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Costa Rica Bus Travel Safety Tip #1

Dec 29

Costa Rica has an amazing bus network that allows you to travel the country coast to coast for under $30. The bus system here is privately owned and each particular transit point is usually a seperate company. 

Despite the private ownership, they generally coordinate their schedules so if you arrive Libreria at 2pm from SJO, there ususally is a bus that will be ready to leave within the hour to your final destination. I will post an online bus schedule with the next few weeks so everyone will have an updated list.

While the the bus network is amazing, it is still used by the general population.  Usually each route has its daily passengers who are familiar with the driver and the other passengers as they travel to and from their destinations. Most of the people are friendly and generally leave you alone or will help you if you ask them questions. But there are passengers who use the bus to prey on tourists and other new passengers who are not familiar with the route.

Here is one way that these people will attempt to rob your possessions:

SRO – Standing Room Only

In Costa Rica, unlike back home, there is very little government regulation or oversight. SO it is not uncommon to have a bus loaded like sardines and still the driver will attempt to load more people. In this situation, thiefs will attempt to use the closeness to open your zippers on your backpack. While many of you might react to the last sentence as “Duh!” but it happens everyday to tourists and it will happen to you unless you take precautions. 

If you are standing for hours which is common for these routes, the thiefs have much time to try and open up your backpack. When the bus comes to an abrupt stop for traffic or the most opportune time for them is the routes normal bus stop.

Thiefs know where the bus stops are  and plan ahead for a justified slight bump into you with a smile on their face. During the bump one associate will reach infront of them and attempt to open your bag, while the associate directly behind you acts innocent and is likely to have both hands in plain view to keep your guard down. Thieves are very patient and will travel the entire bus route if they think you have something they might value.

Here are some simple tips to avoid the SRO theft:

  • If possible, keep your bags in front of you and up on your chest. If you have them at your feet, they are still vulnerable.
  • Before you leave home, get a bag of nylon cable ties and a small nail clipper. When you arrive in SJO, gather your passport, money, iPod, gum or whatever you will want frequent access to and put them in one pocket on the bag. All other pockets, use the nylon ties and secure the zippers  tightly. Do not trim them and buy the bright orange ones if you can, they will alert the thieves that you are aware of them. Keep the bag of ties and your nail clipper in your “frequent pocket” in case you forget something and you can easily remove the tie without cutting yourself.
  • For the pocket you will frequent, use heavy guage twistys or pipe cleaners and twist them many times, curl them up in a way to make them difficult for opportunity thefts.

Costa Rican Bus Safety Tips regardless of topic:

  • Do not depend on the driver to watch out for you. Often they are cohorts of the thieves.
  • Do not depend on altruistic behavior from the most adorable little old lady or sweet old man. Most people will look away and remain silent during the theft.

Unless you are a police officer or a recently discharge war vet you will not have the presence of mind for these thieves. Most victims will tell you they took precautions but almost every one of them overestimated their ability to read people and situations. Follow these suggestions and you will arrive with your items intact.

Check back on other surf vacation bus travel safety tips such as:

  • Stowed baggage and your surf board under the bus
  • Seating on the bus and overhead storage
  • Bus terminal tips

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