Travel to San Jose
Flying to San Jose
National airline Avianca Costa Rica operate 10 international routes out of Juan Santamaría International Airport, including Los Angeles, Toronto and New York. British Airways run direct flights to San José from London Gatwick. Otherwise, there are indirect flights from the UK with multiple airlines including American Airlines (via Miami), Iberia (via Madrid) and United (via Newark or Houston). If you’re looking for cheap flights, the best time to travel is from May to mid-November during the winter. September to October, when rainfall is heaviest, is particularly good for cheap flights to San José.
From London - 11 hours 30 minutes or 14 hours with stopover; New York - 5 hours 30 minutes; Los Angeles - 6 hours; Toronto - 5 hours 30 minutes; Sydney - 22 hours (including stopover).
Travel by road
While San José’s roads don’t require a 4-wheel drive car, potholes, narrow one-way streets, confusing traffic circles, and lack of signs challenge even the best drivers. Road rules, when followed, are similar to the USA and EU.
Cars drive on the right. The minimum driving age is 18. In the city, the speed limit is usually 40kph (25mph), while freeways have signed speed limits of up to 90kph (56mph).
Emergency breakdown services
Most car hire companies offer assistance. For the Transit Police, call +506 2222 9330. For general emergency services, call 911 or 112.
San José lies at the crossroads of the country. The Panamerican Freeway becomes the city’s major east-west artery, called Paseo Colón and Calle Central. East of the city, it becomes Highway 2 south to Panama. To the north, the highway passes Guanacaste en route to Nicaragua.
New Highway 239 connects the capital to Jacó and the central Pacific beaches, while Highway 141 heads north to La Fortuna and Arenal. Take Highway 32 west from Barrio Amón to the Caribbean coast.
Several international bus lines serve the Central American capitals and Mexican border, including Ticabus (tel: +506 2221 0006; www.ticabus.com) and Transnica (tel: +506 2223 4242; transnica.com). Buy tickets in advance, in person, with your passport. International buses are air-conditioned, with reclining seats and Hollywood blockbuster movies.
Most domestic buses leave from the chaotic Coca Cola Bus Terminal (Avenida 1 and Calle 16). The neighbourhood is not safe; take taxis and keep your belongings secure.
Buses to the Caribbean leave from Terminal Atlantico del Norte (Avenida 12 and Calle 7). Other buses leave from paradas (stops) throughout the city. Ask at your hotel or check The Bus Schedule (www.thebusschedule.com/cr).
Time to city
From Jacó - 1 hour 30 minutes; Quepos (Manuel Antonio) - 2 hours 30 minutes; Golfito - 5 hours; Liberia - 3 hours 30 minutes; Tamarindo - 4 hours; La Fortuna (Arenal) - 3 hours; Limón - 3 hours; Puerto Viejo de Talamanca - 4 hours.
Travel by Rail
Most of Costa Rica’s once extensive railway system, which operated from the 1880s until the 1980s, has fallen into disrepair although this is improving.
INCOFER (tel: +506 2221 0777; http://incofer.weebly.com) operates inexpensive commuter trains, traversing San José on weekdays. Trains connect San José with Pavas, Belén and Heredia.
From Pavas - 1 hour; Heredia - 25 minutes.