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 roadside 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 🙂


See Heidi’s comment below for more up-to-date information about currency exchange at the border.

55 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.


    • 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.

      • Colombia is fairly easy to get around by bus. There are many different bus companies. I went from colombia to ecuador by bus. Im not sure if this company goes to brazil but check it out its called rutas de Americas bus company

  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.

  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.

  7. Great information!
    Just to be clear, if I am travelling from Panama City to San Jose, then after my stay in CR, San Jose to Managua, the only thing I need is m flight itinerary to prove I am leaving, and some cash to get tourist stamps at the border?

    Side note, there is a Ticabus stop in Rivas, correct? We are planning to go out to Ometepe island.. and then we catch a flight from Managua back home.
    Is there a bus that runs from Rivas to Managua airport?

    • Hey Blare,

      It’s pretty much that simple. You have to have a document showing you are leaving whichever country you are entering. So if your flight is out of Managua, that is good for entering Nicaragua.

      It doesn’t look like anyone has commented recently on how much the entrance tax is if there even is one, but I’d expect less than $20. They may want to see cash or a credit card just to prove that you have the funds to take care of yourself.

      There is a link to the Tica Bus website in the first paragraph of the article. Yes, they have a stop in Rivas, but feel free to look over their maps and schedules for more information. Rivas is not a main terminal so they don’t have their hours scheduled, but they do have a number you can call for more information.

      Good Luck,


  8. I bet he was the same guy who swindled my friend and I out of our money at the border when crossing into Nicaragua 5 years ago.

    I would love to go back and get the rest of our money back from that con artist!

    Flying back down soon… he better watch out!

  9. Hey Jason,

    Just wondering if you saw many solo lady travelers? I’ve heard the bus is very safe from country to country within the costa/nica/pan stretch, any further n/s of that is sketchy land at the moment for solo surfers. Any imput?

    • Hey Danielle,

      Most of the busses are pretty safe in the area. However, I will point out that petty theft can be fairly common if you don’t watch your stuff closely. Aside from that, there are some pretty decent spots and some shady ones between Panama and Nicaragua. Just make sure to ask around from place to place with other travelers or foreigners who live there to get a better idea of where exactly it’s safe and where it’s not. Once you find a safe place to start from, you shouldn’t have any trouble getting the info you need to stay safe.

  10. Hi thanks a lot for the helpful information. I was wondering if I have to book the ticket for the tica bus in advance? And as you speak about dollars. Do I have to bring dollars to pay the fees or do they accept other currency?

    • Hey Rahel,

      There’s nothing saying you have to book the tickets in advance, but it’s normally just good practice in case you accidentally try to travel on a busy travel day. As far as the currency is concerned, I just generally try to put everything in U.S. Dollars so that people can have a reference point when comparing prices between countries. You should usually use whatever currency is local.

      Please keep in mind that this article is now 3 years old. I’d love for someone to come back and update information, but I don’t see myself leaving Colombia to check the info for myself anytime soon.

      Have a great trip!

  11. Hoping that this thread will continue to be updated!

    My question: if we take the Tica bus from San Jose to Managua and get into Manague at around midnight, are we asking for trouble in Managua? I know in my travels that the area around bus terminals is often not the safest, and I’ve not heard great things about safety in Managua in general.

    Ultimately, we’re heading to Leon, so perhaps there is a way to just continue on to Leon from Managua in one fell swoop?

    Thank you!

  12. If I purchase a through ticket on TicanBus and it passes through do I still need to purchase a separate exit or does the ticket surface for entering and exiting the country.


  13. There is now an $8 departure tax for leaving CR by land. This is new.
    But I’m sure Tica Bus deals with this. YOu can buy the exit visa just before crossing the border.

    • Thanks for updating us Susannanell!

      You bring up a great point. I don’t think I mentioned the fact that you can pay your exit tax early. I never bothered doing it on ground travel because I usually just went when I was in the mood, but it’s CRITICAL when flying out. That line to pay your exit tax can be a horrible sometimes when flying out. If you don’t get there very early, it can be the difference between making your flight and missing it. Of course, I haven’t been there in a couple of years now and that may have changed.

      Thanks Again,


  14. Hey Jason, thanks for all the helpful info. Have you heard of any bus from SJ to Managua that goes overnight? Seems like a big waste of a day!

    • Hey Tom,

      I’d say check the bus schedule, but it’s been years since I’ve been now. So much could have changed that I don’t want to give out bad information. If you make it to Colombia, I should be able to give much better answers.

  15. Hi!

    I’m traveling to San Jose from Panama in January. I’m having trouble understanding the Tica Bus website, so I just have a few questions I am wondering about. Where exactly does the bus drop you off in San Jose? Can I buy my ticket online or over the phone? How many days in advance should I buy my ticket? Is there an entrance fee to Costa Rica and if so can I pay cash? THANK YOU SO MUCH IN ADVANCE!!!!


    • Hey Kyla,

      First of all, i’d recommend checking out this article if you haven’t seen it yet (http://thisgringotravels.com/2013/01/21/pasa-canoas-frontera-costa-rica-panama/) It is specific to Panama and Costa Rica. I’ve made that trip a few times since and things seem to be about the same.

