Travelogue: Costa Rica's capital city San Jose in a day!

This post shares how I spent a day in Costa Rica's capital city, San Jose. I arrived in Costa Rica's Juan Santamaria International airport on an early morning flight from Panama, on Copa Airlines. The airport is about 20 kms from San Jose City centre. 
Once out of the airport, I made an attempt to reach city using public transport. 20 kms on an airport taxi could have cost me about 50 dollars. Google maps suggested me to take the train (Tren interurbano Alajuela) from Alajuela station some 1.6 kms from airport. A bit of zoom on the map, I figured out the next station, Bulevar Aeropuerto (Airport Boulevard) is closer. So I walked up to this train station. As per map train was supposed to leave Alajuela station by about 8.52 AM, I guessed it would reach Airport Boulevard by about 9 AM. I reached station just in time- but there was no ticket counters, no time tables, no one else. Asked a passerby where to buy ticket- I was told "on the train". Then I noticed something- the tracks were sort of rusted. If there was train movement top surface of track will be shiny.

9.30 AM and no sign of the train. I sensed something is wrong. I walked into Holiday Inn Express which was nearby, asked reception staff if the train is operating. I was told "No- train is suspended till next Monday as part of Easter holiday". Google maps- you have some work cut out for you.

First big disappointment at Costa Rica. Now what to do? Most practical thing was to go back to airport and get a bus. Asked Holiday Inn if I can use their airport shuttle, they politely refused as it is for customers only. So I walked back to towards the airport. Accidentally spotted a person selling tender coconut. Was so relieved to find it- first proper tender coconut after weeks. He had a unique way of cutting the coconut- chop off all the outer layer then cut open on top. Paid him a dollar and he gave about a hundred Colons back. He almost charged me a dollar but I didn't mind. As I was having my second coconut, a big bus pulled over. While drinking my coconut I asked the vendor if this bus goes to San Jose- he said Yes. Then I hurriedly walked towards the bus-vendor helped me by asking driver to wait.
Again paid two dollars to the driver and got several hundred colons back. 670 colons was the fare. Costa Rican colon coins are big and heavy. 20 kms for about a dollar, compared to 50 dollars in taxi. (1 USD= 600 CRC). Journey took about 45 minutes and I reached San Jose city centre bus stop. From here my hostel was about 2.4 kms away. I decided to slowly walk towards the hostel observing the city on the way.

Had another coconut in town. 300 colons each. (Half a dollar)

You can pay using USD in Costa Rica, but drawback is while giving change people use an exchange rate super convenient for them. So I felt I should get some cash exchanged to avoid losing money on each transaction. Went to a bank and could exchange 20 USD- got around 11800 CRC. There was no need to hunt for a forex shop. Regular bank was helpful. Bank staff checked my visa before issuing local currency- it was unusual but probably a security measure to detect illegal immigrants.

After 2.4 kms of walking, I reached my hostel- but was refused entry-detailed story here. Found another hostel, checked in, fresh up and it was about 1 PM already. Walked back to town, now lighter without the bag, headed straight to an Indian Restaurant- Indian Palace. Most items were expensive- just ordered a place of tomato rice that cost me around 2750 CRC or little under 5 dollars.

Next headed to city centre to explore places of interest there. Below are the photos and quick brief about places of interest I visited in San Jose City centre in Costa Rica.

National Museum of Costa Rica

It appeared like the museum is closed, but there was an entrance by the side. Entry was ticketed at around 11 USD. A large dome outside was fun to visit.

San Jose Central Market - 
A large complex with hundreds of small shops selling meat and every other material one can think of. You can easily get lost in all the small walkways inside the market. Be sure to remember your orientation or carry a map to avoid getting lost.

San Jose National Park- nice place to relax.

San Jose AV Centra or Avenida Central
Avenida Central is kind of a high street- long walkway with shops on both sides. Lots if interesting sculptures and artefacts kept here to keep up the spirit. Walked across this street clicking objects of interest and watching shops.

cow!
Cultural Plaza- Plaza De la Cultura
There is also gold museum, Jade museum etc.

Iglesia Nuesta Senora de ja Merced
A 19th century catholic church right opposite the bus terminal- was the first thing I saw when I got off the bus from airport.
Metropolitan Cathedral of San Jose
Another church couple of blocks after Iglesia Nuesta Senora de ja Merced
 
 These colourful umbrellas were spotted on a side street behind the churches.
China Town
Another church in china town


Art Gallery

Red taxis of San Jose, Costa Rica
Roamed as much as I could, walked till Swad Indian restaurant in the other end of town, inside a mall, had proper biriyani and raitha and juice for about 6000 CNC or 10 USD. Walked back to hostel, called it a day.
Next day my flight was at 1245 so I left from hostel at about 8 AM. But the SouthWest flight got delayed till late evening costing me half a day. If the delay was known earlier I could have spent another half a day in San Jose, but we were told of the delay only after completing airport formalities, so got stuck inside the airport during the delay. End of Costa Rica Travelogue.

Key points to keep in mind while visiting San Jose, Costa Rica
  • It is San-Hose, Not Jose as is Joseph.
  • Indian passport holders can visit Costa Rica without a visa if you have USA visa. I read even Canada/Schengen/Japan visa would do. Check.
  • You can manage with USD in Costa Rica, but change is given in local currency and usually as per conversion rate of other person. Ok to use USD for emergency, but you will save if you get some dollars converted into CRC.
  • Public transportation is good. Each bus ride would cost around half a dollar to a dollar mostly. Buses are modern and good
  • There's a good Indian community here- mostly business people
  • San Jose wasn't too expensive- can have a proper meal for around 10 USD (Costs 15-20 USD in many other places I have been). Hostel stays can cost around 10 USD per night onwards, which is again reasonable.
  • Language will be a problem but not impossible to manage.
  • Many day trips/2 days trips are available from San Jose. Unfortunately I didn't have time for that.
  • There're flights to SJO from Houston, Miami/FLL, Atlanta and many other US cities in the south. SJO is 3 hours from Miami by flight. You can easily plan a 2-3 day trip at reasonable cost.
Check: Wall Paintings in Costa Rica's San Jose *

10 comments:

  1. Such an artistic place.

    It must have been quite an ordeal to keep track of the dough when you hand over USDs and get change in colons, no? :) Oh! and to visit a railway station and see it all deserted must have been a bit unsettling.

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    1. Yes, Costa Rica coins are big and heavy... Train station was very small n deserted, but could see some people in buildings around so it wasn't that bad.

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  2. The installation seems to be of Botero's. I couldn't go to most of Central America when I was there, hopefully next time.

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  3. How did you manage to visit Panama canal... Incredible.. I am from shipping industry.i am dying to see the canal..was very happy to see your post!!!.thank u

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    Replies
    1. Visited part of my 34 days multi country trip... check the Americas section on my blog. Best wishes for you to visit soon

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  4. Wonderful post! That's a lot of art across the city.

    ReplyDelete

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