David, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica on Tracopa

By Bus from San José, Costa Rica to David, Panama through Paso Canoas

We’ve heard that three different companies make the journey from David, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica. Panaline, Ticabus and Tracopa.

However, we are not sure if Panaline is even in business anymore since their web site has never worked. They might just not have a web site… we really don’t know.

In any case, to see bus schedules and prices, you can visit these two sites for TicaBus and Tracopa.
http://www.ticabus.com/ing_flotilla.html
http://www.tracopacr.com/rutas.html (Spanish only)

We also found a web site through the Lonely Planet travel forums. It aggregates the bus schedules into one place and has been very helpful (once we figured out how to use it).
http://www.thebusschedule.com/pa/index.php

it shows that Panaline is still in business (+507-314-6383), but we didn’t take (or even call) Panaline. We wanted to take TicaBus, but we discovered in David that the only place to get a ticket on TicaBus is at their office which is somewhere at a grocery store on the InterAmericana Highway.

Since we were at Hotel Madrid, just two blocks from the bus station, we took Tracopa. And we found the journey from David, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica to be pleasant, if a little cramped.

tracopa bus office in David, Panama

From David to the border (Frontera) it should take 45 minutes to one and a half hours. It really depends on the speed of the bus and the flow of traffic.

Overall though, the bus journey from David to the border to San José can take from 6 – 9 hours. Why such a big margin? Well, the roads in Costa Rica aren’t that good. The highway was fine, but cities have lots of bumpy roads. Also, at the border, sometimes buses can run into huge lines of trucks in front of them.

Crossing the border can take from 1 – 3 hours because of bureaucracy (Panamanian and Costa Rican combined).

Our personal experience is that it took 2+ hours at the border, and the crazy goofiness of the whole thing (unloading bags just to reload them, and then 5 minutes per person just to get a stamp on the Panamanian side. The Costa Rican side was basically going through the motions of a bag check, which really seemed to be there just to hold people up on the Costa Rican side.)

It was rather amusing to do once, but not something I would want to do daily, or even every three months, as many expats do.

In my mind, the only way to look at it is with amusement. If you look at the border crossing at Pasao Canoas in any other way, you’re bound to be frustrated.

Roads in Panama are definitively better than their counterpart in Costa Rica.

Tracopa leaves from David to San Jose at 8:30 a.m. They stop at San Jose (as well as other places along the way. Tracopa’s phone number in David is +507-775-0585.

Apparently, (though we don’t have personal experience with Ticabus yet) Ticabus leaves from San José to Panama City at 12:00 p.m. noon and 11:00 p.m. Their buses from Panama City to San José, Costa Rica leave at 11:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. The daytime buses are nicer buses known as “Ejecutivos”. Their phone number in Panama City is +507-314-6385.

You can also look for a bus to the Costa Rican border, and buses from there to San Jose every hour or so.

But if you’re in David and wanting to get to San Jose, we can definitely recommend Tracopa.

Here’s a map with the Hotel Madrid and the bus station in David. Zoom out or zoom in to get better views.

Buy your tickets on Tracopa the day before (or get to the Tracopa office early on the day of your travel to Costa Rica).

Tracopa’s office at the bus terminal in David is easy to miss.

It’s a little storefront (little) between platforms 3 and 4.

Here’s a pic with people standing in front of Tracopa’s office (so you’ll know what to look for).
tracopa bus office in David, Panama

This article by Jonathan Kraft

If you found this helpful, please comment below.

59 thoughts on “David, Panama to San Jose, Costa Rica on Tracopa

    1. Harry

      Yes, my wife and I did that trip on April 9th 2012. We started our journey at Albrook mall Panama city at 11pm sharp on Monday April 9th, on Expreso Panama. When we reach the border Tica bus was a few minutes behind us. We do not speak Spanish but there was other travelers who were very helpful. Seventeen hours later we were in San Jose terminal. The bus was very comfortable we enjoyed our $35.00 trip.The bus made three pit stops. The border opens from 7am to 11pm. At 9am we were on our way to San Jose. That border crossing is a 3rd world experience.Nothing like Canada-US crossing. The bus took the new high way through Jaco. We enjoyed our trip.
      Harry.

