User:Hobbitschuster/Rail travel in Costa Rica

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Costa Rica likes to call itself "The Switzerland of Central America" and just like the actual Switzerland has perhaps the best railroad system in Europe, Costa Rica could lay claim to the best railroad system in Central America. Given however, that countries like Nicaragua or El Salvador have no railroads left, this is in part a victory by default. That said, in and around the Central Valley (Costa Rica) railroads are a fun affordable and - compared to congested streets - sometimes even relatively fast way to get places. Sadly, they are hampered by decades of neglect and slow line speeds.


The Costa Rican railways have had a long history of ups and downs, in part reflected by the fact that there's an "Atlantic Station" and a "Pacific Station" in San José but currently (2018) no trains to either coast. That said, since the 2010s there has been political movement towards trains as a mode of transport and construction is ongoing to expand the network, double track existing single track sections and keep it in an overall state of good repair.

That said, if you're looking for speed, this is the wrong place. The trains are largely old diesel loco hauled types lumbering over largely single track 1,067 mm (42.0 in) gauge tracks with many, many, many level crossings which passengers will note by the train honking to announce its passing.

Virtually all trains these days are run by Incofer, the national railway who also have schedules and prices on their website.

Tickets and Discounts[edit]

Ticket prices are cheap and there are no discounts on the regular adult fare unless you qualify for the usual suspects (student, elderly, very young). The tickets are sold at the platform prior to boarding and then a validation slip is collected by the conductor. There is no prebooking and tickets come without assigned seating anyway.


Map of Rail travel in Costa Rica

Aside from the historical stations built during the first golden age of railroads, stations are rather utilitarian affairs but nonetheless they do their job. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of onward transport such as local buses or taxis and even many locals seem to be confused when asked for the bus to the station.

San José main stations[edit]

  • 1 Estacion Atlantico. Despite the Atlantic being the less developed region of Costa Rica, this is the station with most services in the 2010s. All destinations reachable by train are served at least once daily from here except trains from Belén (only one train to Belén goes through here).
  • 2 Estacion Pacifico. This station only sees service on the Pavas-Belén route, which is extended twice daily to the Estacion Pacifico as well (though in that case Belén is not served)

Other San José stations[edit]

  • 3 Univseridad Costa Rica (UCR station). Serving Costa Rica's most important university
  • 4 Universidad Latina.

Stations outside San José[edit]


  • 5 Heredia Train Station. Take the train from the Estación Al Atlántico in downtown San José. Service is only available at commuting hours and the train gets very packed. The train also goes to/from Alajuela a few times a day, but the train station is some two kilometers from the airport.
  • 6 "San Francisco" train station. This station with the delightful name of Saint Francis is served only by those train that go on towards Alajuela or come from there.
  • 7 San Joaquin train station. Served by trains going to/from Alajuela and on to/from San José


  • 8 Alajuela Train Station. A train aimed mostly at commuters goes three times in the morning and twice in the evening to/from San José (Costa Rica) with an intermediate stop in Heredia. The station was inaugurated in 2016 and there are plans to expand service if and when demand rises. Despite the fact that the rail line passes by the airport tantalizingly close, there is thus far no direct service to the airport, necessitating you to find some way to traverse those two kilometers of distance if you want to combine train and plane. San José Alajuela Tickets are CRC 1005.


  • 9 Cartago Train Station. There's a commuter train from San José. The train has a handful of stops between its Terminus at Estacion Atlantica in San José and Cartago and a few trains continue on to a place called Los Àngeles. Unfortunately there is no train in either direction between 10:00 and 15:00 and the last train leaves Cartago at 18:30 so if you want to take the train, you'll have to arrange your visit to fit the train schedule. The service doesn't get affected by rush hour traffic but it is far slower than taking a bus or driving a car.
  • 10 Basilica.

Tres Rios[edit]

  • 11 Tres Rios.
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