I am traveling from Madrid to San Salvador via Costa Rica's Juan Santamaria Airport. The flights with proper transfers are rather expensive so I am booking a self transfer and I am trying to get an idea of the time I should allow myself. There are options from 1h to 7h, obviously I would like to cut down on the layover time so my question is:

Will I need to go through passport control or are there sterile transfer areas?

I tried to look this up but couldn't find info. Anyone's experience would be helpful. Cheers

  • Which airline(s)? What do you mean by ‘self-transfer’?
    – Traveller
    Feb 24, 2020 at 10:49
  • 1
    @Traveller I am assuming OP means they are booking two separate tickets and transferring themselves as opposed to booking one ticket with an official transfer.
    – Uciebila
    Feb 24, 2020 at 11:44
  • 2
    > obviously I would like to cut down on the layover time - why? Quite the opposite, when self-connecting you should look for a good buffer time. Also you could get to see a bit of the country you're connecting in...
    – JakeDot
    Feb 24, 2020 at 14:15

1 Answer 1


According to several threads posted by past users of the airport, they all indicate that they did have to go through customs and that there was not an air side transfer option. So you will have to go through immigration, then baggage collection, then back through security to check in again.

By looking at the site map on the official airport website it also suggests that there is no option other than to go through customs once you have arrived, as there is no area to go anywhere else.

Previous passengers have said to leave a minimum of 45 minutes to get through security/customs to get out of the airport, and the same to check back in depending on if you have luggage etc, and how long before your next flight check in closes. But as you are self transfering, if your first flight is late causing you to miss the second one, it will be your responsibility to pay to get to your final destination, so leaving some buffer time is better safe than sorry.

  • 1
    Thanks for the info, I appreciate it! Yeah I understand the buffer time, but I do not want to wait for 5 hours in the airport for a 2 hour flight after an 11 hour transatlantic flight. I think a happy medium in this case would be like 2.5h connection. Never done a self-transfer so wish me luck haha
    – Ozzy
    Feb 27, 2020 at 8:58

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