Keep your wits about you in San Jose

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San Jose, Costa Rica
Keep your wits about you in San Jose - View from Hostel Pangea rooftop
Keep your wits about you in San Jose - View from Hostel Pangea rooftop
Keep your wits about you in San Jose - View from Hostel Pangea rooftop
Keep your wits about you in San Jose - View from Hostel Pangea rooftop

Keep your wits about you in San Jose Reviews

nat80 nat80
12 reviews
Keep your wits about you Jul 10, 2011
With so much beauty in the rest of the country, it's a shame there are some people that tarnish its reputation. My experience of San Jose was not a pleasant one. I was there twice in 3 weeks (start and end of my trip) and each time experienced a situation that made me feel very unsafe.

During the more minor of the two incidents, I was surprised to be approached by a random guy stood in a doorway while exploring the city with some people from the hostel. It was quite an intimidating situation, but he was actually trying to give us advice on getting off the street were on. As we were only a couple of blocks from the main shopping street it came as quite a shock to be told that this was a dangerous area, and that it wasn’t safe. We quickly headed back to the hostel and felt uneasy about venturing out after that.

The other incident was on arrival in the capital. I arrived at the bus station from Jaco and was hounded about taxi drivers, both official and unofficial. Having been told to only take metered taxis I finally threw my bag in the boot of an official taxi. Sat in the back, I was checking out the street names and trying to get my bearings on the map I had. I could tell I was going on a slightly longer route than was necessary, but only slightly. The driver stopped at the top of a street, pointed to the right to gesture that’s where the hostel was but it was a one-way street so was I OK here. I could see the hostel so agreed, at which point he pointed to the meter which was reading an astonishing 30,000 colons (about $60!). Bearing in mind I had travelled 2-3 miles maximum, in the broken Spanish I can speak, I questioned this. He suddenly lost the ability to speak the broken English he had displayed earlier and aggressively stated that I had to pay what the meter said. When I suggested he wait their while I go in to the hostel to ask if that was a fair price (again, in the basic Spanish I know) he quickly drove the car away from the junction saying if I wasn’t going to pay he would take me to the police. As it was about 9pm, dark, and not a particularly nice looking area (the hostel has a 10 foot high steel front wall with barbed wire at the top!) I told him to stop, paid him what I had (about 20,000 colons) and got the hell out of the taxi. The journey from the station should have cost 4000colons max. Needless to say I was a little shaken up.

With hindsight there were so many things I could have/should have done. But in the heat of the moment your brain just doesn’t work like that! My tip would be that if you take a metered taxi, make sure it’s set correctly before you go and keep your eye on it. I also resorted to carrying a little notepad with me and making a point of writing the license plate and taxi number down before I got in to a cab from then on.

Costa Rica really is an amazing country and most people there are incredibly helpful. It saddens me when the minority taint these experiences.
View from Hostel Pangea rooftop
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