We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.
We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Which San Jose hotels are on sale?
dd/mm/yyyy dd/mm/yyyy
See hotels
Foster City...
Level Contributor
10 posts
116 reviews
Save Topic
San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Just got back from San Jose Costa Rica, things have changed since I was here last. They have a nice new international terminal but I got to say they need signage telling a person what to do. Since we had our boarding passes we walked to security and was told we had to pay the departure tax first and have our airline stamp our boarding pass and had to walk all the way to the opposite end of the terminal. So in the future we know to do the following:

1. When entering the international terminal - look to your right there is a large desk that say "Depature Fee" (the exit fee was $26 US and they took Visa credit cards but we all had US cash). They will give you a receipt (hang on to this) and another form you needed to complete for your airline.

2. Go to your airline counter and they will check passport, etc and stamp your boarding pass

3. Go to security (all docs checked once again) and then get luggage checked/screened

Then you finally get to go to your boarding area.

Before you are allowed to board your plane then do a manual hand check of everyone's luggege because passagers from domestic flights can enter international boarding areas as well so make sure you give yourself plenty of time. They recommend 2-3 hours prior to departure and we now can see why.

While we were waiting to board, some how the departure fee counter lost one of our friends forms saying that she paid. So the airline rep had to take her passport and the departure fee receipt and walk all the way back to the other end of the terminal (through security) to proof the tax was paid and then walk all the way back!

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
46,017 posts
32 reviews
Save Reply
1. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Thank you for the advice...

roaddvisor

La Fortuna de San...
Level Contributor
2,002 posts
192 reviews
Save Reply
2. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

If this info isn't in every single Costa Rica travel guide it should be. :-) Every time we're in the airport I try to help people with that "what do I do now look" to go to the counter first and pay the tax BEFORE they get in the long lines! :-) Great info...thanks for posting it!

Wendy at the Villa Hermosa, La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Foster City...
Level Contributor
10 posts
116 reviews
Save Reply
3. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Thanks everyone - to bad they don't have a large sign as you walk in with a big arrow saying "pay departure tax here". Once you pay your tax it's pretty easy because everyone tells you what to do next and where to go.

I too was shocked that this info was not listed in any guidebooks that I read and I actually found out about the $26 exit fee when I went on to the U.S and Costa Rica consulate web sites.

Fort Lauderdale
1 post
2 reviews
Save Reply
4. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

please proof read your post and correct the spelling!

HPISLES

Edited: 20 February 2011, 20:15
Costa Rica
Level Contributor
25,655 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
5. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

For an international flight, you must check in with the airline, even if you just have carry-on. Most airlines have a small desk at the entrance to their check-in with someone there who will tell you - go get your departure tax paid and bring the receipt. However, they are not always there. So there's a lot of that --" we walked from one end of the terminal to the other." kind of thing.

The only good news is that the terminal isn't that big. I have had to do something similar in and airport such as Orlando or Miami and that's quite a hike.

As to why there isn't a sign -- good question.

San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
46,017 posts
32 reviews
Save Reply
6. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Maybe you can send a mail to the US company that is in charge of our SJO airport...the airport is under US administration...some times some American companies are not the best...sorry!

roadadvisor

Paris, France
Level Contributor
562 posts
30 reviews
Save Reply
7. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Come on roadadvisor, the signage in the airport was worse when Alterra Partners, the Costa Rican company, was in charge. The U.S. company came in and completed 4x more work in 1.5 years than the Costa Rican company completed in 8 years.

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
2,209 posts
1 review
Save Reply
8. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Actually Elgato, Alterra is a subsidiary of Bechtel and is based in London, but your point is well taken. IMHO, they did a truly horrible job managing SJO when they had the contract and, while the new outfit still has some areas where they could improve, the overall difference really is like night and day.

I agree that hpisles provided some really useful information but IMHO they made the process seem much more daunting than it really is, though I suppose my view is probably skewed a bit the other way because I've gone through it so many times myself.

