San Jose Airport
SJO - San Jose International Airport
Costa Rica International Airport Juan Santamaria Airport is not located in San José, Costa Rica, although the airport code here is SJO and would suggest so: instead, it is located in the North-Western province of Costa Rica, Alajuela. This is a surprise for most visitors who expect their plane to land in Costa Rica's capital. As a matter of fact, up until 1955, that was accurate. The international airport was located at the west end of Paseo Colon, in what is now La Sabana Park, its name was La Sabana Intl Airport. On July 1955, the Juan Santamaria International Airport was inaugurated 23km west of San Jose and only 3km south from the city of Alajuela, in the town known as El Coco. The airport had to be moved since the runways at La Sabana were too short for the increasingly large planes most airlines were using, and it was too close to the mountains and the central hub of San Jose. The Juan Santamaria Airport helped to innovate aviation in Costa Rica, with it's first asphalt runway in the country, previously all runways were made out of grass. After the airport's inauguration, LACSA began offering international flights to La Habana, Panama City and Miami. The first jet to arrive into this country was a LACSA BAC 1-11-400 and nicknamed El Tico on April 15th 1967.
The Juan Santamaria Airport in Costa Rica is run by the private company Alterra Partners. Once you touch ground in Costa Rica airport, you'll go through the corridors to the international area. Proceed to the Immigration check post if your final destination is Costa Rica. If you are in transit, stay in the international area and have a taste of Costa Rica's coffee browse book stores and souvenir shops, or if your wait is longer explore the city of San Jose just pass the Immigration Post and pay the transit tax when you return to the airport within the next 48 hours. Read the baggage claim area signs carefully. There are different carrousels for over sized luggage and special equipment (animals, surfboards, etc). The use of trolleys is complementary and if you need help with your bags, request the bellboys to assist you for a voluntary fee, insurance that covers their service. If by any chance your baggage doesn't arrive with you, contact your airline representative at the Baggage Claim area, and they'll let you know the necessary steps to follow. Report any merchandise you are bringing into the country at the customs desk and read the instructions thoroughly regarding restricted items and you'll have a smooth entrance into the country. At the currency exchange booth inside the airport, exchange only the dollars you need for that day, the exchange rate there is usually not updated daily. Change the rest of your currency at your hotel or at a bank outside the terminal and use small denomination bills: $20 and under is recommended, since even businesses that accept dollars may refuse to accept $50 and $100 bills. There are 3 ATMs inside or near the airport: one is in Boarding Room #4, one on the International Arrival Area, and a third one is outside the main building.
Contact your airline for baggage information regarding size and weight restrictions. In San Jose Costa Rica, airport services in domestic flights have a 25 pound limit per person for luggage traveling on the aircrafts: excess baggage may not be able to fly with you even if the overweight fee is paid, so pack lightly. The exit tax should be paid before you reach the airline counter on your way out of the San Jose, Costa Rica. International airport Exit Tax Collection desk will be on the way. Pay your exit tax in cash either in colones or dollars, since they charge a small commission and only accept Visa cards. If you have a connecting domestic flight, the Sansa terminal is next to the Juan Santamaria airport: you'll need to exit the terminal and walk 200 meters to your left. If your domestic flight is with Nature Air, the only terminal is at the Tobias Bolaños airport (it may take from 20 minutes to an hour to get from one place to the other). There is a bus stop outside the airport. The Alajuela - San José route buses stop there in both directions. Buses from other routes also stop there. Taxis are available, there are also some unlicensed taxis charging considerably more, and some charging considerably less. Taxis will generally accept both colones and U.S. dollars, but not other currencies. Licensed taxis are red with yellow triangles on the doors, additionally there is an airport taxi service that is licenced and employs orange taxis- their rates are significantly higher than that of the non-airport taxis.There is an ATM available at the baggage claim area (VISA, MasterCard) and another in the second level by the curbside of the entrance to departures (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) that dispenses colones and US dollars.
Since 1997, a project to expand and renovate Juan Santamaria International airport was initiated. The project has been on the public spotlight, under allegations of private enterprise inefficiency. The airport has been operated by Alterra Partners since 2001 as part of a plan to improve the airport by the Costa Rican government. As of December of 2008, Houston Airport System Development Company (HASDC), will take over the administration from Alterra Partners. In 2002-2003 they made major changes to the old terminal because it was not capable of handling the rapidly-increasing number of passengers and airlines, and demolished the old control tower and built a new one with a design matching that of the new terminal. Once HASDC takes over the administration, it has a 12-month deadline to complete the airport remodeling, which Alterra Partners failed to complete. A new Sansa (regional airline operated by Grupo TACA) terminal will be built in the year 2008, with a total cost of 250,000 dollars.