Information about San Jose

San José is the capital of Costa Rica, head of the province of San José, and the nation's largest city. Located in the Central Valley, San José is the seat of national government, the focal point of political and economic activity, and the major transportation hub of this Central American nation. The population of San José Canton is 365,799, though the metropolitan area stretches beyond the canton limits and comprises a third of the country's population.

Culturally, the city can be considered almost entirely European influenced, in part because of Spanish immigration soon after Costa Rica's discovery by Christopher Columbus, and the privileged classes which generally studied in Europe during the nineteenth century and early twentieth century. This can be seen in the architecture of the city, namely theaters, museums and houses in the city center. It is named in honor of Joseph of Nazareth.

San José is a city with an interesting mix of history and modernity. Even though the city's center is almost uninhabited, it is the most important working area of the country, which brings in more than a million people daily. San José is still one of the safest, purist, and less violent cities in the region. In 2006 the city was appointed Ibero-American Capital of Culture.

San José City lies in the Torrid Zone and is in a tropical rainforest. However its elevation gives it a mild climate. Under the Köppen climate classification it features a Tropical wet and dry climate that borders on a subtropical highland climate. The temperature ranges between 17 and 30 °C (63 and 86 °F). Relative humidity averages 68.2% (with extremes of 55% in March and 78% in October) and the daily range tends to be between 60% and 90%, with the humidity typically dropping to the lower end of this range near mid-day and rising again during the night. It rains on an average of 170 days per year but half the rainfall pours down on only 15 of these days. The rainy season is from May to mid-November, but cloudiness and rainfall can occur during the dry season. There are approximately 2040 hours of sunshine per year. The weather is also very windy; this may decrease the apparent temperature.

- Buses: Private bus companies connect different areas of the city with each other and the suburbs. Services to other parts of the country are provided by other private companies which have stations or stops at random locations spread all over the city center. There is no central bus station.
- Taxis: Taxis are fairly cheap and fares are determined by meter (taximetro). From the airport, orange taxis are available that require registration inside the arrivals hall.
- Train: Trains run to Heredia from Estación Atlantico and San Antonio de Belen (just south of Alajuela airport) from Estación Pacifico. These only run on weekdays.

Places to visit in San José city:

1. Zoo Avenue
Zoo Avenue is a sanctuary for injured animals on one hand and a bird-lover's paradise on the other. See colorful macaws, toucans and others from Costa Rica and around the world, mysterious owls, hungry raptors. There are also deer and monkeys and a good-sized crocodile. Time out: 2 hours.

2. La Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles
Though destroyed in 1926 by an earthquake and rebuilt after, the basilica is still a very popular attraction. When Christianity came to Costa Rica, there were many devotees to the goddesses. Because of this, the Virgin Mary became very popular. The legend states that the statue of the virgin appeared miraculously on the site. Even if you aren't religious, this is a beautiful church.

3. Art
The art of Costa Rica is preserved in several popular museums. First is the Museo de Arte Costarricense - known as el MAC - is home to the national collection of art which includes over 2,500 pieces. Sculptures, woodcarvings, and paintings can be seen here, as well as traveling exhibits from around the world. Then there's the Galeria Ocelote. The Galeria was created to promote Latin American handcrafts. Shown here are textile designs, sculptures and ceramics among other things.

4. Butterflies
Costa Rica is home to an abundance of magnificent butterflies. Two gardens in San Jose will let you get up close and personal with these kaleidoscopic creatures. At the Spirogyra Butterfly Garden, you can learn about the natural history of Costa Rica and see the living relationship between the butterflies and their surroundings. See also beautiful plants and hummingbirds. Stop by the gift shop for lunch, all things butterfly and fabulous coffee. Open 8 to 4.

At the Butterfly Farm, just south of Alajuala, you can walk through an enclosed garden while the butterflies flutter about. You'll see up to 80 different types of butterflies as well as see the various phases of the butterfly's life, from egg to caterpiller to cocoon. The cocoons themselves are displayed in the shimmering colors and movement that helps keep them safe from predators. 2 hour guided tour.

In addition to these two, there is also the La Paz Waterfall Gardens. This is an attraction that offers not only a huge butterfly garden (claimed to be the largest in the world) but takes you into the rain forest alongside the La Paz River to see orchids and hummingbirds and a series of waterfalls that are nothing short of breathtaking. Plan at least 2 to 4 hours to see it all.

5. Café Britt Farm
Coffee Break time? How about a trip to the coffee farm? Café Britt is one of the top coffees in Costa Rica and the company has an interesting tour at the farm 20 minutes outside of San Jose. From the plant to the roaster to the can, see all phases of production. And, of course, a trip to the coffee farm wouldn't be complete without a taste. Differing qualities of coffee are there for you to try and there's a gift shop and restaurant as well.

