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posts: 8
reviews: 14

I am arriving at SJO at 11:30 am. How long can I plan for customs/immigration as I see 9 or 10 international flights arriving with 40 minutes of each other.

posts: 119
reviews: 21
11. Re: Customs/immigration

No, Hattie, just trying to figure out how soon I will get to Arenal, have driver, trying to decide what to do that afternoon. Thanks!

Edmonton, Canada
posts: 335
reviews: 84
12. Re: Customs/immigration

If the airport wait is the introduction to "going slow" CR style, chapter one is the road to La Fortunal. Many folks think the distance short enough that it can be done in an hour or two. All but the first few kms are on a narrow road shared with many trucks and buses, motorcycles and the occasional horse, that winds its way into the highlands. If you get there while the sun is still up and it is not raining, great, enjoy the view. If not, perhaps because of a slow truck or whatever, still try and enjoy the view and ride and the "getting there is half the fun" moment

posts: 5
reviews: 54
13. Re: Customs/immigration

Just returned from SJ. Arrival was no problem, breezed right through. Departure, though...be sure to get the $28.00 exit stamp ( dollars or credit card) before getting into the flight /luggage check-in ( the stand for the exit fee is the far right side of the airport past the entrance) . You can not get your boarding pass or check your bags without the exit permit. Security took longer than expected. Total departure time to gate was 1 1/2 hours

Costa Rica
posts: 21,868
reviews: 26
14. Re: Customs/immigration

OK, Tomim. I understand..... I was just wondering.

You can figure 45 minutes at the airport (it might be less since you are in Row 3 and have only carryon) and about 3 hours to the Arenal area. Keep in mind that sunset is around 5:30 pm and it is dark around 6 pm so you can plan your activities accordingly.

Have fun!

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 2,055
reviews: 1
15. Re: Customs/immigration

IMHO, the best advice if you'd prefer to get through the airport as quickly as possible, for WHATEVER reason, like jako said, is to walk as quickly as possible to get to the immigration area (and taking care of bathroom business AHEAD of time so you don't have to add a delay for that can also certainly be part of that). Getting a seat near the front of the plane can also help a lot too, as Hattie said, but even if you don't it shouldn't be too hard to pass the dawdlers and slow walkers that were seated ahead of you.

The last tip about bringing only carry-on can also make a big difference but there are some qualifications to that. For one thing, that may not be a practical option for some people, For another, it may mean you're having to schlep a significant amount that might slow you down. If you manage to get through immigration quickly and you have checked luggage, you might wind up having to wait for it anyway, whereas if you only have carry-on you can just proceed on out, with only a very minor delay (if even that) for customs inspection. OTOH, if you failed to beat the rush at immigration, your bags will probably be waiting for you after you finally get through (or perhaps set aside) and, I'm guessing, picking up those bags and proceeding on through customs and out of the airport won't really add that much on to the time that you've already spent getting through immigration.

So, IMHO, it mainly comes down to getting to immigration quickly to beat as much of the crowd as possible and then ONLY IF that is successful not having to wait for any checked bags.

Now, you might have noticed I had only guessed about what would happen if you wind up getting delayed at immigration and then have to pick up your bags. The reason for that is because that has never happened to me, I'm admittedly basing this on my own personal experience which may not be typical (or actually apparently isn't). I typically arrive at SJO during that 11:00am to noon "witching hour" (lately the Jet Blue flight out of Orlando which fortunately happens to get in a little ahead of most of those flights but also in the past Spirit Air out of FLL which doesn't). I always walk fast (actual running is not necessary) and nearly always arrive at immigration before much if any line has formed. I also only very rarely check any bags, hence my guessing. On those few occasions when I have had, I haven't had to wait very long for my checked bags EVEN WITH getting through immigration as quickly as I do.

So, despite arriving at the same time as so many other flights, by my using those tips (getting seated as close to the front of the plane as I can, walking quickly after getting off the plane and avoiding checking any luggage), I would say that AT LEAST 4 times out of 5, I manage to get through the airport in UNDER 30 minutes, sometimes well under, and only 2-3 occassions out of many trips have I had to wait an hour or longer. Obviously, many others usually experienced longer delays since they offer estimates of 45 minutes to an hour as being typical. And I can't say whether that is because of these time-saving tips that people like myself have mployed or whether I've just been incredibly lucky, but that has been my own experience FWIW.

BTW, one last thing, aside from my differing on the time estimate, I also differ on the advice regarding going upstairs to pay your departure tax after you arrive. You can certainly do that, but IMHO shifting the time it takes to do that to the beginning of your trip really doesn't save you THAT much time at the end. Since they expanded that counter, it has NEVER taken me more than 5 minutes to get the stamp IF EVEN that. I suppose if you think your schedule is going to be really really that tight at the end of your trip, then those 2-3 minutes might make a difference (or you just might want one less thing to have to deal with later). But usually, most people plan on getting to the airport at least a couple of hours before their flight anyway (and then wind up waiting a long time for their flight), so for most people those 2-3 minutes really won't make that much difference (plus paying the exit tax at the start of your trip gives you more chance of misplacing the slip and having to pay for it again). However, if you wait to get the stamp until you leave, one small suggestion I might add is to bring your own pen so you can start to fill out the short form they give you when you pay the tax, as you'll need to have that completed before they let you get into line to check-in at the airline counters (though, if you don't, attendants at the entrance to those lines will have ones that you can borrow). Where I agree with LuckyTraveler is that going through security is the real wild card. It taking 1.5hours to get through the airport when you're ready to leave (including exit tax and airline counter time) is definitely on the long side of what I usually experience, though certainly not unheard of (hence the recommendation that you allow at least 2 hours), just bring a book along with that pen and don't be surprised if you wind up waiting for your departure.

Buffalo, New York
posts: 27
reviews: 2
16. Re: Customs/immigration

What is customs looking for? What is not allowed inside the country? The only questionable things that might be in my bag are food that I didn't gobbleup on the plane.

Costa Rica
posts: 21,868
reviews: 26
17. Re: Customs/immigration

Don't bring any fresh fruits or vegetables or seeds or nuts.

If you have leftover food in packages - such as cookies or crackers - no worries. If you have any concerns, just show it to the agent as you pass through - or just throw it away before you go through customs.

posts: 25
reviews: 3
18. Re: Customs/immigration

Just be ready for a long wait in the immigration line in SJO. Hour or so? Just returned from an enjoyable trip to Costa Rica with Gate 1 Travel and was surprised by the large crowd. Have your ipod handy for amusement!

Edited: 7:40 pm, April 30, 2013
Costa Rica
posts: 21,868
reviews: 26
19. Re: Customs/immigration

ebehenna: It really depends -- on a number of things as to how long the wait will be. On many arrivals at SJO, I have waited no minutes or up to 30 minutes. It you are unlucky enough to arrive when other flights are arriving, it might take an hour -- especially if there are fewer agents than normal.

The "normal" time that it takes to get through immigration, get your luggage and go through customs is about 45 minutes to an hour.

posts: 25
reviews: 3
20. Re: Customs/immigration

Guess I was unlucky, Hattie. Arrived last week at SJO before noon with just carry on and from front seat in plane, relatively speaking. Found your previous posts on Costa Rica, as well as Prolio's, most helpful so was ready for anything. Except for standing in an endless line to immigration. No regrets, however, cause the rest of the trip in Costa Rica with Gate 1 Travel was a dream come true! Eugene B