Entering Costa Rica via SJO Airport
Immigration: About 1 hour
Customs: 5 Minutes
We flew out of LAX into SJO, an easy non-stop, about 6 hours. Upon landing at the San Jose airport you file immediately in line for immigration. Make sure you follow the correct signs for citizens and non-citizens. We waited about 45 minutes and finally reached the immigration officer. We had already filled out our paperwork on the plane so it was ready to go. The officer didn’t ask too many questions, all she really cared about was the address we were staying at and how long we were going to be in the country. After our passports were stamped and dated it was time to move on to customs.
This is where things got a little weird. We had planned on getting a phone card at the airport and exchanging our US dollars. DO NOT exchange your money. It was such a waste. If you’re staying for any length of time and traveling to multiple countries I highly recommend hanging on to your US dollars. It’s so easy to get local currency out of the ATM and at a much lower rate. Of course you should check with your debit card issuer and confirm the fees, but typically it’s about 1%, and most ATM’s do not charge a fee. Also keep in mind that in our experience we were only able to withdraw local currency once we got past Nicaragua, that’s why I suggest holding on to your US cash.
As for the phone card, the line was incredibly long, and it didn’t seem like it was going anywhere so we opted to hold off. Honestly, being without cell service was no big deal for us, and even if we had wanted a phone card, you can find them just about everywhere.
Customs was so easy we didn’t even know what to do. Basically you just throw your crap up on the conveyor belt and scoop it off yourself, unless someone tells you to do otherwise, just keep on walking.
Bottom-line. Get out of the airport as quickly as possible. Hop in a taxi or an Uber and just go! Now you’ve done it! You’re officially on your way to having a great time in Costa Rica!