6. Lankester Gardens
Costa Rica boasts over 1000 varieties of orchids and there are over 800 here at Lankester Gardens in Cartago (30 to 40 minutes from San Jose by bus.) The gardens are administered by the University of Costa Rica and the goal is to preserve the local flora. Walk their well tended trails from sunlight to the shadow of the forest, seeing orchids in bloom everywhere. Give yourself up to three hours for this and don't miss the gift shop.

7. Bull fighting
If you can call it that. Ticos play at bullfighting. Las Corridas a la Tica is a popular sport. No traditional blood and guts killing of the bull here, though. Ticos prefer to just tease el toro. It's rather an enclosed running of the bulls as up to 150 toreadors improvisados ( improvised bullfighters) scramble to stay out of the bulls way. If the bullfighters are feeling particularly brave, they'll slap the bull's behind on it's way by.

8. Volcan Arenal
Not technically in San Jose, but worth a day trip to see the one of the most amazing volcanoes in Central America. The night view is breathtaking as Arenal throws fireworks into the air.

9. Soccer
The soccer season runs from September to June and Ticos - native Costa Rican - are serious fans. Costa Rican soccer is as good as any in Central America and their national team has gone to the World Cup more than once. Games are usually on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and tickets range from $2 to $15. Better to pay more and get reserved seating in the shade. The local team is Saprissa (affectionately called El Monstruo, or "The Monster").

Other information abou San José city:

Business Hours
Banks are usually open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Public offices are open Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Stores are generally open Monday to Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores in modern malls generally stay open from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Monday to Friday and don’t close for lunch. Most bars are open until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m.

Collect Call
You may call collect from any public phone by dialing 110. You may also try to borrow a cell phone from the tour agents who wait at the exit of the International wing.

Credit Cards
Credit Cards are invaluable when traveling, and they are becoming widely accepted in Costa Rica (primarily Visa and Master Card). They are a safe way to carry money and provide a convenient record of all your ex-penses. Since credit-card purchases depend upon phone verifications, some hotels and restaurants in very remote destinations do not accept them. Always check in advance if you are heading to more remote corners of Costa Rica.

Domestic Air Travel
Flying is one of the best ways to get around Costa Rica. Because the country is quite small, flights are short and not too expensive. The domestic airlines of Costa Rica are Sansa (, which offers a free shuttle bus from its downtown office to the airport, and NatureAir ( Sansa operates from San José’s Juan Santamaría International Airport, while Nature Air operates from Tobías Bolaños Air-port in Pavas, 4 miles (6.4km) from San José.

Dress Code
Costa Ricans are very aware of world trends in fashion but the easy going weather they are blessed with has definitely justify a mark on their clothing style. No matter what time of the year you visit, always bring lightweight clothing. Have a windbreaker and an umbrella handy but also be ready to take your light sweater off. Jeans and cotton short sleeve shirts are common among men and jeans or skirts and small tops for women. At night a light jacket or sweater it is a good idea, too. For special occasions such as parties or weddings men can wear a tie and women a formal dress.

Driver`s License Use
Costa Rican transit law allows you to drive for 3 months with a valid driver’s license issued in your own coun-try. Always carry a photocopy of the main pages of your passport. Leave the original safely at home.

In case of emergency, dial 911 (which should have an English-speaking operator); for an ambulance call 1128; to report fire call 1118. You can also call the police at 22 22 1365 or 22 21 5337. You may also call the school at 22 29 0013 during the week or 22 83 97 73 during the weekend.

Gifts for the Host Family?
It is not necessary to bring presents to the host family. However if you prefer to do so, a little souvenir, bottle of wine or chocolates would be fine.

Local Buses, Traveling by Bus / Coach in Costa Rica
There is a wide network of buses that run all over the country. The service is not first class, but fares are very low and dependable. Taxis are also everywhere and can be found near the main bus stops. Taxi fares are around US $1.50 per mile.
Public transportation is by far the most economical way to get around Costa Rica. Buses are inexpensive and relatively well maintained, and they go nearly everywhere. Local buses are the cheapest and slowest; they stop frequently and are generally a bit dilapidated. Express buses run between San José and most beach towns and major cities. Luxury buses and minibuses drive to destinations frequented by foreign trav-elers.

Suggested Items to Bring
We recommend bringing along some warm clothing like blue jeans, a jacket, windbreaker and sweater (after 6 p.m., temperatures may fall to 16 C° in the Great Metropolitan Area), sunglasses, hiking shoes, swimming suit, towel, at least one formal shirt for men or blouse for women for an occasional formal activity, note-books, a pen, a pencil, an eraser, a pencil sharpener, Spanish/your language dictionary.

A 10% service charge is included in the bill in most restaurants in Costa Rica, so no additional tipping is necessary. Taxi drivers are usually not tipped.


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