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FESTIVALS, HOLIDAYS AND OTHER ANNUAL EVENTS IN San Jose

There are a number of festivals, holidays and other events celebrated in San José each year. The main ones are listed below.

January 1: New Year's Day (National and local)

The first day of the year is a time of festivities in Costa Rica. In San José the ‘Toros a la Tica' or ‘Zapote Bullfights' are held. In the middle of the traditional arena, the bravest young men of the city engage in a spectacular race of the bulls. Animal lovers can rest assured: the bulls are neither injured nor killed!

April 11: Feast of Juan Santamaria (national)

On this holiday, Costa Rica commemorates its national hero, Juan Santamaria, killed at the Second Battle of Rivas during a national campaign (1856-1857) that pitted the Costa Rican militia against an army of American filibusters. On this day many parades and festivals are held, but there are also celebrations between neighbours, dances in the public squares, and outdoor concerts.

April 9 to 16: Holy Week (National)

From Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, Costa Rica, a traditionally Catholic country, joins in the celebration of Holy Week. Shops are closed from Holy Thursday to Easter Sunday. The festivities usually take place within the family, but they also occur between believers during processions and masses. Note: the sale of alcohol is prohibited on Holy Thursday and Friday.

May 1: Labour Day (National)

On this holiday, the President of the Republic of Costa Rica gives a speech. It is also an opportunity for workers to organize marches and demonstrations.

July 25: Annexation of Guanacaste (National)

This holiday commemorates the annexation of Guanacaste by Costa Rica in 1824. The majority of the country's cities organise horse shows, folkloric parades, bullfights, or marimba concerts.

August 2: Feast of the Black Madonna (National)

This holiday is dedicated to Our Lady of the Angels, patron saint of Costa Rica. On the night of August 1-2, a pilgrimage walk from San José to Cartago takes place. It attracts devotees from all over Central America. On August 2nd, a mass is given in the square of the Basilica of Cartago, followed by a procession to the church of Carmel.

August 15: Assumption of the Virgin / Mother's Day (National)

On this day, Costa Ricans honour their mothers during the feast of the Assumption. Though the Virgin Mary is particularly celebrated during processions and celebrations, mums are also the objects of attention from relatives and receive flowers and gifts.

September 15: Independence Day (National)

Costa Rica celebrates its independence from Spain (1821). On this occasion, a flame of freedom leaves Guatemala and, over several days, crosses all the Central American countries formerly dominated by Spain. On 14 September, the evening before the official independence day, at 6:00 p.m. sharp, the flame is welcomed in San José in a large torchlight procession. At the same time, the whole country stops to sing the national anthem.

October 12: Festival of Cultures (National)

This day, celebrated throughout Latin America, commemorates the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus as well as the ethnic and cultural diversity of Costa Rica. In San José, in the Isabella the Catholic Park, school children lay wreaths at the feet of the former Queen of Spain.

October 31: Noche de las brujas (national)

In this ‘Night of Witches', the Costa Rican equivalent of the Anglo-Saxon Halloween, children (and adults too) go from house to house, dressed up in scary costumes, to collect candy.

December 25: Christmas (national)

Christmas Eve is a time dear to the hearts of Costa Ricans. Families gather to enjoy traditional dishes tamales and pata de chancho (pork leg). Then they go to the misa del gallo (rooster Mass) between 8 and 9:00 p.m. Gifts brought, it is said, by the baby Jesus in person, are arranged around the children's beds. But no celebratory pine tree in Costa Rica: the Christmas tree is a cypress!

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CLIMATE AND WEATHER IN San Jose

The climate in San José is tropical, with two seasons: the dry season from December to April and the wet season from May to November. Though temperatures are pleasant all year round, it is preferable to come for a stay in San José during the dry season.

Month Min. Average Temperature (°C/F°) Max. Average Temperature (°C/F°) Average Rains (MM) Best Time to Travel
January 15 25 14 Good period to go Good period to go
February 15 25 5 Good period to go Good period to go
March 16 27 19 Good period to go Good period to go
April 18 27 45 Good period to go Good period to go
May 18 28 228 Not the best period to go
June 18 27 240 Not the best period to go
July 18 26 210 Not the best period to go
August 17 27 240 Not the best period to go
September 17 27 304 Not the best period to go
October 17 26 299 Not the best period to go
November 17 26 144 Not the best period to go
December 15 25 40 Good period to go Good period to go
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San José Juan Santamaria International Airport

The airport is located about 17 kilometres from the centre of San José.

