Flying into San Jose, Costa Rica

You have cleared airport security and boarded the plan.  You look at your ticket and it tells you that you are flying into the San Jose Internaional Airport (Juan Santamaria).  You assume that you will land in San Jose, Costa Rica.  Completely justified in your assumption, you a wrong.

What Awaits Outside of the Metropolitan Jungle
What Awaits Outside of the Metropolitan Jungle

You will actually land in Alajuela, a city just outside of San Jose. There isn’t much to do there so I would suggest making your way to another city.  San Jose will be your easiest destination and from there you can connect to wherever you want. You have three ways to get to San Jose.  Option one: take a taxi – easy but relatively expensive.  These guys will take you directly where you want to go and they will likely do it for $25-$30.  Taxi drivers will be standing right outside of the airport; you will not be able to miss them (or get by them unnoticed) even if you want to.  Taxi drivers will accept US dollars so don’t exchange any money at the airport where they give you a horrible exchange rate. Option two: catch a bus – cheaper but harder to pull off.  To get to the bus terminal, walk out of the airport (there is only one exit), cross the street (there is only one street) and go up the flight of stairs (there is only one flight of stairs).  At the top of the stairs there should be a bus station.  Also, feel free to ask anybody there to point you in the right direction to the station (parada de buses).  Ask anybody but the taxi drivers; it is in their best interest to tell you whatever you need to hear to get in the taxi with them.  They may tell you that you can’t catch a bus because roads are down, traffic is too bad, or it is too late and buses have stopped running.  They may be telling the truth or they may be good salesmen.  Enough about taxi drivers. Buses should arrive at the airport every hour and go directly to San Jose.  You will know that a bus is headed to San Jose because on the front window it will say “____________ a San Jose,” the “blank” being the departure city.  It should only cost you one or two thousand colones (under $5) for this trip.  Buses will not accept US dollars – this means that you will need to exchange money at the airport so that you can get colones, the Costa Rican currency.  Exchange as little as possible here since the exchange rate at the airport is so poor.  If you catch a bus, know that it will drop you off on some street corner in San Jose.  From there you will need to walk or catch a taxi to wherever you want to go.

One of Many Bus Stations in San Jose
One of Many Bus Stations in San Jose

Option three: use a shuttle – exceedingly average, not the hardest and not the most expensive.  If you have already made contact with a place to stay in San Jose, they might offer a shuttle service ($20 would be a fair price).  If you are going through a travel provider, they may already have a shuttle set up for you.  From personal experience, i would highly recommend the ease and reliability of Detour Destinations and the local outfits they work with.  This option would be ideal since you would have a direct transport and you would not have to exchange money at the airport.  Heck, you wouldn’t even have to reach into your wallet at all.  If you get a shuttle, don’t be alarmed if they ask for your passport number.  This is how they identify you.  If you are uncomfortable with that I am sure that you could argue and tantrum your way out of it but I don’t have first hand knowledge of this (I just gave them mine without questioning). Congratulations. No matter what option you chose, you have successfully made it out of the 6,948th (just an arbitrary number I wrote down) busiest airport in the world.  Now get on to enjoying your vacation!

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