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First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

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Toronto, Canada
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First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

Hi, I’ve never flown before at all, so I’m a little nervous just about the process. When I land in Costa Rica at SJO, can someone tell me what steps I need to go through? Do I need to go through security? What does going through Customs/Immigration entail?

I know when I leave I have to pay a departure tax. I figure it will be similar to leaving my own country- check in, check baggage, go through security, wait to board. I will not have much to declare- no alcohol, tobacco etc. At most some souvenirs nothing too valuable I don’t think.

Slovenia
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for Costa Rica
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1. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

Do not worry neither about arrival neither about departure. On arrival just follow all the other people from your plane. They all will need to do the same things: collect the luggage, clear the customs, line up in the immigration line (or is the immigration first?). SJO is fairly small airport so you will be always seeing others. And during your flight from Canada you can ask your next to assist you. On your departure, first thing is to pay the departure tax. Pay it with cash and not with c/c. The counters to pay it are located on the departure area, right hand side after entrance. Then as you described. All airports are having same or similar logistics. Enjoy your travel, Costa Rica is a fantastic place.

Costa Rica
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2. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

Upon arrival, passengers are "herded" into the immigration/passport control area. You will line up and then go to an available agent who will stamp your passport. Then, "follow the crowd" or the signs to the baggage area to pick up your bags.

Once you have your baggage, you will go through customs. Here you will hand over the form you filled out on the plane. Then put your luggage, jackets, carryon - everything - on a conveyor belt for xray. Then.... you're done!

The easiest thing for you to do is arrange a private driver ahead of time who will meet you at the airport with a sign that has your name on it and then deliver you to your destination. Easy.

When it's time for you to go home, as Xelas said - look for the departure tax desks which will be to your right once you enter the airport terminal. Pay your departure tax - yes, in cash, it's $US29 - and fill out the form. Go to your airline and stand in line to check in and then go through security and on to your gate.

Punta Uva, Costa...
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3. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

When you go get your luggage at SJO, it's also a good time to get some colones from the ATMs at the baggage claim area, I usually get 100,000 colones, that will last you a few days, so you can relax.

Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

Thanks for the tips. After I posted I went to the SJO site and there is a map there and some helpful info- in Spanish, but the map is easily translated. I'm trying to learn a bit of Spanish, out of interest. Do the customs agents, etc in the airport speak English? I would really like to try practicing and learning some Spanish while I'm there, but in the airport I would likely revert to English.

Yeah I haven't figured out yet how much American money and colones to get. I'll have to exchange Canadian for US dollars too, exchange here is almost par I think, so I will likely do that here, and get colones there. The bank in the ATM I think I read is Scotia, which is my bank, not that it matters, but I will touch base with them on exchange rate for American dollars as well as colones.

I'm not leaving til January so I have lots of time, just slowly planning.

Costa Rica
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5. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

1. The customs and passport control officers speak limited English. But really, there should be no need to have any kind of conversation with them.

2. Most people recommend a mixture of US dollars and Costa Rican colones. Right now, the exchange rate is 494 colones to the US dollar - but most people just figure it at 500 (it's easier.......)

The best thing to do is to have some US dollars and some Costa Rican colones. If the price is in dollars, pay in dollars. (Typically this will be hotels and tours) If the price is in colones, pay in colones. (Typically this will be taxis, restaurants, supermarkets and shops.)

Alajuela
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for Alajuela
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6. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

No worries, you just bring a bag of US $ and change a few into Colones at your first hotel or open bank that does not have 100 people standing in line.

Pretty much any hotel will help you change a few $$ on arrival to get you going - AVOID the cambio desks at the airport - they are a bad deal.

Berni

Alajuela

Costa Rica
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7. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

There are also ATM's in the airport where you can withdraw colones (or dollars.) There's at least one in the baggage area.

Toronto, Canada
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8. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

Thanks for the tips. Pretty much fits with what I was thinking. I will bring some US cash with me, and try to use ATMs in Costa Rica to get some colones. I will be in Playa Grande for a few days and I know there is an ATM in Tamarindo. Then I will be in Arenal.

American money, no problem, to take back. I'm going to try not to have colones leftover. If I do, I figure I couldI exchange it back in a bank in San Jose or at the airport before I leave...

Canada
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9. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

Don't worry. There is a real bank in the departure area, right beside the counter where you pay the departure tax. You can exchange your colones to US dollars there. Coins can be thrown in a charity bin inside.

Edited: 7:45 pm, November 01, 2013
Costa Rica
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10. Re: First time flyer- what to expect at SJO

You can also use any leftover colones to pay your departure tax. They will accept colones, us dollars or a mix.