Tica Bus Trip to Nicaragua & Costa Rica

Tica Bus Trip to Nicaragua & Costa Rica

What is the Tica Bus?

Tica Bus at Nicaragua CustomsTica is used to refer to Costa Rica or it’s people, Tico for the fella’s.  There are a couple of different bus options when traveling from Costa Rica to other countries.  The Tica Bus came highly recommended.  The cost was $26 (USD) each way and went from San Jose, Costa Rica to Granada, Nicaragua.  It made several stops along the way and continued on to Managua and beyond.  The other common option would have been the Nica Bus.  While I like being cheap sometimes and enjoy testing the waters, it was made very clear to me that I should not take the Nica Bus.  I was told it would cost me about $5 and the best case scenario would be a miserable trip.  If anyone knows more about it feel free to share.

The Tica Bus Experience…

I found the Tica Bus to be a wonderful option for my travel from San Jose to Nicaragua.  I got up early and met my traveling partner for this leg of the trip, Tim, in the hotel lobby.  We caught a cab to the bus terminal and had no trouble getting our luggage checked and loaded onto the bus.  Almost nobody spoke English at the bus terminal but the process was so streamlined that following the crowd worked great.  I was still sick so I was relieved to find that I had both seats to myself!  I slept like a baby for about half the 8 hour trip.

The seats were reasonably comfortable.  The bathroom was in good condition.  There were movies on the TV screens and the volume was loud enough to hear without being overbearing.  I wouldn’t quite compare the traveling conditions to those of a luxury bus line in the States, but I thought it was slightly better than my experience with Greyhound.

Both the other passengers and the staff were very helpful.  There was a driver and an assistant on the bus.  The assistant came through occasionally like a stewardess with a cooler of food and customs forms.  He spoke no English, but he got his point across clearly.  I had the ham & cheese sammich on the trip north, and a cheeseburger on the return voyage.  I recommend the cheeseburger.  When the customs forms were collected, he looked over them for completeness and provided a new one if there was something wrong.  They collected the customs fees about 30 minutes prior to reaching the border and kept things moving smoothly.

On the trip north, almost all the work was done for us.  We got off the Tica Bus, walked around the road side stands looking at the trinkets and food being sold.  At the appropriate time, the bus driver announced that we needed to be checked and we walked through a short and simple customs line with our baggage.  It was very simple to figure out what was going on as they started unloading the luggage and a line naturally formed around the customs agent.  We did have to sit around for quite some time, but the process was more simple than I could have asked for.

The return trip south was not quite as pleasant.  The Costa Rican customs was a bit more stringent and we actually had to filter through several different checkpoints.  Entering Costa Rica on the Tica Bus required us to get out and go through several lines.  The bags were checked, we were checked, passports, etc.  The Tica bus personnel had done all they could to streamline the process, but it wasn’t quite as simple.

Important Tips!

When entering CR on the Tica Bus, you must have a departure ticket.  If you do not have an exit ticket they will make you buy a bus ticket out of CR or kick you back.  I had purchased my airline ticket online and luckily the lady accepted the receipt on my phone as valid proof.  It was not a check the box issue, she screened that ticket looking for a full name, departure date, flight number, reservation number, etc.  I’ve heard that some customs agents don’t allow this and will still make you buy a bus ticket.  This may be something they are just starting to allow.  Just be prepared to buy another bus ticket if push comes to shove.

DO NOT exchange money at the border without being 100% certain of the exchange rate.  I had a guy take me for about $20 buck while punching the numbers in on the calculator right in front of me.  They came up as we were being shuffled back on the bus and too busy trying to pay attention to the directions and flow of traffic to realize what was going on.  I only exchanged a small amount out of general caution, but got taken for quite a bit of it.  I knew better and have no idea what I was thinking.  Maybe I inherently knew that I needed to screw something up so I could have something to write about later :)

25 Responses to Tica Bus Trip to Nicaragua & Costa Rica

  1. Thank you so much for the information. I am planning to travel from Nica to CR in February. Your tips will come in very handy.

    All the best and good health.

    Doug

    • I really don’t remember anything with Nicaragua, but it may just not stand out to me. Costa Rica has a $28 departure tax. I recommend not waiting until you get to the airport if you’re flying out of Costa Rica, most hotels and banks can give you a receipt for your departure tax and save you from a very long line at the airport. The big fee usually comes in the way of buying tickets out of the respective country. Even when you’re only going one way, you may be required to have an exit ticket before entering. Buying one at the border or airport is always an option, but rarely your best option. Hope this helps.

  2. The departure tax is only paid when leaving the country by plane. No departure tax for leaving the country by vehicle.

    I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the issue as I have gone between Costa Rica and Nicaragua more times than I can remember.

    Public bus from Liberia to the border (Penas Blancas) is no that bad, the Costa Rican buses are much better compared to their Nicaraguan counter parts. There is a bus, run by a company called Deldua iirc, that has a direct bus from San Jose to the Border, long trip, but not that bad.

    The trip to Granada from the border is significantly less comfortable, but not terrible…if you get a seat. Standing can have you questioning yourself as to why you didn’t pay for a taxi or take the Tica Bus.

    To get to pretty much everyone from the border you need to go to Rivas, pretty much the only chicken bus you can catch at the Border.

    If you get a seat..its a nice alternative. I’m not a fan of doing it if I have more than a small bad or back pack as there are usually no places for storage and it gets cramped. If you have a large suitcase, they will secure it to the top of the bus…depending how you feel about that.

