Getting Around San José

  • By Taxi around San José
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    Taxi turning the corner
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    Taxi at Palmer Norte airport
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Most Viewed Transportation in San José

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    Bus and Boat from San José to Tortuguero

    by mircaskirca Updated Sep 11, 2011

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    It is possible to travel from San José to Tortuguero by public transportation. In fact, it's rather challenging, a mini adventure in itself. You have to take a bus to Cariari, then another bus to La Pavona and finally a boat to Tortuguero. Buses to Cariari leave from the Gran Terminal del Caribe. I was told that the first one departs at 6am, so I took a taxi from Hostel Pangea at 5:30am. Once at the bus terminal, I found it was only at 7am. I thought of having a breakfast but all the facilities at the terminal were still closed. Fortunately, one of them opened a little before 7:00am so I could have a breakfast (a black coffee and cheese empanada) before departure. I took a Guapileños bus which was 1.390 colones (December 2010). It was an amazing journey through the dense rain forest of one of the most scenic regions of Costa Rica. Get a window seat if possible, the views are incredible. Later I discovered that it would be most convenient to take the 9am bus arriving around 11am in Cariari, and then the bus to La Pavona at noon (other buses leave at 6am and 3pm).

    Cariari has two bus terminals: the one serving San José is at the southern end of town, while the small one serving Caribbean destinations is about five blocks north (closer to the centre), which is an easy walk. I bought a ticket at Coopetraca window to La Pavona (or Rancho La Suerte, how they call the docking area). It was an interesting ride through the banana plantations and the 'banana towns' that were first developed and operated by the Untied Fruit Company. The bus arrived in La Pavona around 1:30pm. Three companies provide transportation along this route: Clic Clic, Coopetraca and Bananero. Boats to Tortuguero are timed to meet the buses, so you won't have to wait long for your connection. Two boats were waiting at the dock at the edge of the river. I picked the one that looks more comfortable and safe, then payed on board. The fare is not regulated and the price can sometimes varies for foreigners. I payed around 3.000 colones (December 2010) for both, bus and boat. This was what locals payed as well. The boat normally takes about an hour and 15 minutes to reach Tortuguero. The last boat departs at around 4:30pm. Keep in mind that there aro no accommodations in La Pavona, but there is a restaurant at Rancho La Suerte where you can get a coffee and snack, and use the bathroom for a small fee.

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    Tica Bus from Granada (Nicaragua) to San José

    by mircaskirca Updated Sep 5, 2011

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    Tica Bus and Transnica have a few daily buses from Nicaragua to Costa Rica. They leave Granada from two different bus terminals on Avenida Elena Arellano. Both have first class buses and offer about the same service. There is another company, King Quality, which seems to have a slightly better service but the price is almost double. After a little consideration I decided for Tica Bus. I was traveling on 29 December. In the time around Christmas and the New Year a lot of people travel so the buses get full quickly. I booked almost 10 days in advance at Tica Bus office. From Granada to San José it was 23 US $. To my surprise, most of the seats were already booked. Happy to have my bus ticket to Costa Rica safely in a pocket, I did not need to worry about this anymore.

    I took a 7am bus which arrived from Managua with a little delay. All the passengers had to sign in at Tica Bus office before departure. We crossed the border of Nicaragua and Costa Rica at Peñas Blancas. That was quite an experience. First we stopped on Nicaraguan side and there were already a lot of buses. The driver took our passports and we had to wait until the border formalities were done. Locals were running around trying to change different currencies (US dollars, cordobas and colones), selling coffee and various snacks. There was also the toilet. I changed the remains of cordobas into colones and had a coffee. It took even longer on the side of Costa Rica. The line of people waiting to get their passports stamped looked endless, and there was another one for bag control.

    All went fine and after almost three hours we were on the bus again heading to San José. The whole journey from Granada to San José should take about eight hours but we had about two hours delay and only arrived at 5pm. From the terminal I took a taxi to Hostel Pangea where I was going to overnight. Taxi driver was very friendly. I asked him if there was an ATM where I could withdraw some money that I needed and he stopped at the petrol station on the way to the hostel. For the taxi I paid 5.000 colones (December 2010).

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    Paying Departure Tax with Credit Cards

    by ZeekLTK Updated May 17, 2011

    To fly home from SJO in San Jose you have to pay a $26 departure tax.

    The counter where you pay this indicates that they accept VISA, among other credit cards. However, they DO NOT actually swipe it as a regular credit card. Instead, they charge it as a CASH ADVANCE. They don't tell you this either, they just swipe it and give you the paper that indicates that you have "paid" so that you can get on your flight.