  1. Liz D

    Very useful. I´ve been going mad trying to find info online, esp for Panaline, and came across this by chance. Thanks for making the time to post this info.

  2. David Astley

    Thanks for this info. Very helpful. Until I came across your website (after googling for Tracopa buses) I thought Tracopa only operated from the CR side of the border – but now knowing it operates from David makes it much easier for us.

  3. Victor

    Hey,
    Thanks so much for the details, my girlfriend and I are planning to head out tomorrow to Nicaragua from David, but most likely we’ll have to spend the night in San Jose…How much it costs to reach San Jose from David via Tracopa?
    Cheers

  4. Brenda

    Hello and what a great web-site. My husband & I moved to David, 2 months ago from Canada, and we have guests visiting us right now and we are looking for a phone number, to call you to get more info and to booked a tour. Thank you so much.
    Brenda & Bob

  5. Luis

    Thanks for detailed info about travelling David-San Jose. Try to make this route next month!
    greetings from germany, luis

      1. Luis

        hi,

        i plan to start in march 26 from panama by bus trough costa rica,nicaragua,honduras, el salvador to guatemala finally.hop to come back to germany at end of april.
        greetings and thanks, luis

  6. Jean

    Hey, thanks for the info, very useful. I was googleing “bus from David to Costa Rica” and found your blog.

    My intention is to move to Panama in a few weeks but as a tourist for now. I’m flying from NY and didn’t want to buy a r/t ticket because I have no idea when I’ll be back. Since they ask for a ticket out of Panama when you land there, I was wondering if I could just buy a bus ticket online from Panama to CR and show it to immigration at PTY -heard anything like that before?

    Thanks for your ideas!

    1. strive4impact Post author

      Hey Jean,

      Getting a bus ticket out would be a good idea, yes. The challenge is that we don’t know of a bus company that does online bookings in this part of the world. I know it’s hard to believe, but neither Tracopa or TicaBus accepted online bookings when we were last in central America (January 2010).

      You may be able to find a bus company at http://www.TheBusSchedule.com that can help you do an online booking out of Panama into CR.

      Hope you have a great time… if you think about it while there, please drop us a line and let us know what you think!

      1. Jean

        I might contact a travel agency in Panama to buy me a bus ticket and mail it over. I speak Spanish fluently, so at least I’ll be able to explain myself. We’ll see if the idea sinks in… I’ll let you know!

  7. erica

    gracias! i am an american traveling around venezuela-colombia-panama-nicaragua and needed a cheaper way then flying to get from david to managua nicaragua and found your blog when googling! very useful and helpful!!

    1. strive4impact Post author

      Hey Erica! I’m glad it was helpful for you! If you’re going from David to Managua, I’d recommend Tracopa to San Jose, CR, and then Ticabus Ejecutivo Class from San Jose to Managua. How are you enjoying your travels, and how was Venezuela?

  8. erica

    Venezuela is awesome! Aside from all the mosquitos! But im going to Canaima (angel falls) tomorrow and then back to Caracas this weekend, Isla margarita next week, then Cartagena Colombia for a few nights, then Panama City to catch a bus to Santa Catalina Panama, then to David for a bus to Managua. I really need to know how long the buses take, as close to exact hours as possible to ensure I arrive to Managua on time. (Im doing a yoga teacher training program that starts the 10th of Oct). So I need to know when I should depart Santa Catalina to start the bus traveling to Managua in order to arrive in Managua no later than the night of the 9th of October. How long was your bus trips? and is it recommended to book tickets for the buses in advance online or is it for sure possible to get a ticket same day? Thanks!!!!!!

    1. Jonathan (in Germany)

      I would recommend getting your tickets as early as possible. We ended up 1 day extra in David because we couldn’t get bus tix same day, and we stayed longer in Granada, Nicaragua than planned (was okay b/c we liked Granada) because bus tickets for TicaBus were booked.

      Times:
      Panama City to David (we took the overnight bus from David to Panama City) – 6 1/2 hours
      David to San Jose – 8 hours
      San Jose to Granada (I honestly don’t remember, but at least 8 hours).

