San Jose, Costa Rica – City Guide for Nomads and Expats

San Jose, Costa Rica.

“Do you know the way to San Jose” was a hit song recorded in the 1960s by the very talented and beautiful Dionne Warwick. I’d bet a full shilling that she wasn’t talking about San Jose, Costa Rica.

San Jose is the capital of the country and the economic hub of all things not involving tourism. It’s not bad. Not great…but not bad! The women are pretty, the city is vibrant and the beach is close.

POPULATION: 290,000


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RENT AN APARTMENT IN SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

$450.00. In this case, assume city centre to mean “nice area” because there isn’t a whole lot to rent near the centre of San Jose.

 

BEST BARS & NIGHTLIFE IN SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

7/10 

Enough to keep you feeling content. I’m not fond of the way the nightlife is allocated in San Jose. You basically have three or four different areas you can go to, but they are so far apart you essentially have to commit yourself to one per night to make the most of things. I’d recommend the Escazu district, as well as downtown San Jose. If you can, check out both. There’s also the Santa Ana district, which is pretty upscale, and the San Pedro district, where the university is located. 

My Latin Life recommends:

Castro’s Bar: A down to earth place. May have just a few too many tourists though. If you like to leverage your exotic factor, hit the districts away from downtown.

 

SAFETY IN SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

Moderate. Most people think of Costa Rica as one of the safest Latin American countries — which it is — but San Jose has its issues. Crime certainly exists in San Jose, but it’s mostly kid’s stuff like purse snatching or robbing at knifepoint (the latter rarer). Don’t worry about becoming a victim of senseless violence in San Jose because it probably won’t happen. Keep an eye on dat necklace tho. Don’t walk around alone at night or in dangerous areas. The usual stuff, ya know.

 

COST OF LIVING IN SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA 

The following data is from Expatistan, a crowdsourced database of prices and cost of living around the world. In our experience, the data tends to underestimate cost of living, so take the following as the minimum you might need to live here.

*Figures are listed in USD

You’ll need a minimum of $1178 USD/month to live in San Jose, Costa Rica

cost-of-living-san-jose-costa-rica

WHERE TO STAY IN SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

San Jose is a city where you do not want to stay in the city center. It’s recommended to stay away from the area between the main hospital and Parque La Sabana. Downtown San Jose can get pretty weird at night.

The best areas of San Jose  San Pedro or Barrio Escalante. Barrio Escalante is a quiet residential neighborhood in San Jose with a few good little bars and cafés. Barrio Escalante  and is within a walking distance from city center and the university if needed

 

THINGS TO DO IN SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

Visit Cartago, a richer midsized city only 25k away to the south.

Take a day trip to Heredia, a beautiful colonial neighborhood/town only 20 minutes from downtown San Jose.

If you get tired of the high prices in Costa Rica, consider heading to Panama or Nicaragua. There are lots of bus routes going south to Boquete or Bocas del Toro, Panama, and north to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. 

 

HOW TO GET TO SAN JOSE COSTA RICA

Many international flights will have a transfer (una escala) in Panama City. Flight time from San Jose to Panama City is only 80 minutes.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

I’ll give a brief impression of Costa Rica here since my two city guides failed to dig very deep. I would say that as a tourist destination, Costa Rica has seen its day.

There was a time, twenty years ago, when it was cheap, safe and beautiful. And while it still may be beautiful on the beaches and in the jungle, it’s charm has since been eroded by the constant flood of gringos and inflation, a by-product of the aforementioned. I’d opt for Panama instead, although that place too will no doubt endure a similar trajectory.

You might say I’m being too hard on it – not even my own overall ratings reflect my criticism – but for a country that is constantly having its johnson stroked for how great it is, there isn’t all that much good to say about it anymore.


OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10


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