      Now, before we get to your questions, please keep in mind that I have not been to San Jose in a couple of years now and a lot could have changed.

      The Tica bus goes to the bus terminal in San Jose. That’s about a 10-15 minute taxi ride from downtown. I can’t be any more specific, but you should have no problem getting a taxi to wherever you need to go. May be buses to get around town if your Spanish is good and you’re on a tight budget.

      I’m pretty sure you “can” buy your tickets online, but I’d say pick up your tickets in person. A day or two in advance will keep you on schedule in case there’s a major travel holiday, but most of the time you can actually buy just before leaving and be fine. I’d say check with whoever you’re staying with in Panama if you can. I usually took the “I’ll buy my ticket when I’m ready to leave” approach and only once had to wait another day.

      I don’t believe you have to pay anything between Costa Rica and Panama. They have a fairly open border policy between the two countries, but they may ask you for a leaving ticket and to show cash or credit card. See the other article for more on that.

      I think that’s it. Let me know if you have any more questions.

      Good Luck

    • Hey Hank,

      I’m not sure how I didn’t see this comment before, but there is a link to the Tica Bus website in the post. If that doesn’t work, I’m not sure. It’s just been too long.

      Safe Travels,


  16. Hi I know this article is a little old, so I am not sure if the info is outdated or still useful. My questions are is it cheaper to take a taxi from the Liberia airport (where I am landing) to the bus station, and where is it located? Once at the bus station, which is the best bus line to take (Tica bus or..)? I have a one way ticket for Managua because I plan to stay 90 days but purchase a round trip during my stay. I read in earlier responses to this article that one could print a fake itinerary showing departure from Nicaragua within 90 days. I also read that a round-trip bus ticket also suffices. Do I purchase the round trip ticket before flying into Liberia? I am currently in Nicaragua on vacation but want to return and continue working volunteer work with a small school that I discovered outside San Juan del sur. I am flying into Liberia as opposed to Managua because the ticket was much more affordable, but it sounds like entering through CR can be complicated. I do hope someone can help me navigate this entry-exit maze. Thanks

  17. Hey Beth,

    It has been too long to answer some of your questions. The Tica Bus is a major bus line that runs through most of Central America, so I’d say that it might be the one to go with if you’re a believer in “better safe than sorry”. I just don’t know if any others have improved their reliability or cleanliness.

    A round trip ticket will suffice. Basically, every country will be looking for proof that you are leaving. So when you enter Costa Rica, they’ll want to see a ticket out of the country and Nicaragua will be fine. Then when you go back to Nicaragua, just make sure you already have a ticket leaving the country. You basically always have to stay one exit ahead of where you’re going and you should be fine. This still applies to other countries I’ve been in recently, so I don’t imagine it’s changed in Costa Rica/Nicaragua.

    For the most part, I think we’ve discussed all of the complications you’re likely to run into. It really shouldn’t be that difficult. If you speak a reasonable amount of Spanish and plan properly, it shouldn’t be difficult at all. I also found the Tica Bus staff to be helpful on my trip, but it has been a long time.

    Just keep in mind that this post was intended to be for beginner level travelers or non-Spanish speakers. In fact the whole site was based on that idea and I quit writing on it once I learned enough Spanish that I no longer ran into beginner issues. So if you’re already in Nicaragua, chances are you won’t run into a lot of the issues as long as you have your taxes and exit itineraries.

    Best Wishes,


  18. Hi there,

    wonderful information as we are about to cross over to Costa Rica.
    Couple of questions:

    We are leaving from granada and are hoping to make it to playa el coco hopefully in the same day. Do you think this is doable? And any companies you might suggest that do this service?

    Also, if i print out my plane ticket out of San Jose, will they accept that and not make me buy a bus ticket out of the country?

    Thank you.


    • Hey Robert,

      You shouldn’t have any problem making it from Grenada to Playa Del Coco in a day. The Tica Bus should take you to Liberia where you’ll have to catch a local bus or taxi. Sorry I don’t know enough to make any recommendations there. Check with wherever you’re staying. They should be able to give you better local details.

      Your plane ticket will work just fine for crossing the border. As long as you have something that looks legit, there shouldn’t be any problems.

      Safe Travels,


  19. its my first time ever going to Central America and I’m flying into Liberia, Costa Rica and spending time all over the place. I am then heading over to Granada, Nicaragua. Do you know of a bus that goes straight from Liberia to Granada and approx. how much? I have a flight leaving from Granada, Nicaragua and want to be early..

  20. There is a bank on the Nica side of the border. That is the best place to change money at the border without being taken. Or there are atms at the tica customs/bathroom point so if your bank allows you to take your money out in colones, this is a good option when you are going back.

    • Thanks for the update Heidi. I don’t think those were there when I went through, but it has been about six years. A lot could have changed. I’ll make a note in the article to see your comment for more recent info.

      Safe Travels!

  21. hi! i was wondering if you knew if the Tica Bus stops in La Fortuna on its way to Granada (without having to go back to San Jose or switch buses several times…)? I found one site (Easyride) that has a bus service from La Fortuna to Granada, but am not sure i can rely on it! Thanks!

    • Hey Maria,

      Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for this. It’s been several years since I’ve been to Costa Rica and anything could have changed. Sorry I can’t be of more help. Good luck and safe travels!

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