Home Traveling guide A tourist guide to taxis in Costa Rica:

A tourist guide to taxis in Costa Rica:


Renting and owning a vehicle in Costa Rica can get quite expensive and, depending on where you are staying, may not be necessary. The country has an extensive public transport system with buses traveling through many parts of the country, but it may take you a while to get to your final destination.

Sometimes the simple act of taking a taxi can make your life easier, shelter you from the rain, take the hassle out of standing, and save you time.

Costa Rica offers several different options if you need to take an elevator to your next stop. So we’ve put together some tips on some things you need to know when taking a taxi in Costa Rica.

red cab

It’s pretty easy to figure out who the official Costa Rican taxis are because they’re consistent across the country. Their signature red color sets them apart from all others with their yellow triangles on the side of the door and their yellow taxi hat on top. The yellow triangle on the door has relevant information to note, the taxi’s license number can be found in this panel as well as the area in which they are permitted to operate.

These government-regulated taxis are only licensed to drive in their province, as indicated on the side of the door, so be sure to take note before entering. If you have a problem with the driver, leave an item in the taxi or need to report an incident, you will need to know this relevant information, and it may be too late to try to get it after you leave the taxi and ‘they drive to a standstill.

Although they are the official taxi of Costa Rica, it is no different from any other place in the world and some drivers tend to deviate from their methods. There is always someone out there looking to make a few extra bucks and taking advantage of the next unsuspecting person is the modus operandi of those who give the taxi industry a bad name.

Common untruths that occur regularly are told to those heading to the bus station. More often than not, too many people believe the line that there is a planned strike, which prevents the bus from operating and unfortunately people fall victim to this scam. The driver will be more than willing to take you to your destination or another bus stop where the route is not affected to help you get through this shocking news.

Of course we want to believe that they are just helping us and that is true we are in the land of pura vida and heaven why wouldn’t we trust everyone right not ? Bad! Some may even go a step further and have an accomplice on the other end of the phone pretending to confirm this information or booking you a ticket to the other so-called bus stop.

However, if you are told this, still ask to be taken to the bus station to confirm the information yourself, as it is almost certainly not true and is one of the most common stories.

Other tricks of the trade are that you have already missed your bus or the bus line is no longer running and you will need to take a taxi to your destination. Some may say there are restrictions or the station has moved. Again, just ask them to take you to the bus station where you can check this information and see for yourself that in fact the bus is probably still on the same schedule.

Official taxis regulated in the country can be a great reliable resource and many locals and tourists have had great experiences as well, so that’s not to say it happens to everyone. I have always had a trustworthy experience meeting many friendly drivers who were straightforward in getting me to my destination.

Feeling safe, paying reasonable prices and enjoying a few laughs, I met some very hardworking people along the way. Regardless of country and profession, there will always be someone who likes to do things a little differently, so it’s best to be aware, especially when visiting a destination you don’t know.

A few other tips to know when taking a taxi is to make sure the meter has been turned on, as this is the law in Costa Rica. Do not accept being told otherwise. In this sense, if the counter is on, make sure that it does not always work with the previous driver and that you start with a new counter.

If your Spanish isn’t good, the meter is called “maria”, so if the driver needs a friendly little reminder to turn on that meter, you can always say “ponga la maria por favor”.

Make sure you have small bills, especially if you’re not traveling too far, as they may tell you they can’t make the change and you end up paying more for the ride than expected. If you don’t plan to pay in colones (which is not in your best interest) then before you even get in the taxi you should confirm that they will accept whatever currency you have, be it US dollars or not.

Typically, they’ll tell you that they can’t give change for you, and don’t expect to get an exchange rate comparable to the bank’s if you’re paying in US dollars. If you find yourself having a memorable ride, you are more than welcome to tip, however, this is not common practice or expected of you.

Another good reminder is to have an idea of ​​where you’re headed, as this will help you know if they’re taking you on the scenic route to your destination, bumping up the meter and your fare. Take a look at one of the map apps to cross-reference your route if you’re feeling a little tired.

The more you know about your stop the better for the driver, remember, addresses in Costa Rica are a little more complicated, like the little yellow house in front of the pescaderia, to the left of the old mango tree that has been struck by lightning. Maybe not quite as elaborate, but close enough for some of us who aren’t used to the layout of addresses in Costa Rica. If you have an idea of ​​how close you are to your stop, you’re more likely to know where your driver is taking you.

orange cabs

Orange taxis are the officially licensed taxis for the airport, so you’ll find them lined up along the road as you exit the airport. Technically, the red cabs shouldn’t be there, however, it’s possible to see a few lingering after dropping someone off.

You may be approached by other drivers offering taxi services indicating that their car is across the street or not too far away, these are not the official airport taxis but pirate taxis .

Pirate taxis

The name pirate taxis conjures up fascinating images, but yes, that’s what they’re called here in Costa Rica. If you have the option of taking another means of transport, do so if possible, as it is not necessarily in your best interest. If a trusted person or place you’re staying suggests someone, then decide what’s best for you and what you’re most comfortable with.

These drivers set their own prices as they are unregulated and their vehicles are unofficial as you will see when you meet them, usually older in a wide range of conditions and many without insurance.

If you choose to take a ride with a pirate taxi, the same rules apply. Take a look at the license plate as if you were looking at the red taxi signage so you know if something should happen or even take a photo if you don’t trust your memory. Don’t feel embarrassed to sit in the back and you can also have your things with you.

Most importantly, decide and confirm the price of your trip before entering, but remember there is no meter to have as a backup if the price ends up changing because they got ‘lost’ or that it took longer than expected.


Although still a bit controversial to some, especially rival taxi drivers, Uber is available in urban areas of Costa Rica and many choose to ride with them for the convenience they offer.

One of the good things about uber is that you don’t have to worry about the meter and getting ripped off in your fare because the price is already advised to you in the app. It also saves you a lot of the stress of trying to find your way around the streets of San Jose and learning how to maneuver through its infamous traffic.

Final Thoughts

However you choose to travel in Costa Rica, whether you are a tourist or a local, it is always important to be alert and aware. There will always be people trying to make extra money wherever you go. But don’t forget to have fun anyway, there are so many friendly people in this country and opportunities to create wonderful precious moments.