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3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

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Toronto
posts: 47
reviews: 20
3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

I am going to Costa Rica by myself. I have traveled extensively but this is the first time I am traveling alone so I think I need to rethink my precautions and choices.

My current itinerary is:

• Fly in, do the shuttle pack with Montezuma Expeditions (1 night hotel stay before they take you to your destination)

• Take the ME shuttle to Montezuma

• Week in Montezuma

• Then I have 3 nights before I fly home to do whatever I want, I currently booked an “Americanized” hotel in San Jose but I can cancel this no problem with no penalty

I am a city girl so I was not sure if after a week in Montezuma I would have “enough” of nature so I booked a hotel in San Jose. I know a lot of you will find this really hard to believe :) but I really do enjoy big cities.

I also thought that San Jose would be a good base for some tours. I’m not sure if I made the right decision so I would need some advice:

• I want a place (for my 3 nights) with lots of people so I would feel “safer” walking around by myself, staying at a quiet hotel with nobody around is not really my idea of safe while it is for a lot of people

• Somewhere where I can easily get picked up for tours

• Walkable distance to some attractions (I like shopping and museums)

• Somewhere with AC, Free Wifi/Free International calling (I love that so many places offer free international calling!)

• A gym would be nice in case the weather is bad or if I get bored in the evenings (seems like I can’t go out any night anywhere)

• I really like yoga so it would be great if I could squeeze in at least one class

• Somewhere that cost less than $30 the airport

• Budget <$300/3 nights

Shuttle Pack with Montezuma

• Has anyone had experience with taking the shuttle packs going to Montezuma?

• Do all the hotels they take you have safes in the room? AC?

Thanks everyone! All your insight will be great!

YellowPJs

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 2,055
reviews: 1
1. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

If you've read much around here, you've probably seen that SJ has many detractors. I'm probably one of its biggest defenders, or at least I try to be what I consider more fair and balanced. I will never tell you its a garden city or cosmopolitan, but I also maintain it still has its pluses. That said, I would not exactly describe SJ as a "big city", at least not big like a NYC, Toronto or Detroit. They greater metro area of the Central Valley does have a population of over 2M but SJ itself has less than 300K people. Once the shops close at 8-9PM, the streets empty (for good reason) and the downtown seems pretty dead. Of course, there are discos, bars and casinos that run to the wee hours of the morning, or even all night, but I'm not sure how secure you'd feel as a solo gringa going to any of them (perhaps, that would be different if you found some others gringos at your hotel who'd join you). But it doesn't sound like you really plan to take advantage of any of the nightlife anyway. The other thing you should note is that SJ can be pretty grimey, particularly in comparison to Toronto. And finally, as you probably already know, SJ suffers from a lot of crime (e.g. muggings at night, pickpocketing in crowds at any time, etc.). However, you should be reasonably safe walking during the day or even into the early evening, IF you exercise common-sense security practices, and driving to wherever you want to go at night (such as restaurants) in registered (red taxis) later at night. Those are the negatives that you should be aware of before you decide to stay in SJ.

Now, as to your other criteria, first IMHO SJ is a great base for doing day tours. Most tours will pick you up from just about any hotel in the city. Of course, you could also be picked up from hotels in other nearby cities like Heredia or Alajuela too, or hotels in the surrounding countryside, though there may be more exceptions to that and, depending where you're going they may not be as conveniently centrally located (e.g. Alajuela is an ideal base for visiting places like Poas Volcano or one of the coffee farms, but is on the far side of SJ for visiting Cartago, Irazu Volcano or for white-water rafting. Another possible advantage of SJ over some of its sister cities is that, despite it being a small city, it still has much more going on at night after you return from your tours, a wider choice of restaurants and, with the caveats mentioned above, possible nightlife after that if you find another group to join you. And I think its safe to say it also has those other cities beat as far as museums and shopping to visit in between tours and other activities, THOUGH I should also say most of the more interesting daytime attractions (museums and such) that it does have could be covered in a day and thus could still be checked out as a day trip into the city from a hotel base that is further afield.

So let's go down the rest of your checklist:

• Somewhere where you can easily get picked up for tours - again, you can get picked up at ANY place in SJ and to only slightly less an extent at hotels elsewhere in the Central Valley, but that really depends on which direction the activity you're doing that day is in.