      As said, book as early as you can. Two years ago, no bus company that we found took online booking – your results may be the same or different now. Also, timeframes in Central America aren’t as important as they are in the US or Germany. I don’t know how it is in Venezuela, but I would plan on being wherever you need to be at least 1 full day before you need to get there (more than 24 hours) to allow for delays or issues.

      Let us know how it goes for you. Sounds like Venezuela is awesome! Would love to see Angel Falls as I’ve heard it’s incredible!

  9. Bruno C.

    Thanks a bunch, Carrie & Jonothan. I’m arriving in San Jose, CR, via Sprit Airlines on Saturday, November 19th,around 1:30 AM and there are no flights from SJ to David available on that day. And my next option, is to travel to David by bus from SJ. I already checked Ticabus but is good to know about your experience with Tracopa. Have a great time you both where ever you are now! Peace,

    Bruno

    1. carrie

      Hi Bruno,

      We’ve also taken Ticabus to David. One thing to note, is that (at least when we went 2 years ago), the VIP service wouldn’t stop in David. Only the basic service would. All in all, both companies were about the same. Ticabus is a little easier to use because they actually have a website with some basic information (though it would be nice if you could buy tickets through it).

      Let us know how it goes! Have a great trip!
      Carrie

  10. Delivery Costa Rica

    This article was extremely helpful, the founder of our delivery business in Costa Rica has to leave the country on a business trip to Panama City and he wants to see the country so he is taking a bus. Finding information online about Tracopa in English is very difficult so this article was invaluable. Thank you so much! Happy Holidays from all of us at Delivery Costa Rica!

    1. strive4impact Post author

      Hey DeliveryCR,

      I’m really glad that our write-up was helpful for you. There’s not a lot of information online about Tracopa in Spanish or English, so I’m glad that we could be of help for you. What all do you deliver and how long have you been in business?

      1. Delivery Costa Rica

        Thanks for the timely response. We are a start-up company filling the void for English speaking tourists, foreigners, and Ticos in Costa Rica in the delivery/convenience industry. We work with local farmers and business owners to process food orders, and in doing so we uplift the country by working on the ground level wherever we can. We believe in working with local producers as much as possible, trying to be sustainable, and socially and environmentally friendly with everything that we do. However, we also sell (out of necessity) all of the major products to you would expect to find at a local super market within Costa Rica. We are in the process of partnering with local breweries, bakeries, and wineries. There is a surprising amount of quality food and drinks in the country, they just have a hard time reaching the masses with their marketing, so we are here to help facilitate that. Within the next few weeks we will have a comprehensive online store with all of our products, and the ability to pay with a credit card directly online over a secure SSL/Firewall connection. The main company that owns our service delivery.cr is called Express Delivery SA, which is a corporation registered in Costa Rica.

        Charity is another thing we are very excited about, we will be donating to the Mckee Foundation to rescue street dogs and find them homes. So all together we work with the local farmers, business owners, and this charity. Obviously we are a for profit business model, but that doesn’t mean we cannot be good corporate citizens at the same time.

        “Your door to door super market in Costa Rica”

        Have a great holiday season and do not hesitate to let us know if you have any further questions.

        1. Debbie King

          YEAHHH Ant help for helping the pathetic plight of stray dog sin Costa Rica is a blessing TICOS Paya fortune to BUY pedigrees to show off, while ABUSING he poor mutts on the streets ..EVEN if they do not think them good enough to be part of their family, they could pay the measly sum of about 6ooo colones $12 and have them NEUTERED ( MANY KIND Vets will give discounts for orphans) The stitches ,hopefully the dissolving kind, If not Take them Back to vet to remove stitches and if necessary put them back on the streets and HOPE they survive.. At Least that would be maybe NINE less homeless animals slowly starving to death or being poisoned with plant Insecticide to die a SLOW PAINFUL DEATH.

