Driving in San Jose (first time visitor)

Before you rent that car at the airport and head into San Jose, there are some things you should be aware of. From the airport to San Jose is easy enough. Your problems will begin when the autopista (freeway) ends. Don’t expect to see many street signs and definitely don’t expect to see address numbers. Outside of central San Jose, streets seldom even have names. Street address numbers are not used either. Instead are sets of directions, such as “Calle 7, 50 meters north of the Hotel Presidente.”

San Jose is laid out in a grid pattern, with the “avenidas” running East/West and “calles” North/South. However, even if you know the general direction you want to go and understand the numbering scheme, San Jose’s one way streets can lead you on a merry chase. You may be headed in the right direction when suddenly you are forced to turn left when you need to go right. And don’t think a GPS system will take care of you. According to a user with the latest model, local GPS systems will tell you to drive the wrong way down a one way street.

While you try to navigate the San Jose maze, you will have to deal with local traffic and drivers. Traffic congestion is worst during the “rush” hours, mornings between 7 and 9 and afternoons between 4 and 7. Worse than the congestion are the local drivers, aggressive daredevils who cut each other off, turn without signaling, run traffic lights, block intersections, make right turns from left lanes and vice versa. Motorcycles and scooters dash between stopped vehicles and pedestrians J walk constantly. And then there are the potholes, the buses, parking problems, traffic jams caused by accidents (you are not allowed to unblock traffic until the police arrive) and you have more than enough reasons not to rent a car in San Jose.

The good news is, you have an alternative. Take a taxi from the airport to your hotel and use taxis while in San Jose. They are not expensive and will save you a lot of exasperation. If you want to rent a car to see the rest of the country, rent it as you are leaving San Jose. If you insist on driving in San Jose, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

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  1. don't forget the cheap ass buses!

    pennies to ride…in fact so cheap, you wonder why they even go to the trouble of collecting the miniscule fees