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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.
Because of its elevation, San José enjoys a climate which is much milder than its lower counterparts towards the Pacific and Caribbean sea. Average day temperatures are around 26 °C, but from February to May it is slightly warmer, around 28 °C. Night temperatures are around 18 °C year round. From May to October is the rainy season with 300 mm of rain a month on average. From November to April is the best time to visit, and January to March sea barely any rain at all. Humidity is high year round, but higher during the rainy season, and the relatively low temperatures compared to lower parts of the country make it more bearable as well.
|Avg Max||23.4 °C||23.9 °C||25.1 °C||25.7 °C||26.1 °C||25.7 °C||24.9 °C||25.2 °C||25.8 °C||25.4 °C||24.2 °C||23.4 °C|
|Avg Min||15.4 °C||15.3 °C||15.8 °C||16.4 °C||17 °C||16.9 °C||16.3 °C||16.7 °C||16.5 °C||16.4 °C||16.3 °C||15.8 °C|
|Rainfall||9.1 mm||5.4 mm||12 mm||43.8 mm||222 mm||282.6 mm||208.1 mm||252.2 mm||325 mm||326 mm||139.1 mm||40.3 mm|
Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) near San José receives a growing number of international flights, for example with the national airline Lacsa which is part of the Grupo TACA. Services are with a number of Lacsa/TACA flights to destinations mainly in Central America and several cities in the United States and South America. Destinations further away include Madrid with Iberia, Frankfurt with Condor Flugdienst and Gatwick Airport with British Airways and flights to and from Toronto, and other destinations. Paradise Air has flights to a few dozen of domestic destinations, including Barra de Tortuguero, Limón and Liberia. The Alajuela - San José route buses stop there in both directions. Buses from other routes also stop there. Licensed taxis are available in the airport.
The smaller Tobías Bolaños International Airport (SYQ) is located in the Pavas District in San José and has domestic and international flights with Nature Air to/from Arenal, Bocas del Toro, Drake Bay, Golfito, Liberia, Managua, Nosara, Palmar Sur, Puerto Jiménez, Punta Islita, Quepos, Tamarindo, Tambor and Tortuguero.
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 carriages 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).
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 metres north and 100 metres 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, note they don't have a website up, for information their phone number is +506 2223-4123.
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.
Taxis are generally cheap. All taxis should have a meter. The fare starts at 570 colones, and is 570 per kilometer. The value of the Colón fluctuates roughly above 500 to the US Dollar and some locals still call 500 Colónes "one Dollar" in day to day life. A ride inside the city centre will normally cost 580-2500 colones. Basically a couple dollars, which they will accept, will get you anywhere in the city. Be aware that it is close to useless to give a taxi driver an exact street address. You have to point out some well known building, park or hotel close to where you are going. Often there are no street signs and addresses are difficult to find, so be sure you know where you are going or you could get lost very easily. If you are driving in Costa Rica (one may see vehicles from Mississippi, British Columbia, Panama, and other places) note that the traffic lights don't have the yellow border around them and can sometimes be difficult to see, the road network is well utilized by locals (to overcapacity) so don't expect to get anywhere fast, also motorcycles weave in and out of traffic. Keep in mind the pet peeve most tourists have with tico kindness: oftentimes when a tico has no idea where a certain destination you may have had in mind is, he or she will simply direct you to a random location. Oftentimes simply incomprehensible, these directions are a reflection on the cultural approach to kindness many Costa Ricans adopt.
Public transport system includes buses, tram is planned in the city center. Bus lines, maps, schedules and ticket prices are available at Ruta en linea San José.
Central San José can be explored on foot.
It is as well possible to get around by bicycle in San José. If you want to buy a bicycle you find stores in Calle 6 / Av. 5 (Coca Cola) or south of "Avenida Segunda" on the corner or Av.6 / Calle 4. In the south east corner of plaza Viquez you find a small bicycle store.
Mercado Central is a very old, interesting and bustling food market, which also contains a number of small restaurants and quick-serve counters for the locals. You will find fresh cooked fish and shellfish, corn based dishes, sopa de pescado (fish soup) and such exotics as "squid in his ink", ceviche (small bits of raw fish "cooked" in lime juice), helado de sorbetera (artesanal local cinnamon ice-cream) and more. Perhaps not for the faint of heart. And you could always just go for La Calle - Anything a street vendor is selling is probably good, for example the Mangos, street vendors often sell unripe mango strips with salt and lime, it's great.
