A couple days before our trip to SJO we thought it might be prudent to see if the advertised “free airport shuttle” would in fact be valid for our late arrival time, 11:50PM, even though it was advertised as 24 hour.
Contacting the hotel we were told that it was. Did we make reservations with Interbus? Hmm, no. First I heard of that. Reading the print on the website one can see that the shuttle reservations can be guaranteed only if made within twelve hours of making the reservation. Didn’t know that. It was never mentioned. Maybe because we booked through Trip Advisor.
A very helpful employee showed me how to reserve the shuttle from the Adventure Inn website. Filling out the online form was a breeze, but the confirmation number I plugged in didn’t work. An error message said to contact the hotel. So I did. They determined that booking through a 3rd party with a 3rd party reservation number was the reason. So I was promptly emailed a link with the “correct” reservation number already plugged in. How neat is that! So reserving the shuttle went smoothly enough. An Interbus email confirmation said a uniformed driver would be waiting just outside the arrival area holding a sign with our name on it. That sounded great.
But the plane was late leaving HOU and arrived almost 1.5 hrs late. I had assumed that the shuttle people would be experienced enough to keep an eye on airline schedule changes. Maybe. Maybe not. No uniformed driver holding a sign with our name on it was to be found. And we DID look.
Attempts were made to phone Interbus by two different people, but “no contesta nadie!”. By the time we gave up on the Interbus shuttle all the cabs had left the arrival area. Our porter found someone in a van labeled “Turismo” that would to take us to our hotel. I was vaguely aware that upon arrival a number of cabbies were holding up signs that said something to the effect “Legitimate Cab”. But the time was fast approaching 2AM and all we wanted was to get to the hotel.
We weren’t long out of the airport when we both began to feel uneasy. One reason is that there were two “drivers” sitting up front. And we started going down smaller roads. And the hour was late with few people out and about.
The driver said up front that the trip would take about 20 min. but in fewer than 10 min we were at the hotel, all safe and sound. The Turismo driver, we noticed, had no taximeter. Well, he wasn’t a taxi. Just took advantage of an opportunity and charged us what turned out to be 2X normal cab fare!
The desk clerk acknowledged the routing. She said that t the hotel would refund our money if we could get a receipt. But the clerk was picky about what constituted a receipt. The driver wrote something out on a piece of paper but that wasn’t good enough. Same thing for the back of his business card. I really began to get the impression that we were just getting lip service. Guess I’ll never know for sure.
Our room was not a disappointment. Nice and quite spacious. We were so tired we didn’t notice, or look for, an A/C until morning. With San Jose’s elevation being several thousand feet, the night was comfortable enough without it.
The next morning the desk clerk on duty was familiar with the events of a few hours earlier. He brought the subject up himself when he learned our room number. Seems the boss told him to refund our $25! Now that’s a good way to start our day! We’re once again happy campers.
Breakfast was a nice spread of local fruits, some of which will be foreign to many gringos, like uchova and jocote.
Not too many “free” breakfasts allow you to order from a menu. We had our choice of 6 or 8 entrees offered. Found that the names of the dishes didn’t necessarily fit our preconceived notions of what they were, however. Huevos rancheros. …. well, they weren’t. Like Tex-Mex in Panama, well, it isn’t. But the fact that we had a choice is impressive enough.
With a bit of time on our hands before the bus ride back to Panama, I walked around the hotel to get a better feel for the place. It’s not in the mold of any major chain. Hand-painted murals with tropical themes abound on the mostly tall walls. Pre-Columbian statuary is everywhere. There’s a spacious community area midway on upper floor of the two story building.
We used that refunded $25 to pay another Turismo driver to take us to the downtown bus terminal, but this one came recommended by the hotel. The desk clerk said we would be charged fairly, probably $20 or $25USD. It turns out he charged $20. We tipped him $5 in part because he was such a pleasant fellow and we enjoyed his conversation. Also, we were expecting to pay $25.
Maybe he thought we were being generous because after we paid him he insisted on schlepping our luggage into the bus terminal, of which we had plenty. (It’s always a joy to restock the larder with treasures from the states.)
I was right about the outbound tickets. $21 plus $7 departure tax for each of us. I’m sure Costa Rica isn’t the only country to charge a departure tax, but somehow this just doesn’t sit right with me. It’s like charging an exit tax to leave an amusement park, or a theater, or whatever. Whatever.
As we were boarding the bus an employee couldn’t help but notice that we’re both on the tall side. In spite of having been assigned seats toward the front of the bus, he offered us two seats behind an exit door. With loads of legroom, it made a huge difference for us on the eight and a half hour bus trip back home. It would be another hour’s drive from the bus terminal to our home in the mountains above Boquete.