          Costa Ricans NEED to BE EDUCATED.. by PARENTS,SCHOOLS, CHURCHES,.
          As a so- called “CHRSTIAN” Country they should be TAUGHT that ALL animals are GOD’s Children and they should NOT BUY PETS for Prestige but adopt a loving mutt who will give his life out of loyalty and gratefulness for THEM.
          I hope your Charity is not as some are PURELY to make money from poor helpless lonely staving dogs and cats HELP them with LEARNING How WRONG abuse is and CUTTING OFF dogs tails to make them look like PEDIGREES s a SIN.I would LOVE to cut their tails off and SEE how much it would HURT !

  11. Fene Cartlidge

    As always your site is filled with great information. Took a little trip from Boquete and are now in Arenal with great views of the volcano. Your bus to San Jose article was perfect.

    See you guys in Boquete in a few months!

    Fene

      1. Fene Cartlidge

        Loving Costa Rica so far. Have been to Arenal and Tamarindo and are heading to Manuel Antonio beach tomorrow. You can check me out on facebook for a few pictures – will get to updating the website when I gate home.

        Fene Cartlidge

  12. Simon & Kristine

    hi guys!! found this article exrtremely helpful in getting our ticket out of David, Panama; for purely beaurocratic resons only! We will actually be crossing into CR via the Carribean Border with local buses as we want to visit rasta-land after Bocas.. We are in Boquete now and tomorrow the coffee and flower festival begins! Any ideas on where we need to get to from Bocas in order to catch a bus to the Carribean border crossing?

    Many thanks,

    S&K

    1. strive4impact Post author

      We did this travel in reverse, going from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica, to Bocas Del Toro, Panama. As I recall, we booked a shuttle from Puerto Viejo with a slightly shady guy (but turned out fine), and the bus took us through major banana plantations, the scariest bridge ever (Sixaola Bridge), and then to a town in Panama called Almirante (the part we saw was an armpit of a place), and took a boat out to Bocas (which was an amazing 1 hour ride over smooth water, but would be rough on a choppy day).

      So maybe see about doing all of that in reverse? Not sure how exactly, but that’s what we did to get to Bocas from Puerto Viejo.

      We were in Boquete for the flower festival in 2010. Hope you really are enjoying it!

      We stayed at Hotel Angela in Bocas (highly recommended) with an owner named Claudio (really nice guy).

      You might also be interested to read our thoughts after a week in Bocas Del Toro.

  13. Ron

    I went to thebusschedule.com and it shows the times I like to leave San Jose to get to David, but it is blank in the transport company column is blank, so how can I figure out what company or how to get there?

    Also, I go to the TicoBus site and it says explicity that they only go capital to capital and their schedule only shows San Jose to Panama City and return. Nothing about David.

    1. strive4impact Post author

      Hi Ron,

      Thanks for visiting and taking a look. Based on our experience taking TicaBus from San Jose to Panama City, TicaBus will drop you off (if you ask) in David. They may not say so on their web site, and they may charge you for the full leg from San Jose to Panama City, but we’ve seen people get off of TicaBus in David (since they go right through David anyway).

      The border between Costa Rica and Panama is quite an adventure… at least it has been for us every time we’ve gone through there. Just forwarning. Nothing major – just a lot of people and a lot of milling about – keep your belongings close.

      If you are flying in to San Jose though, and take a taxi from the airport to the bus station in San Jose, you will find a bus to take you to David (Pronounced: Dah-veed) We took Tracopa (phone number above) from David to San Jose, and we know they go in reverse… However, there are (supposedly) also multiple bus stations in San Jose. So… we’ve not given you a conclusive answer here, but a way to look up and find out what way is going to work for you.

      I recommend calling Tracopa and seeing if you can get more definite answers on the phone… remember that the bus companies’ websites aren’t always updated and routes change, so it’s best to talk with someone directly.

      Hope that’s at least somewhat helpful for you!

      Warmest,
      Jonathan

  14. Cheryl

    Thank you for the information. I have been asking around and no one seems to know, so I was so happy to find your site, as it told me everything I wanted to know. I will get my ticket today and leave tomorrow.
    Thanks, Cheryl

  15. Victor N

    Man, your website page was a savior ! A Canadian, I am trying to get on a bus , preferably Ejecutivo for the comfort and day travel, from David or Paso Canoas on the Panama side to Panama city .

