The hundreds of tourists arriving at Costa Rica’s main international airport, the Juan Santamaria (SJO), in San Jose eager to discover the beauties of the country, must first endure the huge lines when getting off the plane.

Waiting in line at immigration. Photo S. Fitzgerald Haney Twitter

Within minutes of landing, the line to the immigration counter almost reaches the stairs, the baggage claim area is packed and the queues at the customs controls, the last step before exiting the terminal, is two line deep.

This is the scene every day.

Although immigration and customs officials do their best to move the lines, the increased volume has the terminal pushed it to the limits.

And while some report moving through the process quickly, others have had to endure an hour or more of lines. One of those is former U.S. ambassador to Costa Rica, S. Fitzgerald Haney, who posted on his Twitter account of his one hour in the immigration line, then half hour at customs, in total taking more than 90 minutes to exit the terminal.

Airport authorities blame the recent increase of travelers mainly during peak hours. Days ago, adding to the problem of the long lines was the start-up of a new passport review system.


The lines at customs, the last step in the process. Photo Melissa Fernández, La Nacion

Peak hours (horas ‘pico’ in Spanish) is between 9 am and 10 am, from 11 am a 1 pm,  3:50 pm and 4:40  pm, and from 7 pm to 10 pm.


Photo Melissa Fernández, La Nacion

The worst of the worst is between 1 pm and 2 pm, when almost a dozen flights arrive during this time slot, with more than 1,000 passengers converging on immigration and customs.


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