International Studies Abroad ®est. 1987


Culture Corner

Getting Around San José

San José, during the day, is a fairly walkable city. Downtown has a number of walkable pedestrian boulevards and sights to see in a fairly small radius. Many homestays, especially in the Zapote neighborhood, are located within walking distance to the university and various restaurants and cafes. The city is fairly hilly, so get ready for a good workout. It is important to remember when navigating San José, that Costa Ricans do not use addresses as we know them in the United States. Locations are known by landmarks and by distance to that place from various landmarks. So be prepared to locate places based on this. To learn more about different ways to navigate San José please read the descriptions below.

Types of Transportation
Taxis are the most common way for students to get around the city. They are very inexpensive and are very convenient as long as you follow some general guidelines and use common sense.

-Be aware of independent drivers, called Piratas, who may offer you a ride. All official taxis in San José are orange/red and have a yellow triangle on the side.

-Some taxi drivers, realizing that you are not a local, will try to overcharge you (just as with anywhere in the world). It is easy to avoid this. All official taxis should have a meter inside, called a "maría". When you get in, simply ask the taxi driver "¿Tiene maría?" o "¿puede poner la maría?", and he will turn on the meter, which will calculate a correct and fair charge for your trip.

-Before you get into the cab, you should tell the driver where you want to go to make sure they know how to get there.

-If you find a taxi driver that you like, ask for his card. The next time you need a taxi, call ahead and request him/her.

-If at any time you feel unsafe in a taxi do not hesitate to ask the driver to stop, pay him, and then get out of the taxi.

Costa Rica has an extensive and inexpensive bus system for travel both within and out of San José. There are several levels of bus service available, and it will vary depending on where you are and how far you are going in the country. Prices are generally fixed no matter how far you go, and price cards are located in the front of the bus. In San José, payment for the bus rides is made to the driver upon entering the bus. The drivers are generally very friendly and willing to take the time to answer questions. Confirm with the driver the destination before you get on the bus. You can speak with ISA staff about bus schedules, stops, and bus terminal information.

Urban Train
There is a new urban train that connects the Universidad Latina - San Pedro with the Universidad Latina - Heredia. Students at both of these universities can take advantage of this rush hour service to access various parts of San José and the neighboring city of Heredia. This transportation is constantly filled with commuting business people and students.