Many people don’t know that the San José International Airport is actually about 20 kilometers northwest of San José proper. When you exit the air-conditioned terminal and get blasted by the tropical heat, you also get blasted by offers for taxi rides into town. These can set you back from $20-30 USD and is a big pain if you’re traveling on a budget.
The public bus that runs from the airport to downtown San José is cheap, only 550 colones (~$1 USD) and comes by every 5-10 minutes during the day. Unfortunately, most travelers are unaware of this convenient service and have to pony up for the cab ride. The following instructions will explain to you how to hop the bus from the airport to San José, so you don’t have to deal with cab drivers.
After getting through immigration, get some local currency out of an ATM in the baggage claim. Be sure to get some small bills for the bus, 5000 colones or less, if you can. IGNORE THE MONEY EXCHANGE!!! They have the worst exchange rates of all currency exchangers.
After getting picking up bags and going through customs, all passengers exit the lower level of the airport and are immediately bombarded with offers for rides into town by the “taxistas.” Lucky for you, you can just say, “No, gracias,” to all of them and be on your way. Cross the street in front of the terminal and make your way to the left up towards the main entrance to the airport. Once you get to the main street outside the airport, turn right and you should see the bus stop up on the right side of the road.
Once you’re at the bus stop you’ll be looking for a bus marked “Alajuela,” the city located just a bit to the north of the airport. Many Alajuela buses stop there, so before getting on ask the driver, “San José?” to make sure that’s where he’s headed. If you have a lot of luggage, you might want to wait for a bus that is mostly empty, so you can keep a better eye on your belongings. When getting on the bus, be cautious of the scanner bars (vertical bars that count passengers getting on and off the bus either mounted on the steps or right behind the driver in the aisle), because if you stand between them for too long you could be charged for more than one fare. Have your money ready, hug your luggage so you’re not scanned twice, and pass between the bars. It's recommended to sit in the back so you can make a quicker exit when it’s your stop. The trip usually takes about 20 minutes with light traffic.
When coming into town the highway goes uphill and curves to the right. Next, there will be a couple of stop lights. At the second stop light, the bus will turn left to get on Paseo Colón, the main street on the west side of downtown. As soon as the bus makes the turn, pull the cord or push the button to stop the bus and get off at the next stop.
When you get off the bus, you’re only one block north and 2 or 3 blocks to the east of the hostel. Backtrack down Paseo Colón until you’re one block from the park. There is a bar on the corner called Central Pub. Take a left and the hostel is on the next corner. Ring the bell and we’ll be there to welcome you!