To get started riding the buses, the first thing you need is a schedule so you know where to stand and when. More and more online resources are becoming available, but many times you will need to seek out the elusive paper schedule. The paper schedules come in many forms and sizes and are found in many places. Here is the paper schedule I cut my teeth on when I first arrived in CR. It was given to me by our caretaker, and I guarded it jealously for fear I would lose the only copy in the world.
The first thing I did was take a picture of it with my phone camera so I would have it with me always. I never thought to ask the bus driver for a schedule, but once when he thought I was confused, he handed me one.
One thing to note is that the bus may have different schedules depending on the day of the week. So my schedule above is for Monday – Saturday and below (on the reverse side of the paper) is the Sunday schedule.
The Sunday schedule (Domingos) also serves as the holiday schedule, though I am not always sure which holidays are schedule change holidays. For example, a fiesta that closes all the streets may not be an official holiday even though everything is closed. Best to be aware and ask beforehand if you need to travel on a holiday.
So, where are the schedules posted? It can be as easy as looking at a big board at busy bus stations or in the window of a shop for local buses. You may feel as if you are on a scavenger hunt as you walk around looking at all the shop windows where the schedules might be posted. Once I find them, I whip out my phone and take a picture.
Another place the schedules can be found is posted in the front of the bus. I find working with that one to be the most challenging. Typically, I am in line queuing up for the bus to get in and 1) don’t want to slow boarding down and 2) don’t want to draw any more attention to the fact I am a newbie gringo than I already bring on myself by the way I dress. So, for the front of the bus schedules, I typically try to capture them as I exit.
Many times the bus stops have the schedules posted like this one in Naranjo. By the way, don’t trust the picture. I think this bus is not blue anymore.
The best ones are the big overhead signs at busy stations like this one in Alajuela. The only problem is there is nothing that cries tourist like staring up at the big board for a long time. Note: the schedule tells you the time but not where to stand, so maintain your patience and sense of adventure.
The most important thing to remember about the bus schedules is that they may change. (Although, I have been very surprised that the buses run on time given Ticos’ Pura Vida attitude to life. Perhaps because the buses are as essential for getting a majority of the population to work and to appointments, they take bus travel and schedules very seriously.) But if you absolutely, must be some place on time, factor into your plans the possibility of schedule changes, understand the alternate routes, and have the number for a taxi as a backup.
Finally, I am sure all these paper schedules’ and signs’ days are numbered by the advent of online resources which include internet bus schedules and phone apps to make the information easier to access. For a list of online resources and phone apps for bus schedules, see the “Getting Started” link at the top of the blog.
I learned this schedule is for packages not passengers.