I agree that placing better signage (or any?) letting 1st time visitors know that they need to go to the right to get their exit stamps before checking in with the airlines would certainly help such visitors. Some of you vets might recall that, under the old system, there used to be guys pitching exit stamps right as you walked in (which might or might not have been valid). They also used to only have 1 window where you could buy the stamp, which led to long lines. HOWEVER, since they added like 4-5 windows to the counter, the line for stamps rarely gets much longer than 4-5 people and it normally takes under a minute to handle each group so the line moves very quickly. Estimated time needed to purchase stamps (even with a walk from the far end of the terminal: 5 minutes max.

SOME people advocate buying the stamps right when they arrive in CR so as to "cut down on the time they will need" when they leave, but IMHO that means they have to know to walk outside, up the stairs, back into the airport and to the right (something at least as infathomable for any unschooled 1st time visitor as buying it at the end). It also means they have several more days or weeks during their stay in which to lose the stamped documents. And as I pointed out above it really saves negligible time at the end anyway.

BTW, another point that should be added to the above guide is that if you do use your credit card to pay for the stamps, it is treated as a cash advance rather than a merchandise purchase and most likely will come with added bank fees. Much better to pay in cash, particularly in colones if you still have some to use up before you go.

Personally, I was not even aware that one could get boarding passes (as opposed to your regular flight tickets) in advance of going to the airport on the day of departure, as these folks say they did. But in the unusual event you do go to the security first, its not like the distance back to the departure stamp counter is really all that far (maybe 100yds at most). If you go to the airline check-in line, the walk back to that counter is even less. And at least they have people checking documents at the start of each line (rather than only finding out you're missing something when you get to the front after waiting in line.

This next point, I'm not so sure about, but I don't think everyone in your group has to go through the exit stamp line. I believe you just need to have all of the passports for the group and that, if you do go to the wrong place, someone can wait there with your bags while one of you can simply walk back with all the passports to get all the stamps for your group. Somebody please correct me if I'm wrong about that. However, even if I'm wrong about this point, I'd assume if you did go to the security check-in on the extreme left 1st that would mean you should only have carry-on bags any way so again having to walk back 100 yds shouldn't kill you.

Re: the airline counter lines, usually like the exit stamp lines these don't get that backed up. Sometimes they do but even then its usually not a wait of more than just a few minutes. However, if you've made the mistake of cutting it too close and getting to the airport an hour or less before your flight boarding time AND you have the additional misfortune to encounter an unusually long line, just tell that person checking your documents at the front of the line about your predicament and they can expedite you. Estimated time needed to fill out form, show documents to person at the start of the line, wait to get to the counter and check-in: usually WELL under 15 minutes and RARELY as much as 30.

Re: security, there are 4-5 screening gates so this line usually moves very fast as well. Time to get through this 5-15 minutes MAX but usually much closer to the lower end.

At this point you may face your first semi-"serious" walk, but even here we're not talking anything like MIA, ATL, or IAH. After all they only have 7-8 gates in the entire airport. If you've arrived at the airport even 2 hours before your flight, most likely it didn't take you more than 30 minutes to reach the gate and you have a little wait ahead of you. If you were supercautious and allowed 3 hours, the odds are they you REALLY have a while to wait. Boarding usually starts about 30 minutes before the scheduled departure, so even if you got to the airport in something under 2 hours prior to flight time AND encountered delays getting to the gate you'd still almost certainly get there by the time they were boarding.

Re: the screening as you get on the plane: There is a wide rampway out to the plane and along the left side there will be 2 tables for the hand inspection that hpisles was talking about. NOT EVERYONE gets inspected. I know because I've been waved through on several occasions (and if any one looks like they should have their bag inspected its me :-) ). Even for those who do get directed to one of the 2 tables, the inspection is really cursory at best taking (usually taking less than 30 seconds) and not really delaying the boarding of the plane much if at all.

