Taxis are a great option if someone needs to go to places that buses do not or can not go. There is no shortage of taxis in Costa Rica with around 7,000 in the San Jose area alone. Taxis are hardest to find in rush hour or when it is raining.
Most taxis are inexpensive imports like Toyota, Nissan, and Hyundai. Unlike in New York where the taxis are yellow and black, official taxis here are usually red. The only exceptions to this are the official airport taxis which are orange. One can tell if it is an official taxi if it has a triangle on the door with an ID number in it. All official taxis have a meter, here it is called a maria, and one should insist that it be used unless one is very familiar with rates and routes and would like to negotiate a different deal. Try to avoid taxis that do not want to use the meter that are waiting directly outside clubs and discos, because they could charge around three times more.
It is recommended that passengers, if at all possible, ride in the back seat. If traveling in a group of four, it is best to have the women travel in the back seat. NEVER, under any circumstances, smell a perfume or something that a taxi cab driver has offered. There have been cases where some drivers have drugged women traveling alone using this trick and then raping and robbing them.
The majority of taxi drivers are friendly and helpful. The majority of cab drivers are not bilingual unless they work in one of the orange cabs at the airport. If there is a special taxi driver in the area that one really likes and trusts, ask them for their cell number and call them whenever needed. Usually they try to give services when they can and if not they usually recommend a good friend of theirs to take one around if they are not working. One can even hire a taxi cab driver for the day if one needs to go several places throughout the day. Most drivers prefer this type of work since they do not have to wander around all day looking for clients.
Sadly, taxi drivers often try and take advantage of foreigners by not using the meter, or they take advantage of the fact tourists are not familiar with the currency or conversion and the value of the colon. It is not necessary to tip the drivers, but of course they appreciate it, and if they have gone out of their way, then it is something that one should do if possible.
The two major complaints taxi drivers have about North Americans is 1) that they try and pay lots of times with very large bills whether it is in dollars or colones, so try and use smaller bills or more exact change if you can and 2) that North Americans really slam the car doors, so try and be gentle when getting out of the car.
There are unofficial taxis which visitors should beware of before venturing out into a taxi. These unmarked taxis are usually any color and style of car and do not have meters. In fact, they are generally just a personal car. Since they do not have a meter, riders usually have to negotiate a fee or be at their mercy to charge whatever they like. These taxis are known as piratas or pirate taxis. Pirate taxis are infamous for ripping people off. The problem with pirate taxis is that some are not taxis at all; they are simply criminals fishing for victims. Also, because they are not required to adhere to any type of standards, they can be an unsafe form of transportation.