    You will have to pay off your card immediately when you arrive back home in order to negate any finance charges that will begin to grow from the cash advance. I caught mine early and it only got up to $0.30 (30 cents) but if I hadn't paid attention it could have gotten a lot worse.

    So try to pay the departure tax in cash (they accept both USD and Colones) if you can. If not, pay off your card as soon as you get home to avoid the finance charge from the cash advance that they will charge it as.

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    Not a place to Drive

    by grandmaR Updated Apr 7, 2010

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    San José especially is not a place to be driving a car in Costa Rica. It is a big city - a lot of traffic and many of the streets are one way - confusing to the visitor.

    Calles (streets in Spanish) run from north to south, while the Avenidas are from east to west. Any Avenida north of the central avenue are going to be an odd number, while the Avenidas south of the central Avenida are even, beginning with the number 2. So Avenida 4 would be two blocks south of Central Avenue.

    Even in San Jose, there are no street signs, often no street lights, no addresses except maybe a Calles and east or west of an Avenida. Outside of the central city, there is not even a grid system of streets.

    Take taxis if possible, especially at night. They are cheap and everywhere

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    Several Transportation Tips

    by Snipernurse Written Jun 3, 2008

    You will be hounded when you arrive at the airport by persons wanting to drive you to your hotel. Know that a good amount of these people are not certified taxi drivers (even if they carry a badge). It is safest to get a certified taxi, however I was taken into town by a non-certified taxi driver and paid about the same amount. He took interest into explaining to us things about the city and selling himself to us as a possiblity for future service. These people are just trying to make a living too. However you can't be as certain about the safety, best if you go in groups with these folks.
    If you get a hotel in downtown San Jose most attractions are within walking distance. (Most museums and parks) I felt pretty safe walking around in daytime, aside from the occassional harassment or trickster. For journeys beyond San Jose hire a taxi driver, this is really easy, but always arrange on a fare beforehand, and plan on him/her finding a way to jack up the price an extra little bit at the end. You can get to La Fortuna for around 100$ or less

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    To Cartago from San José

    by Pieter11 Written May 25, 2008

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    Cartago is located just east from the capital of Costa Rica, San José and it is a very nice destination for a daytrip from here. It takes only a short busride to get there: in less then 30 minutes (depending on the traffic in the capital) you can be in Cartago already. And busses depart every day, every hour, all day long.

    The busses to Cartago depart at the corner of Calle Central and Avenida 3 and cost you only 50 cents. Tickets can be bought in the bus itself, so you don't have to look for any ticket office.

    When you want to go back to San José, take the bus in Cartago just north from the Parque Central.

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    To La Fortuna from San José

    by Pieter11 Written May 25, 2008

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    When you are travelling to the north from San José, you will almost always have to take a bus to the the city Ciudad Quesada (also known as San Carlos) first. From here busses depart to all parts of the area like the bordertown Los Chiles and the touristtown La Fortuna. Busses to Ciudad Quesada run very often from the Altantico Norte busstation (every 60 minutes).

    This trip takes about 2,5 hours and costs about 4 dollars. You arrive at the central busstation of Ciudad Quesada, just outside town. When you want to stay here you'd best take a taxi to the centre, otherwise; change busses here to any direction.

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    To the Caribbean Coast from San José

    by Pieter11 Written May 25, 2008

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    When you are coming from San José and you are heading for the Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica, you will have to go to the so called "Caribe Terminal" in the capital. From here busses depart to several destinations in the eastcoast of the country. One destination these busses will always go to is Puerto Limón. This is the biggest city in this part of the country and one of the biggest in the whole of Costa Rica.

    The busride from the capital to Puerto Limón takes about 3,5 hours and costs 2000 Colones: about 4 dollars. From here you can take a connecting bus further south to the villages Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Bribri and others. From here you can also get a bus directly to the border with Panama.

    At the Caribe busstation in San José there are also busses that cover the complete distance to Cahuita, Puerto Viejo or the border. These busses run less frequently, bus if you miss one of these busses it is always easy to get another connection once you are in Limón.

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    Driving

    by boltonian Written Jun 2, 2007

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    Not an easy exercise.

    Roads have huge potholes and drivers seems to just go where they want without warning. You have to be alert.

    The city is in a complicated one way system. Signs are not always visible (or even existing). The best thing is to plan your route ahead of your journey.

    If you miss your turning, it can be very hard to find your destination as there are few places to turn around, and the one way system leaves you guessing.

