Costa Rican tourist visas last only 90 days. To renew them, you have to leave the country for 72 hours and then hop back accross the border to get a new one. So I am spending a few days in Panama, which is only a few hours away by bus.
Buses in Costa Rica, like buses in most of the world, are an experience. While the stations, ticket counters, baggage system, and routes may seem complicated, there is method to the chaos. So many people use this system, so it has to work.
Buying a ticket is only done in major cities or for long distances. Otherwise you find your bus by looking for the name of your destination emblazoned on the windshield in large gaudy gothic-print letters. Then shuffle your way on board–you will pay when you leave. If you bought a ticket with an assigned seat, do not expect to sit in that seat. The seat numbers are practically for decoration only.
Once seated, a man will board the bus and stand in the aisle. This man is the loudest person in Costa Rica, and will rattle off a rapid-rife torrent of in-ride entertainment for purchase. Short of a caffeineted auctioneer I have no idea how someone can talk so fast. Music, games, and DVDs are offered, movies with their own little summary blurb. All content is announced at the same volume and tone, from documentaries (“Treasures of the Forest: Learn about Costa Rican rich biodiversity!”) to pirated sci-fi (Interstellar: a grand epic of journies accross the dimension!”) to porn (“XXX Fun in the Sun: she is a saucy little minx, and she gets it in the ass!”)
Then the trip will get under way, the bus roaring around impossibly tight corners and dodging bikes, cows, other buses, anything. There is usually AC, so enjoy being cool for a few hours. Grab a snack from the vendors that parade their wares past the windowns on the ends of long sticks at rest stops. And take in the sights. This country is beautiful.