Costa Rica Travel Tips: Transportation

After living in Costa Rica for two months, we have found some helpful tools and tips. While I (Nathan) will be sharing about our time in Costa Rica, many of these tips can be used in other countries. (My last Travel Tip post was about Money.)
Every country has it’s own nuisances when it comes to transportation. Unless you have made prior visits, it takes a few days, or weeks, to figure it out. Most large cities in Europe use the metro. In Central America, it is the bus system or taxis. However, we have found an alternative in Costa Rica – Uber! Below are my rankings of the top four modes of transportation for visitors. 
UberPositives:

  1. Cheap… when compared to taxis. In some cases, it is almost half the cost.
  2. No cash. Payments are set up in the Uber app. 
  3. Clean. Uber has high standards when it comes to the age and condition of their driver’s vehicles.
  4. Accountability. Drivers and passengers rate each other, out of 5 stars, at the end of each trip. There is also a place to leave comments.
  5. Safety. To date, we have used Uber 79 times in about five weeks and have never felt unsafe with a driver.
  6. Customer Service. You can use the app to dispute charges or ask questions. 

Negatives:

  1. Unpredictable. I think because we are using an “app” we expect an immediate response. Once we “call” a driver, it may take anywhere from 1-10 minutes for them to arrive.
  2. Technology. Since transactions are through an app, cellular data services are mandatory. A few times we could not connect to the app due to a lack of cellular service, and therefore could not call for an Uber.
  3. (Sometimes) unavailable. Twice, when we traveled outside of San Jose, there were no nearby Uber drivers available.
  4. Not always as knowledgeable as taxi drivers. Costa Ricans do not use physical addresses, and if a driver does not know the area of the destination very well, it’s easy to get lost. In our 79 Uber uses, we had a driver get lost once and we had to be dropped off at a gas station close to our destination instead.  

TaxisPositives:

  1. Convenient. It is almost impossible to go 500 meters without seeing a red taxi (red taxis with a yellow triangle on the side are licensed taxis in Costa Rica).
  2. Knowledgable. Taxi drivers know the city. Since Costa Rica does not use addresses, we can only give landmarks or the name of our hotel, but taxis always know how to get us where we need to go.

Negatives:

  1. Crapshoot on quality of the ride. We have had everything from a brand new car with a wonderfully kind driver to a jalopy with a driver that seemed to be angry we ruined his day by requesting his services. 
  2. No accountability. Unlike Uber, taxi drivers are not held accountable by a rating system. Again, on more than one occasion we have been driven by rude, aggressive drivers.
  3. Transactions. Whether you pay with cash or credit cards, there is always a transaction at the end of your trip. 

BusI do not have much to say about using buses, other than to say it is very confusing for visitors. While it is the cheapest mode of transportation, it is slow (lots of stops) and most of the time you will have to use 2-3 buses to get to your destination.
Rental CarWe did not use a rental car. However if I were to make this trip over again, I would have rented a car. After 1-2 weeks, I was comfortable to drive myself. 
As you can read, I highly recommend using Uber. It only takes 5-10 minutes to download the app and set up your account. Unfortunately, not everyone in Costa Rica is happy about Uber. Read the article here.

Nate

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