• Somewhere that offers yoga - I'm no expert on this topic but i'm not really aware of any hotels in downtown SJ that offer yoga themselves. I believe most lodgings that feature yoga (at least in CR) understandably tend to be in much more naturalized settings than urban centers, ie not at all within easy walking distance of any urban attractions (I also believe they tend to run more than $100/nt). In fact, as you probably already know, where you're heading in Montezuma is one of the centers for yoga in CR and you'll have plenty of opportunities to get your fill while you are there. However, if you still want more after that, then you're not completely without hope if you don't restrict yourself to your hotel. I know there's something they call Yogarte (a mixture of yoga, art and music) that happens several times a year at the Museum of CR Art in Sabana Park (the next time happening to be at the end of this month). There is also a yoga studio in Barrio Mexico (called Namaste?) and a relatively new and much more conveniently located yoga studio appropriately called simply Downtown Yoga (http://www.downtownyogacostarica.com) which is right next door to the Pension de la Cuesta (if you'd rather stay in a very inexpensive but nice and quaint albeit small B&B) or just 1-2 blocks walk from the Sleep Inn (if you'd prefer the much larger "americanized hotel" experience)

• Somewhere that has a gym in case the weather is bad or you get bored in the evenings - As for the "americanized hotels", I know that the Holiday Inn Aurola happens to have one and that hotel is very centrally located within walking distance of most downtown attractions, but I wouldn't recommend that hotel. The Presidente is even more centrally located and has a fitness center and rooms with A/C, but rooms there start at $130/nt. The Radisson may be your best bet for a US-style hotel with A/C and gym and its rooms start at just under $100/nt, however it is a fairly long 7-8 block further north walk from most downtown attractions. Still that is probably your best bet for an americanized downtown hotel with a gym. And, as with yoga, there are also private gyms that you can go to apart from the hotels (e.g. one near Central Park and another nice one that I used to belong to on the top floor of the San Pedro Mall), although you probably wouldn't be visiting those at night to relieve boredom as easily as one right in your hotel.

• Somewhere with AC, Free Wifi/Free International calling - First, you should know that A/C is not really needed in the Central Valley (it being at a high elevation) and many hotels, even nicer ones, don't have A/C. Although, that might not be an issue if you stick to the americanized hotels you seem to prefer as they tend to be the ones more likely to have A/C,. WiFi? Most hotels in your price range ($100/nt or less) seem to have that, though free Int'l calling I'm not so sure. If you can forego the gym, the Sleep Inn might be your best option for a US-chain hotel with A/C. It also is in a very good location for walking to various attractions like the National Museum, the Jade Museum and several parks (though you might want to avoid the sleazy pink hotel next door)

• Walkable distance to some attractions (like shopping and museums) - all the hotels that I mentioned are within walkable distance to some attractions (though the Radisson much less so).

• Budget <$300/3 nights - I believe all the hotels that I mentioned above (except the Presidente) have rooms starting at less than $100/nt

• Somewhere that cost less than $30 the airport - $30 will take you from the airport to just about anywhere in downtown SJ. Of course, here is where, someplace else like Alajuela may have a big advantage as it costs less than $5 to get to/from there and the airport (unless you were planning to head into SJ at least one day anyway)

I hope this helps you some on the SJ part of your trip. Sorry I can't help you on the Montezuma shuttle pack questions (I'm more of a public bus person and haven't used the shuttle packs).

Toronto
posts: 47
reviews: 20
2. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

Oh WOW Prolijo, what a great and extremely helpful response. I will look into your hotel suggestions to see if I made the right choice with my hotel.

As you probably figured out I am from Toronto, and it's much cleaner than a lot of cities but there are still parts of TO that are quite grimey, for example my beloved Chinatown. Reading through the forum I did find a lot of people put down San Jose, but I find that people who don't live or go to Toronto often probably have similar views especially with the recent "string" of shootings (3). I was looking for a more realistic review of SJ.

It's just really hard to create a picture of the "real" SJ from the forums. That being said, one of my colleagues went to SJ about 10 years ago and she said that she saw kids sniffing glue - I am sure this has changed?

You've mentioned exercising caution a few times in your post. I do have a lot of "street smarts" from growing up in Toronto. While I am short (5'2), I am fairly muscular and have perfected the look of intimidation and confidence so nobody approaches me, I also know self defense and enough mixed martial arts to give myself a slight advantage to at least run. I don't look for trouble, make eye contact and if I feel that funny feeling in my body then I hightail it out of there. I'm also quite skilled at ignoring sob stories from pan handlers (which there are a ton in Toronto).

Thanks again!

YellowPJs

Tampa, Florida
posts: 3
3. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

Kods sniffing glue? Sadly, still there though many have since graduated up to crack. Street smarts? Priceless. At the risk of sounding sexist, I'm not sure how much the look of intimidation works coming from a woman even a muscular woman who knows martial arts (after all how would a potential mugger know what you know). OTOH, being very fit, you probably look a lot less tempting as a target than some of the fat older gringos I often see walking around San Jose. Personally, I take a similar approach as you, I try to project the look of don't mess with me, particularly when I see anyone remotely questionable. I also leave at home, or at least in my hotel room safe, anything valuable or valuable looking, and only carry around what I absolutely need. Where we might differ in approach, and you might call me chicken, is if I ever am really threatened, I'll simply run if I can or else justy give up the small amount of dinero I'll probably be carrying. Knowing martial arts might be handy in close combat against an unarmed assailant, but you never know what weapon they might be carrying. A scrawny little drug twitchy mugger (as many of these guys) may look easy to fight off, but you never know what they might pull.

