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Destinations:

San Jose, Costa Rica

Overview
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Attractions
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Dining
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Shopping
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San Jose Shopping

San Jose shopping is a pleasurable experience, offering both traditional Costa Rican markets and more modern and international style shopping. Whichever style is chosen, you’re sure to enjoy the laid back Central American atmosphere that makes shopping a pleasant experience in this tropical paradise.

The outdoor market
Let’s start downtown at San Jose’s biggest outdoor market, known to the locals as Mercado Central. This is a must-see for tourists and a great San Jose shopping spot, even just to take pictures and pick up a few small souvenirs. Here you’ll find food, crude leather goods, musical instruments, and street vendors selling an assortment of local cuisine, fresh fruit and endless amounts of souvenirs. It’s recommended to shop at the market just before you leave Costa Rica as shopping for gifts will usually increase the amount of luggage you are carrying around.

Authentic San Jose shopping
For a truly authentic local San Jose shopping experience, visit the Plaza de la Democracia Market. This daily market is not far from the Mercado Central and offers more goods and less food than the Central Market. Here you can find Guatemalan and Ecuadorian handicrafts, handmade jewelry and instruments, t-shirts and household decorations and other assorted crafts. This market is more open and spread out than the Central market.

Bear in mind that bargaining is not part of the market culture in Costa Rica, but if you are buying in bulk (three items of more) it is not considered rude to ask for a discount.

Modern Shopping Centers

It’s now quite difficult to visit a major metropolitan city in any region and not expect to find western shopping, usually in the form of malls or mega-malls. San Jose shopping offers both types and the natives love it because it appeals to their desire for modernization and foreigners enjoy shopping for their favorite brands with an exchange rate in their favor. If you have some extra time in the city, some of the malls you can visit are Mall Real Cariari, Mall San Pedro or Terra Mall. Foreigners usually frequent local pharmacies for discounted prescription and non-prescription drugs and local supermarkets for local coffee and liquors.

San Jose Shopping Tips
When shopping for souvenirs in San Jose or anywhere in Costa Rica, bear in mind that any products for sale that are produced which endanger wildlife are illegal. For example, be aware that you are not purchasing jewelry that has been made using any sea-turtle product or corals. Wild birds, lizards, and snakes are also not allowed to be used for this purpose and though you might find some of these items for sale, it is strictly prohibited.

Most San Jose shopping spots are open from 8am to 6pm and many will close during lunchtime. In the markets, the number of small vendors will vary from day to day but you will usually be able to find everything you need at any given time. Try the local food and make sure to support local business and vendors and bring back special handmade gifts that are unique to Costa Rica.
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