Leaving Costa Rica

Wednesday, 27-08-2014. Day 8.

16 Hours on a bus (Part 1).

I woke early, about 4:30 a.m., to the crowing of roosters and the sound of falling rain and the realization that our first week of traveling around the world has gone by. Only 51 more to go. It had rained pretty much all night, so we'd had a lot of rain in the last 12 hours. I was hoping the road down from the house wasn't all mud.

We packed up the goods and got on the road at 6:15. Dorothy handled the road down like a champ, even though there were a few places I could feel her slide sideways toward the steep cliff to the left. I was glad I was going downhill.

The drive back to San Jose was frustrating. There was a lot of traffic, much of it was big trucks navigating the narrow roads. Behind these trucks, traffic would crawl along at 20 km/h (even slower uphills) until there was a gap in oncoming traffic, then the huge line of cars that had built up would make a mad dash to pass the big trucks before the next wave of opposing traffic came. We had a couple of close calls.

We drove back to the San Jose airport, said our goodbyes to Dorothy, and hopped in a cab to take us to the Tica Bus station in downtown San Jose to catch our bus to Panama. Our cab driver had family in Panama, and he once drove straight in his cab It took him 14 hours.


We got to the Tica Bus station, handed over our luggage, and paid the Costa Rican exit tax. Yes, you have to pay to leave the country. We paid with colónes (20,000), but you can also pay with dollars or with a credit card, but they charge your card as a cash advance, so there are extra fees if you do it that way.

There's a little restaurant at the bus station, so we got the girls a little food, and picked up some snacks, because we weren't sure when the bus would stop for dinner.

Then we were on the bus and on the road at 12:00—right on time.


Let's be honest here. Traveling by bus for 16 hours is not a lot of fun, although Jackie continues to argue that it was a great adventure. She loved it—and I think that a lot of that has to do with the in-ride entertainment. To keep the masses happy, Tica plays movies on multiple 13" CRT screens mounted in the ceiling. Here's what we saw on the ride:

  • Grown-Ups (English, subtitled in Spanish)
  • The Last Passenger (English, subtitled in Spanish)
  • Transporter 3 (dialog was subtitled in Spanish but with the commentary track)
  • Puss in Boots (in Spanish)
  • Iron Man (dubbed in Spanish)

The language didn't really matter, though. Between the roar of the bus and the roar of the air conditioner, you couldn't really hear anything else.

Speaking of the air conditioner, the bus gets really cold. Like icebox cold.  Bring a jacket. Other notes about the bus: no power outlets; no wi-fi.

After clicking along at a good clip for a few hours, the bus stopped. It was the second stop, actually. During the first one, a few people got on, which is pretty normal bus behavior. But during the second stop, no one got on. No one got off. No one knew what was going on, but one of the passengers learned there was some sort of truck blocking the road. We weren't going anywhere.

As annoying as it was (and as frustrating as it felt), the fact was we'd be arriving in Panama in the wee hours of the morning. A little extra time on the road wasn't going to delay any plans we had. So we sat and watched The Last Passenger and read. After about an hour, without any explanation or warning, the bus roared to life and we were back underway.

Then the bus stopped again at 5:00 p.m. (right in the middle of Puss in Boots) for dinner at a soda near Palma Sur. We all filed off the bus, got into line, and ordered food from a buffet-style set-up. At 5:30, the driver sounded the horn and everyone scurried to get back on. Samantha and Jackie were in the bathroom and had to hoof it back to get on the bus; these boys weren't waiting for anyone. It makes me wonder how often a passenger misses the bus at one of these stops.

So, now satiated and hydrated, we got back on the road, but not for long (relatively speaking) ... we were only 15 minutes into Iron Man when we arrived at the Costa Rica/Panama border.

Notable statistics:

  • Hours driving: 2.25
  • Hours riding in a bus: 7.25
  • Movies seen: 4 (plus 15 minutes)
  • Snacks eaten: 6

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Leaving Costa Rica
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