COSTA RICA  |  San Jose, Costa Rica Travel Guide
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San José: Orientation

Orientation

Do you know the way to San José? Even if you do, it may be easier than finding your way around it. That’s because Costa Ricans don’t use street addresses. Instead, they use directions such as “100 meters south of the Coca-Cola.” (The Coke plant closed and is now a bus station – you’re supposed to know it was once there.) Good thing it’s a small country – and a small city. We often bump into people we know or have met in our travels, and once we encountered acquaintances from the States on a San José sidewalk! So if you’re walking around town, keep your eyes open for friends as well as those drivers who whip around corners without looking for pedestrians. Muy Peligroso!

Because the neighboring town of San Pedro, home of the University of Costa Rica and Ulatina (another university), is so much a part of San José’s personality, we have included its attractions in the San José listings. It’s a lively part of town, just east of the city limits along the main roadway connecting the upscale Los Yoses neighborhood, through student- friendly San Pedro, to curious Curridabat, and on to Cartago.

San José city itself is divided into various neighborhoods, barrios, such as Los Yoses, Amon, Otoya and Merced. Roads are in the typical Latin American grid pattern: streets, calles, run north and south, while avenues, avenidas, are oriented east and west. Bisected east and west by Av Central, avenidas to the north of Av Central bear uneven numbers, while those to the south are even. In the same way, Calle Central is the central north-south axis, with streets to the east using odd numbers and those to the west using even numbers. Look for street signs up on the corners of buildings. Blocks are generally considered to be 100 meters long (329 feet) so directions to go three blocks west and two blocks north is about 500 meters (1,645 feet).

For an overview of the city, take a half-hour tour on the Tico Tren, a train engine that pulls a sightseeing car. It was brought here by ship from Key West in 1968. The family-run tourist attraction is a familiar sight in San José. You can pick it up in front of the National Theatre (Gran Hotel) or Parque Central. The fare is US $3. The Tico Tren runs weekends in the rainy season and nearly daily in the high season, except when Carlos Solano, its driver/owner, is engaged as a private tour guide. Flag him down and say hello from us.

Last updated November 21, 2007
Posted in   Costa Rica  |  San Jose
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