Ticabus is one of the nice bus lines which travels all over central America. (Transnica is another one that goes from San Jose to Granada and Managua, Nicaragua)
Ticabus has a couple classes of service. If you’re not absolutely on a budget and traveling here, we recommend spending the couple extra dollars and choosing the ejecutivo (executive) class of service.
(We learned this traveling from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, Argentina on Andesmar buses in 2008.
Also, if you take the Ticabus, dress warm, or at least be prepared for the bus to be cold.
It was seriously like the polar express on board (with cranked air conditioning), which is much better than it being too hot. Just dress warm, or at least in long sleeves.)
Ticabus used to pick up travelers to Nicaragua in the center of San Jose.
This is not the case anymore (at least not as of the date of this post), as Ticabus now has their own terminal…
As mentioned in another post, we discovered this (by accident) about Ticabus at the Costa Rica Backpacker’s hostel.
(*by the way, Costa Rica backpackers seems like a decent hostel – not that I have any basis for comparison since it was my first time at a hostel, but I thought it was fine for a night, and especially, a short night for us since we had to be at Ticabus at 3AM*.)
Showing up at the Ticabus terminal at Paseo Colon (southwest side of San Jose) at 3AM is not advised if you haven’t pre-purchased your tickets for your travel.
We tried to get our tickets on Sunday in San Jose, but didn’t get our tickets bought soon enough (before the Ticabus office closed on Sunday – to be honest, we don’t even know if the Ticabus office in downtown San Jose is open on Sunday, because we never found it).
However, being in San Jose gave us a chance to go back by the park in San Jose and get a churro filled with Dulce de Leche (caramel).
So we got up at 2AM, the hostel called us a taxi, which drove us directly to the terminal.
Fortunately, there were 2 (and only 2) seats available on the bus to Nicaragua (which is actually the bus to El Salvador, but stops in Managua, Nicaragua).
So we got on the bus with our bags and did the nodding head bob until about 6:30 AM when we got breakfast.
This was a nice surprise!
Breakfast was apparently picked up from Burger King as we got little boxes that looked like mini-Ticabuses with Burger King stickers on them (should have had my camera – the boxes had little pop-out wheels so you could have a cardboard bus to play with).
Basically breakfast on Ticabus consisted of fried french toast sticks that you could dip into syrup (not the most nutritious breakfast, but a nice surprise nonetheless).
About 30 minutes after breakfast was the border between San Jose and Costa Rica.
We got stamped out of Costa Rica after a long line (but we didn’t have to take our bags off of the bus), and went to do immigration into Nicaragua.
Between Costa Rica and Nicaragua, there was some lady who was asked to get off the bus.
We waited for her for half an hour while they questioned her and checked her bags.
We could watch it from the bus, and I’m not sure if she just had a bad record, but she was being grilled with questions for sure.
When it was clear she wasn’t getting back on the bus, they took us to take our bags off the bus for immigration into Nicaragua.
Again, as when we rode Tracopa from David, Panama into San Jose, Costa Rica, the bag check pretty much consisted of my unzipping my bag and the customs official letting me pass… although this time they looked inside and saw there was Panamanian coffee there.
I must have tourist written on me (somewhere?) because he just smiled and said I was good to go.
I don’t know what happened with that lady we were waiting for, but she never got back on the bus after her lengthy customs interview.
We’ve discovered after the fact that we could have asked Ticabus to take us directly to Granada and all the people on the bus going to Managua or continuing on to El Salvador would have had to go out of the way with us to drop us off in Granada.
Buses here are funny like that. They will inconvenience a bus full of people just to drop one set of people in a different location, as long as it’s close.
What defines close (I think) depends on the driver, the company, and who knows what else.
From the Ticabus terminal (or maybe just a Ticabus drop off point) in Managua, we took a taxi to the UCA (Universidad Centro America) bus station in Managua.
As Carrie told a guy (who was drumming up customers for his bus) “Granada”, I told another guy (Guy #2) “Granada”. (He was drumming up customers for a different bus).
The first guy grabbed Carrie’s bag and ran (RAN!) with it to his bus, while guy #2 grabbed my bag and was trying to carry it to a different bus.
(The local bus system here is a whole conversation unto itself.)
This seemed not right to me (Carrie and I getting on different buses), so I grabbed my bag, and the first guy (who had loaded Carrie’s bag) came back and grabbed my bag as well.
This resulted in Guy #1, Guy #2, and me having a 3-way tug-of-war over my bag.
It was rather humorous (once I figured out what was going on) as the two guys from competing bus companies literally fought over my bag to try and get me as their customer for the 1 hour bus ride to Granada from Managua.
Guy #2 eventually let go of my bag as I said “Mi esposa es ayi” (My wife is over there), and I boarded the bus with Carrie.
The craziest thing about their fighting over my bag (and me as a customer), is the cost of the ride to Granada from Managua…
35 Cordobas – about $1.75.
Update February 11, 2010
Here’s a video I made about Ticabus in Central America