Today we shrugged off the comforts of a direct international coach bus (that would’ve taken care of everything for us at a hefty price) and opted for independently navigating our way from Granada, Nicaragua to San Jose, Costa Rica by way of the cheap and local chicken buses.
Starting from Granada: Walked south to the chicken bus parking lot and boarded the second-to-last 1:30pm bus to Rivas (the last bus of the day to Rivas is at 3:30pm).
The ride cost us about 30 cordobas (a little more than a $1 USD) per person, and lasted for about an hour and 40 minutes.
From Rivas we boarded another bus to Pena Blancas (you can ask for that bus by saying ‘Frontera’ for ‘the border’) within the same bus station, which cost us about $1 USD per person and was about a 55 minute ride (we left at 3:30pm and got there around 4:25pm).
Once arriving at Pena Blancas, you’re almost at the border between Nicaragua and San Jose. Get off the bus and walk past all the vehicles towards the border guards and show them your passports.
Keep walking past the guards and ask for where you can get your passports stamped at the Nicaraguan border office:
Make sure in this building you’re on the correct side (one side is to get a stamp into Nicaragua, the other is to get a stamp into Costa Rica).
After getting your stamps, head out and walk about 1km through what I affectionately always call “no man’s land/Purgatory” to the Costa Rica’s border post. Ignore any touts who offer to guide, drive or carry your luggage for you; you won’t really need them.
Easy as pie: you’re now in Costa Rica!
Go get your passport stamped for Costa Rica at what looks like a bus station.
FYI it’s important that you have some kind of onward ticket that shows you’re exiting Costa Rica (whether it’s a flight out or a bus crossing into Nicaragua or Panama) within 30 days. If you don’t have this, they will either force you to buy these exit tickets at an adjacent bus ticket or make you show all the cash that you have on you to prove you’re not going to get stuck in Costa Rica (over-lingering tourists tend to ruin the environment!). Since we had already bought onward tickets to Panama, we didn’t have a problem.
After getting stamped in, ask for the next bus to Liberia or San Jose, Costa Rica. If you are as efficient as we were, you’ll make it just in time for the 5pm Transportes Deldu Bus to San Jose (other option is the Transnica Bus, which costs about the same but has different departure times). Otherwise you’ll be stuck waiting awhile for the last 6:30pm bus to San Jose. The bus ride costs about $10 USD per person and lasts for 5-6 hours with a rest stop about 2/3 way in.
Once arriving into San Jose, take a cab to your hotel/hostel from the bus terminals if you’re coming in at night as the neighborhoods around these terminals are reportedly to be quite dodgy.
In a few hours we move onwards to one of the many jewels of Costa Rica and one of Forbes’ Magazine Top 12 National Parks in the World: Manuel Antonio!
– At time of posting in San Jose, Costa Rica, it was 75.2 °F – Humidity: 73% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: scattered clouds