    • Thanks for keeping the information up-to-date, Guy. Just out of curiosity, how much do you save by taking the public transportation all the way? Everyone I’ve ever spoken with has agreed that it’s best to just take the Tica Bus.

      Of course, Liberia is a lot closer to the border than San Jose so it’s probably not a bad trip there. I took a public bus from Jaco to San Jose and the Tica Bus from San Jose to Rivas. For the reasonable price of the Tica Bus, I wouldn’t even consider taking the public bus that far.

      I didn’t go into much detail on it here, http://thisgringotravels.com/2012/07/20/returning-to-san-jose-costa-rica/ , but I caught a cold on the public bus from Jaco to San Jose that put me out for about two days and almost killed my trip to Nicaragua. I had a seat on the bus but a rather large family had gotten to it before me and I decided it was better not to claim my seat and be stuck in between all those kids. I slept on the floor for most of the trip.

    • That’s really going to depend on where you are going/coming from in Nicaragua obviously. I don’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure it was 3-4 hours to the border. Maybe someone else can chime in with more specifics if they’re still subscribed to this thread.

  3. Hey I am planning a month long trek down through central america into south america. I am starting in nica, where my cousin has a house, heading down towards Rivas, then want to head over to Costa Rica, then panama, Columbia Venezuela, Brazil… I am wondering if you have gone past cr? Either way, I am new to this being my first trip… and need to know the transportation routes to take from country to country… which by bus, which by train, which by boat… any advice is helpful! Thanks

    • Have I gone past CR? I’m in Colombia now…

      You can take the Tica Bus (linked to above in the first paragraph) from Nicaragua to Panama. In Panama you’ll have to find a boat to go into Colombia. I’m not personally advising anyone to go to Venezuela at the moment, but I’m not going to tell you not too. Buss routes in Colombia can be a little hectic at times and I generally try to fly if it’s more than a few hours on a bus, but it can be done. Brazil is going to be trickier. Make sure you have your visa before you leave the states.

      To be completely honest, if you only have a month, I wouldn’t plan on getting past Panama. It could be done but you’d be spending all of your time on busses and boats.

      Hope that helps. Feel free to go to the countries drop down menu and look over what I’ve done in Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama.
      Jason Crawford recently posted…Feria de las Flores: Medellin, ColombiaMy Profile

  4. Thanks for posting; I found it very helpful. I’m currently in Mexico and a friend and I are planning to use Tica from Chiapas, MX to eventually get down to Panama. I was wondering if you could give me any information about visas with respect to the different countries? We plan to spend about 5 days in each country (except El Salvador where we’re only planning to spend one night) and I just wasn’t sure if visas were necessary or really how that worked. Thanks!

    • Glad it helped Justin.

      While I haven’t personally been to each country in Central America, I’m sitting next to a guy who drove his motorcycle from the states and hit every country on the way down. He assures me that no country will require a visa. Just a tourist stamp when you enter.

      Some countries charge an entry tax and some an exit tax, but that should be about it as far as variations between the countries when crossing the borders.

      Hope that answers your question.

    • According to Guy above (third commenter not including myself) there are none for ground transportation. He says the $28 exit tax is only applicable to air travel. To be honest, I can’t personally remember. I haven’t left CR in over a year and the last time was to Panama. My last trip to Nicaragua was almost 2 years ago.

  5. Thanks for all of the great tips and warnings, they will definitely come in handy when I go to CR in May. I’m looking to go to Managua from Liberia. I’ve read may forums and blogs saying that people have done this using the Tica Bus but on the TicaBus website it only has the option of departing from San Jose? How can I determine departure times from Liberia? If not using the TicaBus, what is the easiest and most cost effective way of getting from Liberia to Managua?

    • Hey Lara,

      The Tica Bus definitely goes through Liberia. The catch is that you have to ask the people at the station what the schedule is, and be there a little early. The TicaBus website only shows departures from the main stations where they stop and wait for their next departure time. The other towns have a simple stop to pick up and move on again. I’m pretty sure there’s a Tica terminal in Liberia, but they may just have a standard pickup point. Don’t worry too much about it and get clarification when you arrive. I doubt you’ll be flying into Liberia, so you’ll probably know where the bus stop is as soon as you get there.

      Good luck and have a good trip!

        • You’re welcome Lara. As far as the language barriers, I’d need a lot more information for that one. How is your Spanish? Are you going with someone who speaks Spanish? Nicaragua can be tough without at least a baseline of Spanish, as can be parts of Costa Rica. I almost have a hard time imagining someone going to those places without having someone in the group who speaks the language, but I don’t know. Feel free to send an email via the contact page if you don’t want to share that info openly and check out my reviews on various products to learn Spanish below if you want to have a working knowledge before getting there.
          Jason Crawford recently posted…Spanish learning tools reviewMy Profile

  6. Does anyone know how long does it take to travel from Managua to Liberia, Costa Rica? My cousin is traveling in a few weeks on Tica Bus. Need to know. If there is anyone who knows, please give me a shout.

    • Just in case nobody else responds I’m going to throw out a wild guess. I think it’s going to be about 8 hours including the hour or two stuck at the border. Again, hopefully someone who actually knows can give you a more accurate answer.

    • 1) depending on where you’re trying to go within Nicaragua, I would expect between 5 & 20 USD.

      2) If memory serves, we took taxis to and from San Juan del Sur to the bus station on the main highway. They were fairly cheap taxis and from the bus station you can go wherever.

      Hope it helps.

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