  • 2 terminals:
    • Terminal D
    • Terminal M (Air France)

Getting from the airport to San José and back: 
  • By car
    • San José's city centre can be reached in about 20 minutes by the General Canas motorway.
    • Parking is located near the airport exit. Capacity of 400 spaces on two levels. CRC 1,088 for an hour, CRC 19,053 for a day and CRC 108,875 for a week.
    • Several car rental companies have counters in the arrivals hall.
  • Bus
    • City buses stop are located in front of the airport exit and reach the city centre (terminal: Parque de la Merced) in 30 minutes. Tickets can be purchased on board the vehicle for CRC 535 per ticket. Buses run every ten minutes from 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week.
  • Taxi
    • Taxis are to the left at the airport exit. Two types of taxis are available: the orange taxis, which are officially the only ones with the right to pick up at the airport, and burgundy taxis, which are those of the national company of Costa Rica. To reach the city centre will take about 20 minutes and cost CRC 7,500.
  • Services
    • ATMs, gift shops, coffee shop, police station.

 

 

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GETTING AROUND San Jose

Getting around by car in San José requires patience and caution. To visit the city centre, nothing beats walking!

Car

Signalling defects, poorly maintained pavement in some neighbourhoods, and chaotic traffic in peak hours can make driving difficult in San José. The car parks are numerous, but can cost up to CRC 1,000 an hour in some neighbourhoods.

Bus

There are several bus lines through the city of San José, but they are difficult to identify because they bear the name of their final destination. They circulate in the city between 5:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., and their rates depend on the length of the line used (count between CRC 150 and 450 on average). Urban buses are especially handy for access to the nearby towns of San José, such as Alajuela, Cartago, and Heredia.

Taxi

Taxis are everywhere, even in the remotest corners of the capital. The fare is set on the counter: make sure it is on when you board. Count an initial charge of CRC 650 and about CRC 650 per kilometre.

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Visitor information

Once you arrive in San José, don't hesitate to get in touch with tourism professionals for information and help in organising your stay.

Instituto costarricense de turismo

  • Address: Avenida Central, Calle 1/3, Plaza de la Cultura, San José
  • Telephone: +506 2222 1090
  • Websitewww.visitcostarica.com

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Currency and Exchange Rates

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican Colón (CRC).

1 € = 674,43 CRC

The above exchange rate is given for information because is variable.

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Medical information

In Costa Rica, the medical care is of good quality and the infrastructure and facilities are modern. It is recommended before leaving to take out health insurance covering medical expenses abroad and repatriation costs.

Vaccinations

It is recommended to see your doctor before you travel. No vaccinations are required to travel to Costa Rica, but vaccines against tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis A are recommended. For more information, contact the Air France Vaccination Centre:

  • Address: 38, quai de Jemmapes 75010 Paris
  • Website: www.vaccinations-airfrance.fr
  • Telephone: +33 (0)1 43 17 22 00
  • To make a vaccination appointment:
    • online: (click here)
    • Call the centre at +33 (0)1 43 17 22 00

 

Food safety recommendations

Good food hygiene practices are recommended to ensure a healthy diet (well-cooked food, well-washed fruits and vegetables before consumption).

Water

Tap water is not safe to drink. Favour bottled mineral water instead.

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ADMINISTRATIVE FORMALITIES

Entry requirements for Costa Rica

Nationals of many countries such as the USA, Canada, Japan or the countries of the European Union are not required to present a visa to enter the territory of Costa Rica. For more information, visit the website of the Embassy of Costa Rica: www.costarica-embassy.org/

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Essential phrases

Here are a few useful phrases in Spanish for your stay in San José:

Good morning: Buenos dias

Good afternoon: Buenas tardes

Good evening: Buenas noches

Goodbye: Hasta luego

Yes: Si

No: No

No thanks: No, gracias

Thank you very much: Muchas gracias

I do not understand: No entiendo

Can you repeat please?: Podria repetirlo

Please: Por favor

What time is it?: Que hora es

Excuse me: Disculpe

Airport: Aeropuerto

Station: Estacion

Taxi : Taxi

Hotel : Hotel

Hospital: Hospital

Bank: Banco

Telephone: Téléfono

I am (...): Estoy (…)

I am looking for (...): Estoy buscando (…)

What is the price of (...)?: Cuanto cuesta (…) ?

Have you got / Do you have (...)?: Tiene (…) ?

Where can I find (...)?: Donde esta (…) ?

Where do you buy (...)?: Donde se compra (…) ?

I'd like (...) : Querria (…)

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Good to know

00 506
+ phone number
-8 : 00
of time difference with
Hamburg
Start of daylight saving time: last Sunday in March

End of day
light saving time: last Sunday in October

BANKS

Usually open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
GOVERNMENT OFFICES

Usually open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
110 V AC / 50 Hz, plan on getting an adapter if your electronics don't match.

Tipping
Service is not always included in the price: if it isn't, this must be indicated on the menu. So count an extra 10% for service. Tipping is left to your discretion.

Air France reveals...