San Jose

San José is the capital of Costa Rica

San José (Costa Rica)
San José is the capital and largest city in Costa Rica. It has a total population of about 1.7 million inhabitants living in the metropolitan area, although the city itself is much smaller with around 400,000 people. It is located in the central part of the country in the Central Valley at an elevation of about 1,200 metres above sea level. San José is the administrative, political and economic centre of the country and functions as the main transportation hub of Costa Rica. The city was founded in the 18th century and became the capital in 1823. It has seen massive growth during the last decades and now is a sprawling urban area full of attractions for travellers. A visit to San José before travelling onwards to explore the great nature is highly recommended.

San Jose was recently rated as one of Latin America’s safest cities. That being said, still watch out for pickpockets and if you plan on renting a car, be very wary as carjackings as all too common, thieves are all over the world.

The weather in San Jose can be different at all times depending of the route of the winds and yearly seasons, some times in the later months of the year it is colder than the months at the middle. For many Costa Ricans the coolest temperatures in San Jose are equal to high (warm) temperatures for a Northern American Citizen or some one from a country with a snow season. When you view the size of Costa Rica, then you can understand why weather temperatures differ from one city to another across short distances, unless the Caribbean weather suffers a major event in the atmosphere. Because of its elevation San Jose is usually 70 to 80°F (21 to 27°C)though it can get chilly at night. The rainy season is from mid April through December.

Traveling By plane
The airport (SJO) is 17km or about 20 minutes by car from the center of San José.

Departure fee
When you leave Costa Rica, you will need to pay $29-32 exit fee. The receipt has to be shown at the check-in counter. You can pay this fee in dollar, Costa Rican colón or creditcard.
There is a local bus stop outside the airport (on the other side of the multi-story car park which you see when you come out of arrivals). It costs less than 1 US$ and takes you right downtown. You can put your luggage in the storage area below on the bus. The cheapest option is taking the bus into downtown and get a taxi there for your final destination.
When you need to go to the airport from downtown, you catch the Alajuela bus (takes you to the airport) at the Merced Park. It costs less than $1 and they leave every five minutes and it takes about 25 minutes to get to the airport. The airport bus stop is easy to see.
The taxis charge around 25-30 US Dollars to take you to the city, be sure to take one of the licensed reddish-orange taxis that say "Taxi Aeropuerto." There are many unlicensed taxi drivers who will charge you almost twice as much as Taxi Aeropuerto. The taxis gladly take Dollars, but the local bus only takes Colones and they would not be pleased to get a 10 000 Colones bill.
There is an ATM by the entrance to the departures that will give you both Colones and Dollars.

Travel By bus all around

Buses from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama both arrive to and leave from San José.
The Tica Bus  terminal is the most common choice for locals and foreigners alike when it comes to traveling around Central America and even Mexico. Please take note that it has recently been moved to the other end of town, near the Mercedes Tower. (Address: 200 meters north and 100 meters west of Torre Mercedes (Paseo Colón), in front of the Magisterio Nacional Mortuary)
King Quality is a new choice available, their prices are considerably more expensive or cheaper than Tica Bus depending on the destination. There is also Transnica, for information their phone number is (506)2223-4123, or
Of course most local buses start or end here. There are several bus terminals in San José. It is important to know which bus terminal serves your bus route.
Bus stops are usually every few blocks in the city. Take always a taxi, when traveling with luggage.And it is highly likely to speak to you when you arrive.

Traveling By train

Trains have recently made a comeback in Costa Rica and, after being shut down for many years, several routes have been put back into service using second-hand equipment brought over from Spain and some very ancient wooden carraiges that look like they have been taken from a museum. Lines are mostly singe-track and level crossings have no lights or protection at all, which has led to several accidents. There's also no signalling. Overall it's an interesting experience if you have the time and it's the best way of getting to Heredia (a lot faster and more comfortable than the bus).
Timetables for all services are available at:
Heredia: on weekdays, trains run betwen San José and Heredia every half an hour in the mornings (6am-9am) and afternoons (3:30pm-8pm), leaving from Estación del Atlántico near the Parque Nacional. Some of these trains continue on to the UCR and U Latina in San Pedro. The 6pm departure from San José (returning at 7pm) is a big train, so you can almost always get a seat on this one.

