south up to Lake Arenal on the north, there are a few long “local” routes including one to La Fortuna which leaves from the local station.
Two Stations and Bathrooms
Here is where the two stations are located in San Ramon. The two stations are only a few blocks from each other, so getting from one to the other to change buses is convenient and simple. Note two other items on the map below. The central market is across from the local bus station and has a number of sodas (small cafes) where you can get a quick, inexpensive meal and I marked the museum which has a clean bathroom for c200 donation. There is a public bathroom in the central market which is also c200 but it is not well kept. The last time she checked, my wife said the ladies’ room at the central market did not have toilet seats. The long distance station has a clean bathroom for c200 that you should take advantage of before boarding since the buses do not have bathrooms on them.
The local station can be a little intimidating the first time you enter. It is busy and unfriendly. Note: the people are not unfriendly, the station is. What I mean is that there are buses coming and going, people lining up, walking through, with lots of hustle and bustle and no easy way of getting information. The real draw back for first time visitors is the lack of signs indicating where the bus stops or clearly visible schedules. That means you have to interact with the locals which can be challenging if you don’t speak Spanish. Don’t worry, but look at the experience as an adventure. First, 99+% of the folks have no interest in harming or robbing you. In fact, they probably do not even notice you since they have busy lives and need to be somewhere. So, ask around for the bus you need. Surprisingly, you will find many people who speak English, if reluctantly, since many Ticos have lived in the US. Always guess if they lived in New Jersey since that state has the larges population of Tico so the odds are with you. An important thing to keep in mind is the bus is going to advertise the end point not the route. So, in my case, I take the Rio Jesus bus and my stop is midway, so you need to know a little geography. Second, for most cases, the local bus won’t take you far and worst case you simply stay on the bus and ride back or hire a taxi to finish the job. You have options.
The photo above is from our Rio Jesus stop. You would never know that is the stop since there are no signs. But if you ask around, someone will direct you to the right place. After the first time, it is a no brainer. Look at the first time as an adventure. To better understand the station, I once sat down and just observed the buses coming and going until I understood the rhythm. Usually, it should only take one ride to be familiar with the route.
The local station has few seats so you will be standing up waiting for many of the buses. The tradition appears that people leave their belongings to mark their place in line which you see above. This allows them to sit or stand in the shade (within view of their property) and wait. When the bus arrives, everyone makes a dash for their spot. Remember that the elderly and handicapped have priority so keep your eyes open to let them pass.
Two anomalies are the “local” bus to La Fortuna and UCR San Pedro. The La Fortuna bus makes the 3 hours trip four times a day. The UCR bus takes students to the west side of San Jose where the University of Costa Rica main campus is located.
Long Distance Station
The long distance buses leave San Ramon either going east to San Jose and Alajuela, often making a stop at the airport, or going west to Puntarenas, sometimes stopping in El Roble and Esparza. The bus berths are clearly marked and the schedule is on the wall by the bathroom. Note: sometimes too many buses arrive at the same time and you might need to jump up from your seat and get to the bus on the street, so stay alert. Pay attention to the crowd.
I like at the San Ramon long distance station they sell you a plastic card ticket. You had the ticket to the driver when you board the bus. One cool feature is there is no date on the “ticket” which means you could buy an extra for the times you are running to catch the bus and can directly board the bus without having to stop to buy a ticket.
Pickup at the AutoPista
I wanted to mention a third option. Many long distance buses travel up and down the AutoPista from San Jose to the beaches, and many stop mid-route at the crossroads location by the mall. I have not figured out which ones stop and which ones don’t. To guarantee a seat on the bus route I wanted, I decided to travel all the way into San Jose to catch a bus from there to the beach that would travel back by San Ramon. Note: the long distance buses do not appear to sell tickets in advance, remotely or online, so you take your chance they will stop in San Ramon or that a seat will be available if they do stop. Tica and Nica buses which go to Nicaragua and Panama both have online ticket purchase with guaranteed pickup on the AutoPista stop shown below.
Note the guys on the left. They are selling food to folks at the stop and to passengers when the bus stops. They are your friend. They know which buses stop there and when they are coming. Actually, the local vendors at any station are a good resource since they will know the routes, stops and times.