Money exchange at San Jose airport
The Global Exchange office at the arrival lounge (and the departure loung) in San Jose airport charge 12% commission on money exchage.
Unique Suggestions: Instead of using the exchage service in the arrival lounge, after arrival in the airport step outside and go to upstairs to the departure lounge. There, next to the departure tax counter, is a branch of the Bank of San Jose where you can change money with a commision of about 1%. You will save a bundle!
Fun Alternatives: You can change money in any bank in Costa Rica, and the rates appear to be the same between banks. US$ are also widely accepted, esepcially in the tourist areas inclusing some restaruants and gas stations.
- Budget Travel
The Whole Experience Might Be a Tourist Trap!
At least for some.
Again, I didn't have any clue on what I was heading into when I went on this vacation. I knew I was getting a good time with the guys, great weather, a beach, nice scenery, etc. But the whores are almost overwhelming! Although I kept my distance, I can see how some people can easily succumb to the pressures, considering many of the girls are gorgeous, you've been drinking like a rock star, etc. All I have to say is: make sure you follow your heart. If your heart tells you to go out in the rain, make sure you wear a raincoat : )
On the other hand, you have whores like the filfthy disgusting one you see here on the right. This picture was taken while sitting on a park bench waiting for some of the guys to come down from the hotel room.
Makes you want to vomit. I think I would have rather tapped the one on the left : )
Nuestra Tierra- to be avoided like the plague
This restaurant is near one of the museums (the museum of gold I think) and has a reputation for being great because a lot of gringos go there and because it is expensive. I was persuaded to go by a cute Tica using her feminine wiles even though a friend of mine had already told me that the food was terrible. Please don't waste money at this place. The food is god awful. It is supposed to be a place that specializes in traditional Tico cuisine. I don't know how they managed to find a chef who doesn't know how to cook the food that he was raised to eat but they have managed it. The service is ridiculously slow and there was no one really in the place when we stopped by for lunch. This place recieved a great write up in the Lonely Planet so that shows you what they know about food. I'm beginning to wonder if those guidebooks aren't all a kickback hustle anyway.
Unique Suggestions: If you have to go here waste your money on the overpriced drinks and don't eat. Save your appetite for something edible. If you have to eat something there take a bite out of the table. It will be more flavorful and tender than what they bring you on your plate. If the table doesn't fill you up eat the plate but leave the food.
Fun Alternatives: Anyplace but here.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Study Abroad
- Family Travel
You don't have to stay here!
When at home and looking at your guide book and maps, you might have, like I did, the impression you have to go to San Jose, at least to get in and out of the airport.
Well, you don't. San Jose isn't worth it (I think) and the airport is in fact in Alajuela. Find a nice hotel in Alajuela to pick you up if you need a place to stay the first night (our plane landed at 10 pm... we had to stay in the area!). The taxi ride will be shorter and you'll get a better surrounding than downtown in the capital.
Unique Suggestions: If you really need to go, find a place in the west quarter. It's still close to everything but less unpleasant.
Fun Alternatives: Use Alajuela as your base camp for the Central Valley activities you want to do.
Prostitution - child and other
Be a mensch. Don't add to the prostitution in San Jose, or the rest of the Caribbean and Central America for that matter. I worked at a center in San Jose for women trying to leave prostitution, and believe me, they aren't happy with the career. Child prostitution is also a problem, not just in Costa Rica, but San Jose seems to be a magnet.
Taxi drivers and some locals have the impression that American/European boys and business men come to San Jose, their home, to take advantage of the poverty these girls and women experience through the sex trade. You'll see women (and men) on the way from the airport, and around the bus station and around several hotels in San Jose. If you want a good time, there are plenty of other tourists and locals happy to "share" one. Please don't buy it!
Unique Suggestions: Wear a condom, even when having oral relations! It's the least you can do; leaving her/him with more than the money is treating her/him as less than human. Literally, what goes around, comes around!
Fun Alternatives: If anyone wants information about donations to Rahab House, an organization which helps women train for other careers in San Jose, please email me.
Check out the ABC story:
- School Holidays
- Study Abroad
- Business Travel
Real touristic spots are around city of San Jose
San Jose is a nice place, but you can manage to visit the whole city (downtown, Moravia, Inbio Park, etc.) in three days or less.
Unique Suggestions: The most important spots are out of town: the volcanoes, the national reserve parks and, although much farther, the beaches! It's the perfect excuse for doing some ecotourism, because around San José everything is so green! For more info, check my Off the Beaten Path tips.
Visiting any of the several coffee plantations around the city is another must.
San José, and Costa Rica in general, sustain its economy on tourism, especially that coming from US, Canada and Europe. This is one of the reasons why touristic packages, accomodations , etc., are not cheap if we compare with other Latin American destinations (e.g. Peru, my country). Don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying that their prices are as high as those in Tokyo or Geneva, but is expensive considering that Costa Rica is a Latin American country.
Be careful where you buy your...
Be careful where you buy your cigars. Vendors try to *** you anywhere. To be safe, you better buy either in the airport or in special shops. Or you can get lucky and get some real 'Cohibas' to a reasonable price, like I did (I never listen to people's warnings...).
Volcan Irazu (an hour or so in...
Volcan Irazu (an hour or so in a car from Montana Linda school and Orosi). Its cool to see the green water, and I guess its a must be done thing, but to be honest, after driving for an hour and paying $6, one view into the (motionless) crater is a little disappointing.
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