Pavas, San Pedro and Curridabat: another line runs through the south of the city, stopping at Estación del Pacifico, Sábana and heading west into Pavas and eventually turning round in a fairly dangerous slum area in the middle of the hills. If you take it east, it stops across the road from Estación del Atlantico and then goes to the UCR, U Latina and Curridabat. Timetables are very limited, with just one train per hour early in the morning and in the evening on weekdays.
Belen: A new service to Belen (just south of the airport) started on 5th April, leaving from Estación del Pacifico. Services are approximately every half an hour between 6-8am and 4-8pm on weekdays only and take 35 minutes.

Atention on trafic pedestrian, Stay safe

Keep in mind while traveling on foot that pedestrians do not have the right of way. There are some marked crosswalks that will chirp when it is okay to walk, but for the most part, you will have to watch for traffic or cross in a group when others do. Keep a lookout for motorcycles, as they are usually weaving through traffic faster than the cars and may not alwats obey traffic signs. Taxis are generally cheap. All taxis should have a meter. The fare starts at 640 colones, and is 640 per kilometre. Make sure you tell the cab driver to start the meter, or "la maría". Some cab drivers will try to charge a flat rate up front or tell you there is tourism fee, or anything else to get more money, but most cab drivers are honest.
Conversion is about 500 colones per USD (fluctuates daily). A ride inside the city center will normally cost 1000-2500 colones. Basically a couple dollars, which they will accept, will get you anywhere in the city. Cabs with a blue sign on top that say credomático also accept credit cards. Official liscensed taxis are red or orange with a triangle or round decal on the front doors with the taxis information. Be aware that there are unliscensed taxis called piratas which should be avoided due to being unregulated. If you get a ride with a pirata, you are basically hitchhiking at your own risk. Be aware that it is close to useless to give a taxi driver an exact street address.
The traffic is dangerous. Cars don't stop for pedestrians, and they generally drive very fast. The area around the Coca Cola Bus Terminal is not safe either during the day or at night. You should watch your belongings and stay with a group at all times in the city.
Most Ticos (Costa Rican natives) are friendly and honest. However, if you have a flat tire on the main highway to the airport, don't accept help except from an established service station, and never accept help from a person who offers to help on the highway. It may become a car-jacking. Petty theft is high risk, including from valet parking staff and housekeepers in hotels. Carry a cell phone and know the number of the local "policia".
If you travel by bus, never(!) put your luggage into the storage space, even if the driver wants you to at the beginning of the travel. The bus usually stops every 5 minutes and picks up people from the street. But there are also people who open the space while you are up in the bus, pull out a rucksack (backpack) and disappear. If you put your rucksack between your knees, nothing will happen
Generally speaking if you stick to the tourist spots in the city you will be safe, just try to avoid showing off valuables more than necessary, if you're taking a picture put your camera away as soon as its taken, never show big amounts of cash, exercise caution. Avoid at all costs walking at night, either right downtown or in the suburbs, cabs and buses are too cheap, so walking at night is a very unnecesary risk. As with any big city, use common sense and keep your belongings in front or beside you - never on your back. San Jose is known for its abundance and skill of pickpocketers.

Other important informationes:
It's easy to find internet access, and although you can still can find a lot of internet cafes, wifi is growing fast in the country. The further away you get from San Jose, the slower and more expensive it becomes when you are using an internet cafe. Wifi is generally free of charge at most places though and apart from off the beaten track parks, jungles and mountains, the connection generally is ok. Some internet cafés also offer international calls via either phone or IP using services like Skype.

The country calling code to Costa Rica is 506.
Post Correos de Costa Rica (website in Spanish only) is the national postal services of Costa Rica. You can find post offices (correos) in almost any city and town and they are generally open from 7:30am to 5:30pm or 6:00pm Monday to Friday and 7:30am to noon on Saturdays. There are not that many mailboxes, so it's best to ask your hotel or go directly to the post offices. Services tend to be slow but generally reliable and on the whole cheap regarding letters and postcards. It costs about US$0.20 to the USA and Canada (taking about 1 week to 10 days), US$0.25 to Europe (about 2 weeks) and US$0.30 to Asia andAustralia (3 weeks or even more). All in all, if you can try and arrange your mail from the capital San José as it's generally quicker from there. Small packages are also no problem, though take them to the post offices unpacked for inspection first! Otherwise, arrange things through private international courier services like UPS, FedEx, DHL or TNT.

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