We found Tica Bus online when we were looking for an easy, low cost option for doing our first border run / Panama trip since moving to Costa Rica. We were in a rush when purchasing the tickets and admittedly did not do very much research before purchasing the tickets. As the trip got closer, we began asking our local friends if they knew anything about the bus as well as looking online for answers and tips.
None of our local friends had experience with Tica Bus and there was close to nothing online as far as information on the bus. Having spent close to 20 hours on the bus now, we would like to share our experience and the information we gathered to help future Tica Bus travelers.
Booked Online: Ticabus.com
Departure Date: November 5, 2018
Departure Location: Quepos, (Frente Hospital), 2:20 am
Arrival Location: Playa Farallon Panama, 3:30 pm
Luggage Allowance: You are allowed to check 2 pieces of luggage per person (not to exceed 30Kg combined). You can also bring your personal items with you to your seat if you don’t mind having them at your feet or in the overhead compartment.
Cost: $55 USD per person/one way
Some things to keep in mind before booking
Be prepared for no one to speak English.
Coming from Costa Rica where most people know a little English, we weren’t expecting to find that no one on our route spoke any English. We have a basic foundation of Spanish, so that was enough to get us by – just prepared to speak in only Spanish.
Once you are on the bus, it is comfortable.
The seats on the bus were pretty comfortable (for a bus), but do remember to pack a sweater because they blast the AC!
It’s like Central America’s Greyhound
Tica Bus is definitely a budget-friendly option for traveling Central America, and what you pay for is what you get…
They serve you meals
But the food isn’t great. We had read that they usually stopped at McDonald’s and bought everyone Big Macs, but on our trips they stopped at soda’s along the way and handed out styrofoam boxes with gallo pinto and a questionable side of meat.
The time you leave/ arrive is extremely inconvenient.
The bus schedule can often leave you either waiting on the bus or arriving to your destination at not only inconvenient, but dangerous, times of the night. The bus in San Jose leaves at 11:55pm, so that meant by the time it got to our stop in Quepos, it was almost 3am. Not a great time to be waiting at a bus station. And on the way back from Panama, the bus arrives in San Jose around midnight. It’s possible to make it work, just keep this in mind when planning your trip.
The bus may or may not actually stop at your stop.
We would definitely recommend only using Tica Bus if you are getting on the bus at the terminal. You can purchase tickets for the other stops along its route, but there really is no guarantee that the buss will actually make that stop.
The border crossing process is painfully long.
The process leaving Costa Rica and entering Panama:
Pay taxes to leave Costa Rica ($8 a person).
Stand in line to get stamped to exit Costa Rica.
Walk across “Border”, it’s basically a small town/ intersection.
Stand in line to get stamped to enter Panama. Have proof of leaving Panama before 90 days ready.
Stand around waiting to be told to do.
Get all luggage out of bus and bring it into a room where you fill out customs paperwork, do roll call, and have your luggage searched.
Bus gets searched.
Entire Process: 2.5 hours Time of Day: 5:45 am
Leaving Panama, Entering Costa Rica:
Stamped to exit Panama.
Brought luggage into room to be searched.
Walk across “border”.
Stand in line to get stamped to enter Costa Rica. Have proof of leaving country before 90 days ready.
Brought luggage into another room to be searched on the Costa Rican side, the bus was searched at the same time.
Everyone reboards bus and we were on our way.
Entire Process: 30 mins Time of Day: 6:00 pm