If you want to feel popular in Costa Rica, drive a red car. Everyone on the street will wave at you, because that's the color of all Costa Rican taxis.
A legitimate taxi will have the fleet's insignia on top or on the door; avoid pirate cabs that lack these or a maria, as the meter is called here.
Taxi Fares and Rates
Currently the meter starts at 405 colones (less than a $1.00). For each kilometer beyond, it costs approximately 230, or 50 cents. The 4WD taxis in mountain and beach town charge a little more for the extra mileage. Tipping is not required nor is it expected.
If a cabbie says the meter is broken, you must either agree on the fare before proceeding, or get out and find another cabbie (which is not always practical at after dark).
Hotel cabbies, flagrantly flouting the law, charge a flat rate rather than using the meter, and the rate depends on how far you're going and how much the driver thinks he can get out of you. Avoid them when you can.
To and From the San Jose Airport
One company handles all the taxis from the airport to nearby hotels and into town. They use orange colored cars. The rate from the airport to downtown, as of December 9, 2007, was just under 9,000 colones, or about $20. There has been no word on whether these rates will also go up as gas prices continue to increase.
Many hotels will provide transportation to the airport for free. Some of the smaller hotels and B&B's offer transfers by arranging for a taxi to pick you up.
Beach and Mountain Towns
Taxis in most these towns charge a flat rate rather than use the meter to determine fares. (This is technically illegal, but what are you going to do, call the cops?) But most are honest. Just be sure to agree on the fare first.
Cabbies at the Coca Cola bus station will take you to Jaco or Quepos for !$120 or more one-way.
Where (and how) to Find a Taxi
There are cab stands outside the Coca Cola bus terminal and Parque Central, but in most neighborhoods you will have to wait on the corner. Don't take a cab inside the Coca Cola station, as the driver will fill it with as many other passengers as possible.
To flag down a taxi here, point your index finger down at the street and wiggle it up and down.
The local custom is for the passenger to ride up front with the driver. We do not recommend this, as it makes you much more susceptible to crime (admittedly uncommon, but it does happen). Front seat passengers are required to wear seat belts.
While some drivers speak English and know the addresses of major hotels and tourist spots, you will often have to rely on hand signals if traveling to an out of the way destination. If you take a San Jose cab out to one of the suburbs, don't worry if he stops to ask for directions. Most know only the parts of town they work.