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24 Tips For A Safe and Budget-Friendly Trip to San Jose, Costa Rica

San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and serves as the country’s political, cultural, and economic hub. It’s not too big at just over 17 square miles, but it packs a punch when it comes to unforgettable things to do and places to visit. There are fantastic restaurants, hotels, museums, and parks to explore in San Jose.

If you are reading this guide, most likely, you are planning a trip to San Jose, or maybe you are already there and want some high-quality advice to spend your time there best. I have recently traveled to San Jose for the first time, and I have compiled a top of the best travel tips for you to feel this place. Therefore, I offer you to start reading the selection.

San Jose, Costa Rica – What You Need to Know

  • Language: Spanish is their primary language. But English is spoken by most.
  • Costa Rica Province: San Jose
  • Time Zone: Central Standard Time GMT-6
  • Currency: The local currency is the Costa Rican Colon (¢, CRC). 1USD = 516 CRC
  • Voltage: 110 V
  • Airport: San Jose International Airport or Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría.
  • Population: Approximately 1,482,000 according to 2024
central market san jose city costa rica

24 San Jose, Costa Rica Travel Tips

4 Hotel & Tour Reservations Tips in San Jose

  • If you’re coming for the busy season, which falls between May and September, then you must have your hotel booked in advance.
  • If you’re coming for Christmas or Easter week, reserve them at least one month before coming.
  • Make advance car rental reservations if traveling during the high season.
  • In a low season or wet months when traveling, reservations are not as important as most hotels have multiple options available. Still, if you are a beginner traveler to San Jose, Costa Rica, it is advisable to book your hotel and tours. Thus, it is easy to set your plans in motion without the uncertainty of last-minute accommodations or bookings.

9 Money Saving Tips In San Jose, Costa Rica

  • Skip taxis
  • Stay with a local
  • Use Uber or local buses for transportation
  • Book your tours in advance online so you can get better deals and discounts.
  • Take a free walking tour 
  • Pack a reusable water bottle
  • Eat at local sodas (small, family-run restaurants) instead of fancy touristy places
  • Shop at farmers’ markets or grocery stores for snacks and drinks
  • Do free activities like visiting parks and museums instead of paid tours

Planning a Trip to San Jose?
Check Out These Helpful Services:

Find the best flight deals

This is the site I recommend, you can check all the different prices.

Best accommodation prices

I highly recommend this one, it’s the best option right now for Central America

The best way to get around is by car

Check out this site to rent a car and go at your own pace.

Is San Jose, Costa Rica, Safe to visit?

Crime is on the rise in Costa Rica, but it’s still contained in petty theft, pickpockets, and car theft. Although, in recent years, there have become small waves of violent crimes. The majority of the crimes do occur in San Jose, with more and more happening in the beach towns, but when you compare it to other big cities like Los Angeles, New York, Paris, and London, the streets here are still safe. 

Just like with any other city, you should always be cautious and apply common sense. Do not leave your belongings unattended or in open sight. I have compiled the best safety practices that you need to take into account when planning your visit to the city of San Jose, Costa Rica:

How To Be Less Of A Target

  • Keep all your valuables in your hotel safe except for the ones you need.
  • Take only the amount of money you’ll need for the day.
  • Carry a copy of your passport.
  • Lock up your car, and don’t leave anything inside to tempt anyone.
  • Don’t walk on badly lit streets alone.
  • Always keep your eyes on your luggage.
  • Avoid wearing beach attire in urban areas. I advise you to opt for closed-toe shoes that offer comfort. Keep in mind that sidewalks and roads often have numerous cracks and potholes.
  • When walking around, always keep your backpacks, purses, wallets, and cameras in front of you so you can see them and feel them all the time.
  • When driving, don’t pull over to help anyone or open windows to talk to anyone.