|Hotel Plaza Real||Del Banco de Costa Rica, 200mts sur, 100mts este||Hotel||-|
|Casa Girasol||Sabana Sur, from MacDonalds restaurant, 100 west,100 south, 50 east||Guesthouse||-|
|Casa Oshun Bed and Breakfast||Calle 84-86 avenida 19, La Uruca||Guesthouse||-|
|Casa Yoses Hostel||8th Ave 41 St 250 west from Spoon in Los Yoses||Hostel||80|
|Costa Rica Backpackers||Avenida 6, calle 21/23||Hostel||78|
|Costa Rica Guesthouse||Avenida 6 Calle 21 de la esquina noreste de la corte suprema,100 metr||Hostel||82|
|Galileo Hostel||Avenida 2, Calle 40 De la Soda Tapia en Sabana, 100m este||Hostel||-|
|Gaudys Backpackers Hostel||Ave. 5 / Calle 36 y 38, Casa 3636 Del Banco de Costa Rica de Paseo Colon, 200 al nor||HOSTEL||82|
|Green House Hostel||Plaza Viquez Calle 11 Ave 16 y 18||Hostel||-|
|Guestplace – JC Friends||34th Street and Avenue 3 Paseo Colon||Hostel||-|
|Hostal Latina||Lourdes Montes de Oca San Pedro||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostel 1110||Ave. 14 St. 11 #1110 500 mts. East from clinica Biblica Right hand yell||Hostel||73|
|Hostel Bekuo San Jose||Were are located 100 meters south and 25 meters we||Hostel||81|
|Hostel Casa del Parque||Calle 19 Avenida 3era Casa In front of the northestern corner of National Par||HOSTEL||86|
|Hostel Pangea||Barrio Amon Ave 7 st.3-3bis Barrio Amon Ave.11 st 3bis||Hostel||77|
|Hostel Rubian||Calle Costa Rica||Hostel||-|
|Hostel Toruma||Central Avenue, 29 and 31 St Barrio La California||Hostel||-|
|Hostel Trianon||75 meters North of the Doctor Echandi||hostel||-|
|Hotel Aeropuerto San Jose Airport||Carretera Panamericana||Hotel||-|
|Hotel B&B Puerta del Sol||Ciudad Cariari Residencial Los Arcos, Rotonda 1, N°17||HOTEL||-|
|Hotel Capital||Calle 4 Btw Ave. 3 and 5||Hotel||59|
|Hotel Europa San Jose||Calle Central Av 5 down Town||Hotel||80|
|Hotel Isla Verde||2 blocks west from the U.S.A. Embassy, Pavas||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Kekoldi||Avenida 9, between Calles 5 and 7 P.O. Box 12150-1000||Hotel||-|
|Hotel La Cuesta||Avenia 1 , 50meters west from the national park||Hotel||74|
|Hotel Vesuvio||Ave 11 / Street 13-15 San Jose - Costa Rica||Hotel||77|
|Hotels Royal Dutch||Avenida 2 Calle 6 down Town||Hotel||-|
|LaCatalina Hotel||Beside Cetal LaCatalina Birri,Heredia||Hotel||-|
|Mi Casa Hostel||150 mts North from the west corner of I.C.E´s bui Sabana Norte||Hostel||81|
|Molino Rojo Hostel||Paseo Colón y Calle 32 Diagonal a KFC||Hostel||-|
|Pensión de La Cuesta B&B||Avenida Primera Calle 11 Y 15, 50 Metros Oeste Par||GUESTHOUSE||77|
|Tranquilo Backpackers||San José Downtown.7th Street, between 9th and 11th Avenue||Hostel||-|
|Turrialba Bed and Breakfast||Apartado 211 Cartago||guesthouse||-|
|Hostel Costa Rica Morazan & Casino||Avenida 1 Esquina Calle 3 Frente al Parque Morazan||HOTEL||-|
|Taylors`s Inn Bed & Breakfast||AVenida 13, Calles 03-3B, #336. Apartado 531-1000||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Nomadas Backpackers||100 N 125 W from Sabana Scotiabank||Hostel||77|
|In&basic Hostel Lounge||200 m South and 75 m west of Spoon, Los Yoses.||HOSTEL||86|
|Aldea Hostel San Jose||Calle 28 y Av.Segunda, frente a Sala Garbo, Casa E||HOSTEL||79|
|Hotel Mesón del Angel||20 th street||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Posada Canal Grande||500 metros al Sur de la Terminal de Buses de Pieda Detrás del Restaurante Da Marco||HOTEL||-|
|Yurustí Costa Rica Hostel||Breña Mora Street Heredia||Hostel||-|
|Collage Hostel Boutique||Barrio Los Yoses, del bar Rio 75 metros al sur.||HOSTEL||-|
|Tierra Magica||800E del BNCR en el centro de Escazú, 50S||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hotel Ritzli||Central Street, 8 & 10th Avenue||HOTEL||-|
|The Montserrat's Place||Ave. 2/4 St 6||HOTEL||-|
|Hostel Casa Colon||Paseo Colon, 24th Street N Next to Mercedes Tower||HOSTEL||81|
|Natural Hostel||Paseo Colon, 250m norte de la Toyota. Paseo Colon, San Jose||Hostel||-|
|Los Saules||Del Pali los Sauces||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Castle Tam Hostel||Avenida 4,100 metros oeste Escuela de la Roosevelt San Pedro||HOSTEL||81|
|Costa Rica Love Hostel||75meters east in front the playground, 2nd floor w Santo Domingo||HOSTEL||77|
