Monday, 25 September 2017

A Trip to Costa Rica; San Jose

For some of you reading this, you may be a little confused as to where on earth this Costa Rica trip has popped up from. I've been pretty vocal for a good six months or so now about the fact that in September, I was going to be in Orlando, and absolutely nothing about Costa Rica.

Well, after a good 350 day countdown, unfortunately my flight to Orlando was cancelled with less than a days notice. The only flights I could move to were 5-6 days away, and none of them seemed like a great idea as then I wouldn't be in Florida for long enough to make it worth it. Luckily for me, I got full refunds for pretty much everything that I'd booked, a new airline that I'll absolutely refuse to fly again (Thanks for the absolutely shocking customer service, Thomas Cook!) and then less than 24 hours to plan a new trip, as I refused to go nowhere when I'd been counting down for so long.

I did think Peru, I knew it would be too late to do the Inca Trail but thought I'd be able to do one of the smaller ones - unfortunately, it was too short notice to book that for any point of my trip, and a lot of what I wanted to do would take a little bit longer than 24 hours to work out. I thought somewhere in Asia, but the prices for pretty much every country I looked up were extortionate due to how short notice it was. And so I ended up with Costa Rica, a country that has been on my shortlist for quite a while anyway and with flights that cost about £600 for a return flight with the airline that I'm most loyal to anyway, British Airways.

I'm not going to say that planning a trip at such short notice was easy, but luckily as I'd already had it on my shortlist I already had a bit of a sample itinerary in my mind to work with and wasn't researching each area completely by scratch.

And so off we went, to San Jose!
 I'll be honest. I didn't have particularly high hopes for San Jose. I had decided to give it at least one full day as I felt I should give the capital a chance, but I didn't expect to like very much about it. My research was filled with negativity and dread about the city, and I just expected to have a pretty bad time there. But I was wrong.

 For starters, San Jose is colourful. REALLY colourful. Street artwork is everywhere, and it's pretty, and it's interesting. I don't think you would necessarily describe San Jose as a pretty city, but it has a lot of character and is very bright and vibrant, and actually I appreciated it for that. It may not contain what you'd normally find on beautifully moderated Instagram feeds of cities, but actually I really liked the vibe that it had.

 Another thing I'd been warned about was the people, and all the scams that would happen to me. I'd actually decided not to take my bigger DSLR camera with me on this trip because I read SO many warnings about theft and whatever else. Again, this was SO wrong. People were very friendly here, in fact we were probably approached more times in San Jose than we were anywhere else - and never to try to sell us something or anything like that, just for a quick hello or to offer a recommendation in a restaurant where we were staring blankly at the menu.

 One negative point about the city however is that it IS really quite dirty. And traffic is a nightmare! This was an awful place to start our drive as we got stuck in traffic for hours and a lot of the roads are really confusing and lack any road markings whatsoever so cars are just sort of driving wherever they feel like it. I mean, as you'll find out in my later posts, roads are a problem everywhere in Costa Rica, but San Jose was where we repeatedly worried about crashing or being driven into! A lot of the sidewalks aren't in great quality and you'll want to be careful where you step, but this was the only negative point we found and even then as long as you're not going in with unrealistic expectations this probably won't bother you.

 We did the free tour of San Jose as we really didn't know much about the history of the city at all, and we're glad we did. To be honest, there isn't loads to do in San Jose, but we learnt some background information and had some buildings pointed out to us that we probably wouldn't have noticed on our own. I always recommend doing the free tours as I think they're a great way to learn a little bit about the city from the perspective of someone who actually lives there!

Overall, would I recommend San Jose? I'm surprised to find myself saying that yes, I would. While I don't think you should plan on spending a particularly long time there (we had two nights there, but that includes the day that we arrived at the airport - we found that this was probably exactly the right amount of time) I do think that this city deserves a little more respect than it typically receives. It's not the cleanest of places and there's not that much to do particularly if you're not interested in museums, but it still definitely deserves a look in. It's a vibrant, bright and friendly city, and you can constantly see the work that people are putting in to try to change the reputation that San Jose has received. I think it's a city that certainly deserves a look in, even if for you that just means squeezing a couple of hours in before or after your time at the airport!

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