And finally, re: the lost document, I've never heard of that happening before. Certainly it is not that common. Are you sure it was the departure fee counter that lost it and not yourselves? Because, If it had been misplaced at that point, it is a little surprising that no one noticed it when you checked into the start of the line for the airline check-in, at the check-in counter itself or at the start of the security line. Given that you sounded like you were extremely frazzled, anxious and unsure during the whole process, it would certainly be understandable (and much more likely) that you somehow misplaced it yourselves somewhere along the way. But it should go without saying that whenever you travel anywhere, particularly while going through airport terminals, bus stations etc., that you keep a close handle on all your documents and where you've placed them

Hpisles says they can see why "they" recommend getting to the airport 2-3 hours prior to departure, but they didn't really say how much prior to departure they actually arrived at the airport, how long it took them to get from the front door and thru security even with having to walk back to the stamp counter and finally once they got to the gate how long was it before they started to board (even with a rep having to go back to the departure stamp counter)?

Costa Rica
Level Contributor
25,655 posts
25 reviews
Save Reply
9. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

Agree with projilo on everything - except - the experience of checking in.

I have arrived at the airport 3.5 hours before my flight and only had to wait 15 minutes until someone actually started checking people in. But in general, I have found that lines can be long and slow. It really depends on the flight and the number of agents working. I have arrived at SJO 2.5 hours ahead of my flight and ended up having just enough time to get a bite to eat and a book to read before boarding the plane. With the new security system, things go a little faster, that's for sure. I would never think of arriving any later than this -- some airlines will not let you board if you have not checked in at least an hour before the flight.

I was wondering about this once when I arrived 2.5 hours ahead of the flight but there were so few agents and so many people, that it took almost 1.5 hours to get through to the desk. Would they deny me boarding? What would I do then? Was my departure tax receipt stamped with a time? As it turned out, the airline put on 4 additional agents about that time - shift change? - so it wasn't an issue.

I sure that if you have a group, one person can take passports and money and pay. I have seen it done several times.

As for getting a boarding pass ahead of time -- I have never been able to do it with any airline when flying out of the country. I don't think it is possible for an international flight.

Tampa, FL
Destination Expert
for San Jose, Costa Rica
Level Contributor
2,209 posts
1 review
Save Reply
10. Re: San Jose (Airport) Costa Rica, Exit Fee

I guess I've just been real lucky. With 20 or more trips to CR under my belt over the last 10 years, I'll admit I've run into long airline check in lines a few times but it has never taken me more than an hour to get through it and to the gate and usually it has actually been much shorter. Once or twice I've gotten to the airport really late, with well under 2 hours before flight time, and been confronted with the added complication of a long airline counter check-in line. It definitely made for a much more tense and harrowing departure, but both times the agents at the start of the lines made sure I was expedited through and I still wound up waiting for a little while at the gate before boarding (not that I recommend anybody test this for reasons of peace of mind if nothing else). Under no circumstances would I ever suggest that anyone allow anything less than 1 hour, but I think that only under the very rarest of circumstances (so rare it has never happened to me) would much more than 2 hours really be necessary, so that is always my target time. Sometimes I get there a bit more than 2 hours ahead of time, but if I have the bad luck to run a little late and get there with something a little less than 2 hours, I don't sweat it too much. Again, this has just been my experience, but everyone else should do whatever they feel most comfortable with.

BTW, one of the things I like most about the airport nowadays is the guy playing classical guitar while you wait at the far end of the departure concourse. IMHO, if that doesn't relax you after rushing (usually unnecessarily) to get to the gate, then nothing else will. One of the things I hate most are the ridiculous prices for food and snacks at the food court (but I guess that is pretty standard for airports).

Another thing I sometimes do if its close to lunch time and I have enough time is get my departure stamp and boarding pass out of the way then exit back out of the airport and go to the soda directly across the street (where btw many of the terminal employees also go to eat) for one more dirt cheap casado tipico before returning to the terminal for the security check. I definitely can't claim its the greatest soda in CR but its not too bad and is certainly very convenient for reasonably priced eats within fairly easy walking distance of the terminal.

Edited: 22 February 2011, 20:33