Hasta Luego, Costa Rica! Traveling through SJO Airport

26 May 2015

Every airport has its own processes and procedures, but there are a couple of things at Juan Santamaria International Airport in San Jose, Costa Rica, for which all travelers can easily prepare. 

Costa Rican Exit Tax 
Make sure you plan for extra time at SJO. The Costa Rican government requires that all international visitors pay a $29 exit tax. This must be done before you check in to your flight because you will be provided with a form to complete and present at your airline's check-in desk. 

At the international departures entrance, there is only one counter for all visitors. It only took us about five to ten minutes to get through the line, but I have heard that it can sometimes take as long as 20 minutes. You can pay for the tax with USD, Colones, Visa or MasterCard, or a combination of these. I used this as an opportunity to get rid of the rest of the Colones I was carrying and then paid the difference with my credit card. Be warned that credit card transactions are made in the form of a cash advance, so check your bank for additional charges that may be accrued. If you do not have enough cash, there are ATMs available right by the the desk, but the lines were considerably long.

As of May 2015, some Airlines may start including this tax in the price of your airfare so you will not have to wait in line! This will cut down on time required at the airport, but make sure you check with your airline. This transition process will be ongoing with only some airlines adopting this practice at a time.

Airport Security 
Going through security at SJO can be a bit of a lengthy process because each person is called to enter security check individually. You are likely to have a guard help you through the proces. Much like in the U.S., you must place your jacket, shoes, belts and laptops in a separate bin when you go through. I seemed to be the only one to pull out my toiletries, though.

When you are boarding your flight, your carry-on baggage will be checked again. You will be asked to hand over all baggage so that an attendant may open it and go through your stuff. They are sticklers about security, which is kind of a pain but also refreshing. For example, I handed over an extra Ziploc bag to a girl next to me whose toiletries were not contained. I was also required to chug my bottle of water because they won't let you take anything on the flight, so don't bother purchasing this before boarding unless you plan to drink it all. Because of this process, I recommend arriving at your gate at your scheduled boarding time. I was surprised to see that mine was 45 minutes before my flight was scheduled for take off, but it's because of this added security check. 

Need more tips to prepare for international travel? Check out this post

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