As for beggars, ignoring their sob stories is indeed wise but I also take what I call the "Heisman Approach", meaning I extend one arm in front of me to keep them at arm's length and the other behind me ready to throw a punch if they get too close. Well, maybe not literally, but the I certainly don't let them get too close where they can grab my sleeve as part of their entreaty, which can often be simply a ruse to distract while they or one of their partners tries to pick one's pockets. In fact, during the day at least, when you're most likely to be out on the street, pickpocketing is the far more likely type of crime you might encounter rather than the more violent mugging.

With all that said, I don't want to overstate the crime problem either. If you just exercise the common sense street smarts that you seem to have, you should be perfectly crime and the would-be criminals are likely to focus instead on the easier targets. And, if you can look past these faults, which many other cities also suffer from, you should enjoy the many other aspects that San Jose has to offer.

Edited: 8:52 am, May 10, 2013
Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
posts: 2,055
reviews: 1
4. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

Oops, how embarrassing. The post above is really from me. I was logged into Facebook at the time under my FB alter-ego, and didn't realize that TA also logged me in here under that email address. Now you all know about my secret Facebook social gaming addiction.

Toronto
posts: 47
reviews: 20
5. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

While a lot of crime is just a crime of opportunity and one can never really be immune from being a victim of crime I will provide an example of where I don't normally get approached. Two years ago I went with my friend to Mazatlan, Mexico. It was fairly safe and I never really felt threatened, it is a tourist town after all. My friend and I were shopping at the shopping stalls; it was fairly quiet and secluded. A tall barefoot man with a guitar was strolling around with his guitar and he started flirting with my friend and singing songs to her.

Nobody will disagree (not even her) but between the two of us I am the prettier one. I was wearing a very short skirt, flip flops and a tight t-shirt while she wore a flowy long dress, very feminine. During the conversation he said that she must be the older one (I am actually older) because she is more conservative and looks like the one that would "make the decisions" and insinuated that she must be a “good girl”. The same friend also got mugged a few years back. He knew right away that approaching me wouldn’t work so started with her and was working on getting us separated.

Long story short, while he was trying to convince us to go to his camp on the beach to look at “beads” I yelled at her to hurry up and get on the damn bus. Similarly at clubs where the males outnumber the girls, I rarely ever get approached. This has nothing to do with my attractiveness.

Obviously knowing martial arts and looking intimidating won’t give me false confidence and I won’t be carrying my iPhone, designer bag, jewelry or lots of money with me or wearing skimpy outfits. As a female, a simple mugging might turn into something much worse even if I give up all my possessions and I am prepared to put up a good fight if needed.

Funny enough, I have no problems with crack heads and know how to deal with them. My neighborhood used to be “infested” with them. I used to have to chase them out of the park when I worked as a wading pool attendant. Imagine going into a park in the early morning and seeing zombies (crackheads) bumbling about, very creepy.

Thanks for your help “Don”, I feel that I made the right choice by staying in SJ for a few days!

Best,

YellowPJs

Barrie, Canada
posts: 2,038
reviews: 34
6. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

Ha Ha I was reading "Don R", s post ant thought gee that sounds exactly like Don Prolijo .... yellowpjs also check out the Gran Hotel Costa Rica. It does not meet all of your requirements (but most) and the location cannot be beat. She is a classic. By the way... I know Toronto and San Jose both very well and while I enjoy them both they are on the opposite extremes when it comes to city life. Having said that, with your attitude and outlook, you will have a blast. Enjoy!

Toronto
posts: 47
reviews: 20
7. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

CanaTico, I'd love to hear about the contrast between the two cities :)

Jaco, Costa Rica
posts: 1,013
8. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

As Prolijo suggested Downtown Yoga is a good spot for practice. Never connected with them while living in the city, but know they have lots of classes scheduled throughout the week. Never felt any danger walking anywhere during the day, but would definitely be careful with that at night, just like in any city. If you are looking for some healthy food while staying there I would highly recommend Mantras. Has great vegetarian, vegan and raw food on their menu. There is a small gym in the Barrio Amon (I think this is still Br. Amon) area almost across from Hotel Santo Tomas.

Barrie, Canada
posts: 2,038
reviews: 34
9. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

yellowpjs I am afraid that words will not do justice to the experience, but you know how Toronto is extremely, organized, modern, well lit and safe at night with a public transit that anyone could easily figure out in a matter of minutes? Well... San Jose is not. Ha! But I love her anyway. She has character!!

I should qualify this by saying that there are parts of San Jose - Escazu for example that are similar but you will not get a proper feel for the city there.

Edited: 5:01 pm, May 11, 2013
Barrie, Canada
posts: 2,038
reviews: 34
10. Re: 3 Nights In San Jose, Solo Female Traveler after Montezuma?

What to do.. What to do?

Leafs vs Bruins and Cartago vs Saprissa at the same time... both finals.. Sigh!!