    It seems Panaline and Tracopa are the same line .

    WARNING : I discover , by chance, that Tica Bus does NOT operate on Holy Friday ( Santo Viernes).

    They do not trust credit cards and so the only way to pay is Cash ( Efectivos ).

    To purchase tickets from Tracopa , it is in David.
    To purchase tickets from Tica, only at Paso Canoas from an Agency called
    Agencia Paso Canoas, Villa Flores, casa #38 A

    Thank you so much !

    1. strive4impact Post author

      Hey Victor,

      Thank-you very much for contributing your comments and letting people know what you’ve learned! By adding your comments, you make this article more useful for everyone traveling in Central America. I hope you really enjoy your travels! Where all have you been/will you go?

      Thank-you for making the time to say thank you and for commenting to let us know that this post was helpful for you!

  16. Dave Thomas

    Hey Jonathan, I should have read your article fully, would have saved me lots of trouble time locating the Tracopa bus counter at the David Terminal. I did not take the Tracopa bus to Frontera but opted out to take the Frontera David bus for $1.50 versus the $7.50 on Tracopa. Tracopa charges $21 for David to San Jose and $13.50 From Conoas to San Jose. You also save a lot of time, the hassles of much of the border crossing in the middle of the crowd created by the bus you are on going through the check point is avoided and you miss much of the searching BS. You do get scanned but it is very light since you are already in Costa Rica. The main roads in Panama have it hands down over Costa Rica but Costa Rica does have much better cleanliness and infrastructure in its towns and cities. Panama is trying but there is a long way to go.

    A last word of Caution to Tourists in David, once the taxi drivers figure out that you are not a Spanish speaker, their prices go up. It can literally cost $1.00 to ride a taxi across a street.

    Thanks and your article was right on, my trip was this weekend, 10/20/12

    David

  17. Mooreodb

    Hi guys, I am going to head to Panama soon to start a spanish school in Boquete. After school, I am heading to Jaco, Costa Rica to see a friend. I am thinking most of these buses are direct routes to San Jose. Am I able to take a bus from David to Jaco or somewhere near it or will I have to go to San Jose first? Thanks. Your page definitely is helpful.

    1. strive4impact Post author

      Hey!

      I’m not sure if you can go directly from David to Jaco or not. I would go to the bus terminal in David and find out… or ask some of the gringos in Boquete… someone there will definitely be able to point you in the right direction.

      How long will you be at the school in Boquete? You know it’s one of our favorite places in the world, right?

      1. Mooreodb

        I will be in Boquete for about a month as a home base and probably do some weekend outings to other places in Panama. Well I am excited to hear it is such a great place. I picked it mostly because I want to learn and not sweat but I am sure it’s great. Thanks a lot.

  18. James Caldwell

    Hey Jon and Carrie,

    Thanks for the info! I’ve crossed the CR-Nicaragua border by Ticabus and by Alamo rent-a-car. The bus is SO much easier and WAY cheaper than rental, which entails switching cars at the border. Have also crossed the CR-Panama border on the Caribbean side, travelling from Jaco to San Jose to Puerto Viejo to Sixaola to Guabito to Changuinola to Almirante to Bocas Town, Bocas Del Toro and back the same way. In February I’ll be taking the Ticabus from Jaco to David and have already bought my ticket (San Jose to Panama City).

    Looks like Tracopa will be my return bus from David and hopefully I can hop off near Maxi Pali in Jaco. However, not sure where I can buy this ticket in Costa Rica (preferably in Jaco or in San Jose if necessary). I will need to show my return Tracopa bus ticket when entering Panama so I can’t just buy it in David. Any suggestions?

    1. strive4impact Post author

      Sixaola bridge was SUPER scary!

      When we went, we had return plane flights, so we didn’t need the bus ticket. I’d just pay for the round trip in San Jose…

      Hope that’s helpful!

  19. Smash

    I was wondering if by taking the bus from David to San Jose it would be possible to hop off in Jaco or Parrita or Quepos rather than taking the full commute to San Jose. Were there any passengers with alternate stops along the way?

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