|Taylor Inn B & B||Barrio Amon San Jose Avenida 13 Calle 3||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostal del Este Santa Fe||300m south y 25m este from the National Theater 8th Avenue 3rd and 5th Street||HOTEL||65|
|Hotel Santo Tomas||Ave. 7th Streets 3 & 5||Hotel||-|
|Hotel Posada del Museo||Diagonal esquina sureste del Museo Nacional||HOTEL||-|
|Hostel Urbano||San Pedro in front of Kennedy Park adjacent to Municipalidad Montes de Oca||HOSTEL||-|
|Casa León||Avenida 6, Calle 13/15 de la clínica Drs. Echandi 50m nor/este||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Modo Digital De Costa Rica||Urb Loto 3 Casa 4B Desamparados||APARTMENT||-|
|Hostel Shakti||8-street, Avenida 13 It is on the top floor of the restaurant Shakti. F||HOSTEL||-|
|Casa Primo||Malecon Street||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hotel Le Voltaire||Avenida 8 Calle 31||HOTEL||-|
|Hemingway Inn San Jose||Calle 9, Avenida 9 Barrio Amon||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Casa Isabella||Palma De Mallorca Bello Horizonte||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Casa 69||69 Calle 25 bis||HOTEL||72|
|Hotel Guima||Costado del la Terminal de San Carlos||HOTEL||-|
|Kaps Place Hostel B&B||Street 19, Avenue 11 Barrio Aranjuez||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Apartments Condo Casa||Lugano Residencial, 43||APARTMENT||-|
|Stolas Hostel||Av 14, Calle 35||HOSTEL||-|
|Boutique Hotel Calle 20||350 metros Norte del Hospital Nacional de niños Calle 20 entre avenida 3 y 5||HOTEL||-|
|Casa Areka||San Pedro de Montes de Oca||Guesthouse||-|
|Hostel La Corte||75 Este de los Tribunales||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostal Casa Areka Costa Rica||Barrio Los Yoses Avenue 8 Simon Bolivar, along side of the ICE building||HOTEL||-|
|Casa Ridgway Hostel||16th Ave bis, 15th street||GUESTHOUSE||-|
|Hostel Van Gogh||7th street, 150 mts North from Parque Morazan, Bar||HOSTEL||-|
|Hostal Casa Urbana||Calle 11, Avenida 8, Edificio Jorayte San Jose||HOSTEL||-|
|Ara Macao Inn||San Jose 75 mts Sur de Pizza Hut, Barrio La California||HOTEL||-|
|Downtown Hotel San Jose||7 Avenue, 6 Street San Jose Downtown||HOTEL||-|
Costa Rica in general, and San José in particular, is a great place to improve your Spanish language skills. Many people can speak some English and there are many Spanish classes available, including at the Universidad de Costa Rica, as well as "immersion" classes in private homes.
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.
See also: International Telephone Calls
There are plenty of phone booths around and you will get the best rate using a pre-paid international card (can often be purchased in internet cafés and other small stores). There is usually a connection fee making short calls extra expensive. International calls are fairly expensive. The cheapest way to make them is over the internet using a service such as Skype at an Internet café. But making short calls using the domestic calling cards (you can make international calls using these but the denominations of the calling cards are quite small so your call will be short!) or the international calling cards available within Costa Rica (all from the government phone monopoly ICE) is the next best deal.
Those travelling with a mobile phone and willing to pay the roaming costs should ensure it supports 1,800 MHz GSM network. Note that the GSM phone systems in the United States and Canada use different frequencies and that travelers from there will need a "world" handset, such as a tri-band or quad-band phone, if you want to use your existing cell phone. If you want to use a local Costa Rica number, you can rent cell phone service, and of course anyone can buy a cell phone. If you have an unlocked cell phone (either one from home or bought in Costa Rica - all cell phones sold in Costa Rica must be unlocked), prepaid (prepago) SIM cards can provide a local number and service can be purchased throughout the country by anyone with a passport from any country. Try using companies like Grupo ICE under the Kölbi brand, TuYo Movil, Movistar and Claro.
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 and Australia (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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