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The behavior of trucks and buses in Costa Rica

Estimated Reading Time: 5 Minutes

The behavior of trucks and buses in Costa Rica

Expats and visiting tourists should know about the behavior of trucks and buses on the Costa Rican roads.

Most Costa Rican roads originated as oxcart paths in the valleys and on the winding hillsides. When these roads got converted to asphalt, they weren’t widened much.

Buses in Costa Rica are the kind you in find in North America and more often in Europe. The smallest buses are the school buses. They stop in some unusual places. Some bus stops are painted on the edge of the pavement with one parallel white and one yellow line.

Scheduled stops are no big deal. Buses will generally stop anywhere someone wants on or off. Buses stop in the middle of their lane because it’s a two-lane road with no shoulder. There’s little or no room for them to pull over. Sadly, it’s necessary because no one will yield to them to return to the road if they did pull over. Some roads are so narrow and trucks and buses on them are so wide that traffic must pull over let them by.

The behavior of trucks and buses in Costa Rica

Trucks in Costa Rica

Now to trucks, these are the kind you also see in North America. I know they weren’t designed to travel roads typically as narrow, steep, and windy as Costa Rica’s. But they do and they do it relatively well—just not very quickly.

However, my hat is off to those who drive large eighteen-wheelers with big loads on small steep roads.  There are plenty of small commercial trucks as well. Unfortunately, you will find slow going behind many of them. Usually, because of

  • Overloading,
  • Badly in need of an expensive tune-up,
  • And/or do not have the necessary horsepower to start with.

Garbage trucks can also generate quite a traffic jam on the narrow winding mountain roads of Costa Rica.

The behavior of trucks and buses in Costa Rica

Passing traffic

There are passing lanes on newer and larger well-traveled roads. Mostly in the direction headed uphill. They are usually clearly marked “Slower Traffic Keep Right” (in Spanish, of course).

Please do not expect it to happen. Generally, the signs are completely ignored no one moves over except the big trucks. So, you will generally be forced to head to the right lane to pass. Then you weave your way between big trucks and buses in the slow lane.

The behavior of trucks and buses in Costa Rica

My Theory

My theory is two-fold,

1) No Latin likes to admit that they aren’t driving the fastest vehicle,

2) It’s a competition and they feel if they can stay in front of you they’ll win by getting “there” ahead of you.

Double yellow line

Passing over a double yellow line is illegal. But it is a law broken by virtually everyone, which is why there are some terrible head-on accidents here.  Even I do it now. If you do it, be very careful. It can be dangerous for a bunch of reasons common in Costa Rica.

There may be a string of several trucks and buses ahead of you. Then, when you start your pass, there is nowhere to squeeze in between them when you need to get back in your lane. So, the “multi-vehicle pass” is required. The road won’t be straight very long if at all. Meaning your pass could come face-to-face with an oncoming vehicle.

Going uphill

The oncoming vehicle in question may be another big bus or truck with nowhere to inch over to let you by. And, if you are going uphill and they are coming down, they will be under a full head of steam. They’ll be on top of you in a hurry. Generally won’t get a view of much of the road ahead. And if you decide to pass on a curve, there may be someone coming in the opposite direction who has decided to do the same—and hello!!!

The behavior of trucks and buses in Costa Rica

Trucks and buses traveling slowly uphill on a two-lane road may not be able to pull over to let you pass. But they often have a much better view of the traffic ahead. I have seen them wave drivers around with the left turn signal and/or a waving hand.

Just be careful that they are not actually signaling to turn left.

The Author

The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.


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