Transportation - Get In
The airport (IATA: SJO) is 17km or about 20 minutes by car from the center of San José. The city closest to the airport is actually Alajuela.
There is a local bus stop outside the airport (on the other side of the multi-story car park which you see when you come out of arrivals). It costs less than 1 US$ and takes you right downtown. The cheapest option is taking the bus into downtown and get a taxi there for your final destination. The taxis charge around 25 US Dollars to take you to the city, be sure to take one of the licensed reddish-orange taxis that say "Taxi Aeropuerto." There are many unlicensed taxi drivers who will charge you almost twice as much as Taxi Aeropuerto. The taxis gladly take Dollars, but the local bus only takes Colones and they would not be pleased to get a 10 000 Colones bill.
There is an ATM by the entrance to the departures that will give you both Colones and Dollars.
Do not exchange money when arriving at the San Jose airport. The exchange rate used there is not the official rate and you will get a lot fewer colones. However, the departure hall upstairs has a BCR bank with normal exchange rates. It is right next to the departure tax payment area, buy when you arrive to avoid the queue on departure.
Trains have recently made a comeback in Costa Rica and, after being shut down for many years, several routes have been put back into service using second-hand equipment brought over from Spain and some very ancient wooden carriages that look like they have been taken from a museum. Lines are mostly singe-track and level crossings have no lights or protection at all, which has led to several accidents. There's also no signalling. Overall it's an interesting experience if you have the time and it's the best way of getting to Heredia (a lot faster and more comfortable than the bus).
Timetables for all services are available at: this website
Heredia: on weekdays, trains run between San José and Heredia every half an hour in the mornings (6AM-9AM) and afternoons (3:30PM-8PM), leaving from Estación del Atlántico near the Parque Nacional. Some of these trains continue on to the UCR and U Latina in San Pedro. The 6PM departure from San José (returning at 7PM) is a big train, so you can almost always get a seat on this one.
Pavas, San Pedro and Curridabat: another line runs through the south of the city, stopping at Estación del Pacifico, Sábana and heading west into Pavas and eventually turning round in a fairly dangerous slum area in the middle of the hills. If you take it east, it stops across the road from Estación del Atlantico and then goes to the UCR, U Latina and Curridabat. Timetables are very limited, with just one train per hour early in the morning and in the evening on weekdays.
Belén: A new service to Belén (just south of the airport) started on 5th April, leaving from Estación del Pacifico. Services are approximately every half an hour between 6-8AM and 4-8PM on weekdays only and take 35 minutes.
Buses from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama both, arrive to and leave from San José.
The Tica Bus terminal is the most common choice for locals and foreigners alike when it comes to traveling around Central America and even Mexico. Please take note that it has recently been moved to the other end of town, near the Mercedes Tower. (Address: 200 meters north and 100 meters west of Torre Mercedes (Paseo Colón), in front of the Magisterio Nacional Mortuary)
King Quality is a new choice available, their prices are considerably more expensive or cheaper than Tica Bus depending on the destination. There is also Transnica, note they don't have a website up, for information their phone number is +506 2223-4123.
Of course most local buses start or end here. There are several bus terminals in San José [www]. It is important to know which bus terminal serves your bus route. Bus stops are usually every few blocks in the city. Take always a taxi, when traveling with luggage.And it is highly likely to speak to you when you arrive.
Transportation - Get Around
Public transport system includes buses, tram is planned in the city center. Bus lines, maps, schedules and ticket prices are available at Ruta en linea San José.
The bus system is reliable, comfortable, extensive, and very cheap. For instance it costs about $5 to travel from San José to the Nicoya Peninsula.
Taxis are generally cheap. All taxis should have a meter. The fare starts at 570 colones, and is 570 per kilometer. The value of the Colón fluctuates roughly above 500 to the US Dollar and some locals still call 500 Colónes "one Dollar" in day to day life. A ride inside the city center will normally cost 580-2500 colones. Basically a couple dollars, which they will accept, will get you anywhere in the city. Be aware that it is close to useless to give a taxi driver an exact street address. You have to point out some well-known building, park or hotel close to where you are going. Often there are no street signs and addresses are difficult to find, so be sure you know where you are going or you could get lost very easily. If you are driving in Costa Rica (one may see vehicles from Mississippi, British Columbia, Panama, and other places) note that the traffic lights don't have the yellow border around them and can sometimes be difficult to see, the road network is well utilized by locals (to overcapacity) so don't expect to get anywhere fast, also motorcycles weave in and out of traffic. Keep in mind the pet peeve most tourists have with tico kindness: oftentimes when a tico has no idea where a certain destination you may have had in mind is, he or she will simply direct you to a random location. Oftentimes simply incomprehensible, these directions are a reflection on the cultural approach to kindness many Costa Ricans adopt.
It is as well possible to get around by bicycle in San José. If you want to buy a bicycle you find stores in Calle 6 / Av. 5 (Coca Cola) or south of "Avenida Segunda" on the corner or Av.6 / Calle 4. In the south east corner of plaza Viquez you find a small bicycle store.