Places Of Higher Risks

  • The Coca-Cola bus terminal (and all bus terminals) is notorious for luggage snatching. Keep your bags at your sides at all times.
  • The financial district, the area between Calle 8 and Calle 13, and the streets surrounding the Banco Central, Plaza de la Cultura, Parque Central, Barrio Amon, and Parque Morazan are also high-crime areas. You should be careful during the daytime and avoid these places altogether between 10 pm and 6 a.m.
grano de oro san jose costa rica

Common Tourist Scams

Someone slashes your tires, you pull over, and friendly civilians come to help out. But in reality, they are the ones who slashed your car and then stole all your possessions while changing the tires. This is very common, especially in car rental shops by the airport. Check your tires, and buy local theft insurance.

Cash

Cash goes a long way in Costa Rica. Wherever you are, remember to ask if there is a discount if you pay cash. I mean everywhere, from pharmacies to restaurants to hotels to souvenir shops. Sometimes, the discounts could be really significant!

Off-Season

When you travel during the off-season, you get some benefits. You can get accommodations at discounted prices, tour companies are more willing to lower their prices, and you can even end up on a private tour for the price of a regular tour. So always use that as leverage and reap the rewards!

The Wet Season

It does not stop you from having fun, even in Costa Rica on a rainy day. This only indicates that you play outside in the mornings and read or wet afternoons sitting by the window with a good book and drinking in the warm rain of both drinks.

Essential Travel Resources

❗Don’t forget travel insurance


This company is the one I trust, it’s one of the most essential things for any trip. It has your back in case you get sick abroad, or have an accident.

🎒Pack smarter, not bulky


Check out this vacation packing list, including all the essentials you need to pack when traveling, from travel clothing to backpacks and more.

🏡Where to Stay – Here are Suggestions


This is my favorite place to look for accommodations, it offers different types, a ton of locations, and good price options.

🗺️Get Around Hassle-Free


This one is the perfect option to look for different transportation options between cities, from flights, buses, and taxis to minivans and more.

🛫Find Cheap Flights


Whenever I need to fly, I head to this website for low-cost flights.

Getting Around in San Jose

The cheapest way to get around the city is using local buses, and you can easily catch them from any street corner. Nonetheless, you can also use taxis but don’t forget to ask for the price before that. Uber is far cheaper than taxis, and it is, undoubtedly, the best way to move around in San Jose. By the way, if you decide to rent a car and drive it, then have Waze or Google Maps, since almost all the streets are only in Spanish.

If you’re staying at the city’s center, you can walk to many of the lures virtually. However, I wouldn’t recommend walking in SJ after dark, considering some parts may get a bit sketchy. Therefore, take a taxi or Uber at night. Never walk down empty streets or alleys, especially if they’re not well-lit. And it’s always safer to stick together or be with someone else when you’re out and about.

Conclusion – Final Words!

Now that you have these Costa Rica travel tips, and if you put them into practice, I know your vacation will be a lot smoother.  By the way, I know we’re talking about San Jose here, but these tips are valid for any city in Costa Rica. And the most important tip – have fun!

I hope these tips are helpful for you to enjoy the Pura Vida lifestyle! Keep in mind, traveling is just about being open to things and being prepared for anything. If you keep them in mind, you will save money and have a safe, effective enjoy your trip to San Jose, Costa Rica. Also, If you have another one please let me know, so we all will have to be in better vacations.

Looking for More Inspiration?

I have been traveling and living in Costa Rica for over 25 years
Check out these Hand-Tested GUIDES

Tips

If you want to travel without the hassle and confusion – check out a complete guide for traveling to Costa Rica.

Places

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

Food

Costa Rica has a huge variety of food, check out the guide to the top 13 Costa Rican food and dishes.

Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission for any purchases made through the links. Your trust is important to us, and we ensure that all products or services we recommend meet or exceed our editorial standards.

Last Updated on March 29, 2024

One thought on “24 Tips For A Safe and Budget-Friendly Trip to San Jose, Costa Rica”

  1. Thanks for the tips! Thanks for the info! One of my favorite San Jose hotels is The Sainte Claire. Great atmosphere and great hotel specials!

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