San Jose International Airport arrivals area is a pretty standard place, except that, when it gets crowded it can be quite chaotic and you may get a bit lost on the way out. Find here a guide through it.

SJO Airport

SJO Airport


Whenever we travel abroad and arriving at an unknown airport, everyone’s permanent sensation as we go out the plane is: “Where to go now.”…, and then we start looking for immigration and customs office signs.

In some of the airports, signs are easy to follow, in some is not as easy. In SJO, our primary Juan Santamaría International Airport it is pretty easy. But can be chaotic at times. However, we would like you to have a guide about the arrivals area in SJO, what to do and what not to do.

SJO airport Is quite a small airport actually, and it is pretty easy to find the way through. However, it is important that you see how is it and which way to go,

You can find how is the airport in the inside, as you will be able to see in the airport and all its gates, alleys and shops here

All airports are pretty much made to the same standards, you go out from your plane, and you will pass by the sitting areas of your gate, and then pass through the immigration area, where usually, the visitors line is much longer than the locals line, as it is mostly everywhere where there is a tourism industry going on. And then, of course to luggage claiming area and customs.

And this is where the guiding begins:


dollar-1029742_640You will see a couple of places to change your dollars into colones (Costa Rican Currency).

And we do not recommend you to do it there.

The first reason is simply that you don’t need to change U.S. dollars to colones. In most all businesses tourism related in Costa Rica, U.S. dollars are welcome.

The second reason is that wherever you go in Costa Rica, as you pay in dollars they will give you the change in colones. So, you will end up having colones anyways.

And then, there is a third reason: The exchanging rate is much lower than it would be at a bank. So, our advice would be: Use an ATM or wait until you get to a bank to exchange dollars for colones if you feel you must. Our advice then would be: don’t change more than $50.

Important though for you to know that $50 and $100 bills are not used in stores and the only way to change them (Or use them) is to break them on smaller bills likes $20.

Another important thing for you to know is that in many stores, and even in banks they will not receive torn off bills. Never mind how small the tear is. 

SIM cards


In Costa Rica, you may also find Claro and Tigo for SIM cards. However, Kolbi is the one that offers a wider coverage especially if you are out of the main cities.

So, now, you have your luggage, you have a SIM card on your phone (If you bought one) and you have some little cash in your pocket. You pass by the last luggage screens, and you are finally getting out of the airport.

This is where the REAL San Jose arrival guide starts.

Nowadays (February 2017) the SJO airport is going through a transformation.And it is a bit chaotic, to say the least.

As you go out, the first thing that you will notice are two different uniforms:


Luggage Porters: Sky Cap Company is the only authorized company. It’s in operation 24 hours. There is staff located in the international departures and baggage claim areas. Sky Cap provides services in exchange for a tip.

SJO Airport Guide

Luggage porters

Taxi Drivers

Taxis Unidos is the only company approved by the Government of Costa Rica to give taxi service to and from the airport 24 hours. You can identify them because they wear a white shirt and a brown tie.

The cars are characterized by its orange color; all are properly numbered and labeled with the company logo on the side doors. There is a counter in the car rental area where passengers can coordinate the required service.

At the “Arrivals exit.” 

Now, as you pass this area of the airport you will come out, and this is where the trouble might begin.

As you go out, and depending on the time of your arrival, what you will see is an overwhelming chaos. Probably dozens of people are holding signs and yelling names, taxi drivers offering their services and non-official porters offering their services.

As you come out, you will have our staff waiting for you. If you have arranged Camino Travel to pick you up at the airport, they will be there, for sure. Look for the sign with our logo and your name on it. 

Camino Travel Logo

Camino Travel Logo

If, by any chance, you don’t find them, because the place is too chaotic and there are too many people in the area please make sure you have our 24/7 number with you at all times: (506) 8714-5127

Our 24/7 Emergency line will immediately communicate with your tour guide and driver and let you know where they are and where to meet them.

The best area to be while waiting for them (Unless they give you other instructions on the phone), be safe and without the crowd is, as you go out of the arrivals area, you walk to the right (Contrary to where the orange taxis are) and get in the area of the airport restaurant “Malinche.” That is where the group’s buses and cars are allowed to park for five minutes to pick up their passengers.

If there are groups arriving, you may want to simply sit in one of the restaurant’s table in the outside to wait for your transportation, as that area will be also full of people and luggage.

If you arranged transportation with Camino Travel, again, they will be there. We are extremely reliable. However, again, accidents may occur and our staff may be delayed as an exception. In the remote case that this exception happens, please call the Emergency phone (506) 8714-5127) before going to your hotel by yourself. 


®2017 / Written by Olga Sáenz-Carbonell for Camino Travel. If you have any doubts or comments regarding the article above, please write to

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Camino Travel | Olga Sáenz-Carbonell, O.S.C. (24, February 2017). What everyone must know about SJO (San Jose International Airport) arrivals area. [Weblog]. Retrieved from

In-text citation: (Olga sáenz-carbonell, 2017)