Cosmic ray transient variations are signatures of the underlying solar processes which affect the heliomagnetic structure. They can be found in the data from surface systems, such as neutron monitors and muon telescopes, and from shallow underground muon telescopes. Although sometimes observable at all latitudes, the global distribution of the effects is important in determining the structures and causes. Three transient variation types are known, namely Forbush decreases, ground level enhancements, and quasi-periodic fluctuations. The latter category includes some variations which are, perhaps, too long-lived to be considered truly transient. In this review, the detection techniques and background of cosmic ray research are followed by a summary of some observations in each transient category. The heliomagnetic structures and dynamics inferred from such transients are discussed together with the possible impact such events can have on human activity.