    Avoid the smaller roads by the markets. Trucks stop for ages to unload, and there is no way past. Cars behind honk and vent their fury at you in Spanish. We felt a little intimidated here, stuck inbetween 2 cars, ripe for a car jacking, though nothing happened.

    Finally, parking. You MUST use secure car parks or you will find your car is stolen. They are not that cheap, but $10 for a few hours peace of mind is worth it. If leaving it overnight, negotiate the rate. Even with little Spanish, we managed to get a half price deal for 24 hours parking right next to our hotel. If you agree a price, get it written down as the guy who lets you enter may not be on duty when you return.

    Oh, and don't leave your keys with them.

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    Airport taxi

    by Josilver Written May 31, 2007

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    There are official airport taxis from the airport, you can not miss them, they are bright orange, you go to the office just outside the airport and tell them where you want togo and pay there, they will allocate you a driver, you donot have to pay the taxi driver, unless youwant to tip them. A trip from the airport to hotel vesuvio (near the zoo) cost me 9800 colones

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    Bus Tour from Puerto Limon

    by Stephen-KarenConn Updated Apr 12, 2007

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    We arrived at Puerto Limon, Costa Rica, via cruise ship and opted to take the 9.5 hour bus tour from there to San Jose and back. This tour involved five hours of driving to and from the two cities which limited our time to sightsee in San Jose. Still we thought the trip well worth it because the travel, in a comfortable air-conditioned bus, gave us the opportunity to see much of the lush green Costa Rican countryside.

    Our trip took us through the picturesque coastal lowlands and then up and over the continental divide and through the Baraulio Carriollo National Park. Our native bi-lingual tour guide was a former ranger in the Costa Rican National Park system. His very knowledgeable commentary helped to make the trip both enjoyable and informative.

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    Destino Cultural

    by penumbra Updated Sep 2, 2006

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    Downtown San Jose is easy to navigate on foot. It's a grid and most attractions are easy to find. To make it even more obvious, look for the bright blue signs that let you know when you’ve reached an “destino cultural” not to be missed.

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    Buses from San Jose

    by Kindra Written Jul 18, 2006

    Coca Cola station downtown: from here you can catch a bus to Jaco, Quepos, Manuel Antonio, Montezuma, Mal Pais, Montezuma and other less frequented destinations. You can buy tickets to Jaco and Manuel Antonio from the offices in the station (advance is always good) but not for Montezuma. Pay the driver. Take a taxi to and from this area; it is particularly dangerous after dark even though police often frequent this area to monitor if there are any thieves around. Do NOT leave your bags anyway and be very vigilant of watching them even if you are right beside them. Buses do not have A/C or bathrooms but chairs, though tight, are pretty comfy. Standing room is always given and can make a bus very crowded.

    Terminal Gran Caribe. This is on the northern part of town close to the highway to the Caribbean. From here you can go to Limon, Cahuita, Puerto Viejo, Sixaola etc. It is a nice terminal equipped with pay bathrooms, ticket offices for all locations, a convenience store and several sodas where you can get breakfast before getting on the bus. Buses to Caribe are more expensive (up to 3000 colones) but have air conditioning and will usually put on the A/C for a portion of the trip.

    Terminal San Carlos: from here you can get to Monteverde, La Fortuna (Arenal) and Ciudad Quesada (San Carlos) etc. Terminal is small though has bathrooms, soda and nearby hotel. Not a great area to hang around otherwise. Tickets can be bought in advance. They will try to force you to put your bags under the bus- if it is reasonably small, I would politely disagree with them as the compartments are opened frequently throughout the very long trip full of stops.

    Alfaro: from here you can get to Samara, Tamarindo and other western Nicoya destinations. Not a good neighbourhood, close to Coca Cola, UNCLEAN pay bathrooms and tickets can be bought in advance. Buses are comfy and air-conditioned.

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    Hotel/Airport transfer service

    by Suzanne123 Updated Nov 23, 2004

    Here is a bargain and you don't need to deal with a taxi driver. For $4 you can get a Grayline bus to drop you off from the airport, or to pick you up from your hotel. One leaves from the airport every 30 minutes. The buses are modern with A/C.

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    Public Busses throughout Costa Rica

    by BPR Written Oct 31, 2003

    The roads through the mountains are scary as hell. The bus drivers seem to place no value on human life. I would still recommend using public transportation over renting a car because the roads are very different. The drivers all have the roads memorized, if you're behind the wheel, you may end up driving around a sharp corner, to find that the road has become a one lane bridge with a bus coming right at you.

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