Costa Rica Taxis. An Illustrated Guide

Costa Rica has different types of taxis, for various services, let me explain with some photos and information about the different taxis that you can find in Costa Rica.

There are 5 diferent types of Taxis

  • The Regular-Red Taxis
  • The Airport-Orange taxis
  • Private tourism services
  • The SEE taxi service
  • Pirate services

Types of taxis

The Regular Red Taxis

Regular red taxis is a service regulated by the government, through a concession. Different to how taxis are handled in the US or other countries, in Costa Rica, Taxis are private concessions given by the government to some people, to manage the service, regulated as a public service, with provided fares by kilometer, started fee, waiting fee, and delay fee.

There are also different types of red taxis, regular sedan ones, another one adapted for people with disabilities, and a rural type taxis. Each one has different fares. They are all painted in red and have a yellow triangle at the door.

Every province has its plate letters and colors; San Jose is white with TSJ letters, Alajuela is red with TA letters, Heredia is yellow with TH letters, Cartago is blue with TC letters, Puntarenas is orange with TP letters and Limón is green with TL letters. Orange taxis has also a different plate, as shown in the image.

Orange Airport Taxis

Official Orange Taxi

The orange airport taxis are a particular type of taxis created to serve the tourism or the services from and to the Juan Santamaría International Airport. The only place you will find Orange Taxis is at SJO Airport.

This kind of taxis cannot drive around to pick up other people, and they only can pick up people from the Airport or can pick up people from any other place but coming to the Airport, but going to the airport. Additional to the government offices that regulate regular taxis, the Airport taxis are also governed by the concessionaire of the Airport, which regularly verifies the requirements of the units and the drivers.

For this additional regulation, they pay an additional fee. The airport concessionaire gives the taxi driver a badge in other to work at the Airport, and charge them a fee for work there. That makes the fare service a bit higher than regular taxis. Right now, every unit pays $200 by the month just for the privilege to work there.

Plate of an Official Orange Taxi

Orange taxis are all painted in Orange and have a yellow triangle at the door. Usually, they have the information phone and email address of one of the five different companies. Plates are green, have a TAP and a number, a security strip on the left, and a Costa Rica Flag on the upper right corner.

There is a group of old concessionaires with units with a license plate with starting letters AP and a number. These units are right now in a legal dispute, but probably they will have to disappear.

Orange taxi drivers also have different requirements, and they have to speak some English, dress uniform, have personnel at the airport to handle pickups, and more. And usually, they have less work than regular taxis.

Private Tourism Services

Signs this units need.
Microbus on Tourism Service

The government gives private microbuses, a special permit to transport tourists around the country. These microbuses have to be driven by specially licensed drivers and pay appropriate insurance. These units are used to move tourists by tour operators, and transfers companies. They are allowed to pick up and drop off people at the airport, and usually, price is similar to the Orange Airport taxis.

They have to have a sign on the side of the microbus, with the legend “TOURISM” The private tourism service bus color is regular white, but some times they are grey. They can not pick you up in the street, or at the airport, unless you have a transfer arrangement from the hotel, a tour company or a webpage, but they can not be parked at the airport waiting for someone who suddenly wants to use it. Plates are white with a strip with letters and numbers, and the Costa Rican flag on the upper right corner.

Plates that this units use

The SEE Taxi service

There is some taxi service, especially for locals, that can pick you up at your home door or office, and take you to any other place. They called it “Porteadores” (Door to Door service). It is supposedly based on a private contract between the cars and the client. In reality, it is a way lawyers have to avoid the law.

It is a pirate service, and cars are not very new, they do not have all the insurance, and do not comply with all the requirements. They belong to companies with underpaying drivers. If you are a tourist, probably you will not see them very often, do not take them, for your safety.

Pirate Services

You have two types of services as a Pirate service. One has terrible cars, with compromised drivers, they usually give service on neighborhoods from supermarkets or other crowded places. They are cheap, unsecured, uninsured, on the margin of the law. Many of these cars are stolen cars, with changed VIN´s and plates.

Police often persecute them, some times they just lost their cars, and look for another one. Those cars do not have any value. They are protected by gans on the neighborhoods.

The other pirate service is cars that use an App, like Uber. In reality, they are not legal, cars are much better than the first group, and drivers are regular people, not crooks, but they work on the margin of the law. They claimed to be insured, but outside the law, no insurance company will pay.

Security in Taxis

As I explain, there are a different type of services, some legal, and some not so much, and if you want to stay safe, you shouldn’t take any service that is not legal, so you do not want to take a pirate service, including Uber or another type of apps services. Do not also take the SEE taxi service, and it is not secure.

Some may be dangerous because they stole something from you, the driver is a crook, or they can take you to an insecure place, and take advantage of you, not knowing the country. Others may be insecure, just because they are uninsured, and if you have an accident, no insurance will cover you.

However, not all red regular taxis are driven by good people. Ask the restaurant or hotel people to look for the car themselves, so they look for a good, already known taxi driver. And if you take one on the street, see the driver and use your sense, to determinate if you want to get in his taxi, and do not be afraid to say that you do not want to hop on.

You may be sure with orange taxis from the airport, especially if you made an online reservation, or the personnel at the airport assign you a unit, just because the taxi and its driver will be completely identified.

Conductor Code

For your security, If you take a taxi, you should always look for two things. First, the plate of the vehicle, as I show you, and once you are on the unit, you should look for the “Conductor Code”: A plate with the official information of the driver and his picture. This way you will be sure that you are on an official unit, driven by an official driver.

Another secure form of travel is with a tourism service, especially if it is from a tour company, or a hotel transfer because the driver also will be completely identified.

Frequently ask questions

Are taxi cheap in Costa Rica: Costa Rica, in general, is an expensive country. You may find taxis fares a bit higher. For started Gas has a high tax, from 39% to 53%, depending on the type of gas. Salaries are also high, and employers pay in social contributions and retirement plants up to 45% of the wages. Taken the taxi fares from 100 cities around the world, we find ours to be on average. See our post on this topic here

It’s Uber available in Costa Rica: Yes, Uber is available in Costa Rica, but as a fact, it is an illegal service. Yes, you can use your app, and ask for a driver, and they will arrive. Not be surprised if you are stopped at the street, and the driver is sanctioned with a traffic ticket, and his plate is removed from the car, because it is illegal, at least as to June 2019. See our article about this topic on our webpage here.

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