Uber officially made its way to Costa Rica in 2015 and has made getting around Costa Rica much easier. Though technically not 100% legal, Uber has now become one of the normal transportation options for both locals and tourists.
Uber in Costa Rica is exactly the same as other countries but there are a few things to know. In this post, you will read our tips for taking Uber in Costa Rica. If you haven’t opened an Uber account yet, you can get $10 USD off your first ride by using this coupon code: yeisonkue. Sign up here.
In this guide, you’ll find out everything you need to know about using Uber in Costa Rica. (Lyft does not exist in Costa Rica).
This post has been updated March 2020.
Uber Costa Rica Information
The government sector of public transportation is still trying to figure out the whole Uber situation since it went online in August 2015. Despite protests from taxi drivers, Uber in Costa Rica is up and running and going strong.
You can still take taxis in Costa Rica but for us, Uber is quick, cheaper and more comfortable. Taxi drivers in Costa Rica have an unfortunate bad reputation for overcharging and being pushy, especially to tourists.
In San Jose
Uber readily exists in the San Jose metropolitan area covering San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago. There are also some Ubers in Jaco, Quepos, Liberia, Tamarindo, La Fortuna, Grecia and Manuel Antonio.
From our experience so far, we have seen only a couple Ubers in the Tamarindo and Playas del Coco area sporadically. During Christmas, I saw around 2-3 Ubers in Tamarindo. In February and March, I have seen 0 whenever I checked it randomly those months.
I have seen a few Ubers in Jaco and Quepos/Manuel Antonio and we know people who have used them in La Fortuna. We have also seen a couple at Liberia Airport but it is not as proficient as San Jose International Airport. Last time I went to Liberia Airport, I didn’t see any. There are also Ubers in Grecia.
Although there are some Uber drivers in those destinations, we don’t recommend to count on them as your ONLY method to get around Costa Rica.
Cost of Uber in Costa Rica
How much does Uber cost in Costa Rica? You can estimate a fare from San Jose to another destination on the Uber website if you’re curious as to how much your ride will cost. This is a very handy tool. You can also use it to get an idea of how much a taxi or shuttle would cost (add a little bit more as Ubers tend to be cheaper).
You Can Use Uber at San Jose International Airport
Airport taxis are known to be expensive so to have Uber as an alternative option is awesome. You can call an Uber to drop you off and pick you up at San Jose International Airport. Here is what you need to know about using Uber at San Jose Airport.
Pick up at San Airport
When you have arrived at San Jose Airport, finished immigration and customs and exited the airport, open the app. You do need Internet to use the app in the moment, there is free Wi-Fi in the departures area of San Jose Airport. You can also purchase a Costa Rican SIM card at baggage claim at San Jose Airport and have data on your phone with the card.
Put your pick up location at San Jose Airport at the arrivals. In the Uber app, you have the option to call your driver so I would let them know you are at the arrivals area. San Jose Airport doesn’t have a designated ride share area unfortunately. This is because Uber drivers and taxi drivers are at odds and Uber is still technically not “legal” in Costa Rica. Therefore, it’s best to avoid any crossing of paths as much as possible. So the moment you walk outside the airport and leave customs, you will see a huge crowd of people waiting, most of them taxi drivers. Ignore them!
Likewise, if anyone asks you if you need a ride, do not say you’re going to call an Uber. Just say that you already have a ride.
The Uber app will tell you to go to the bus stop at the west end on the main road outside the airport, so head right when you exit the airport and walk down that way. (Sometimes this meeting point changes so check the app as it will tell you where to go. Usually the meeting point is the bus stop). When you get in your Uber, your driver will most likely ask you to sit up front to make it less obvious that they are an Uber.
You can also use it at the Pavas International Airport and the San Jose Domestic Terminal. I used it when I landed at the San Jose Domestic Terminal and from my hotel Adventure Inn to the terminal. Very easy and they pick you up and drop you off right in front of the terminal. In the app, look for San Jose Domestic Terminal or Domestic Terminal San Jose.
The Uber driver can drop you off directly at departures.
Requirements to Use Uber
A registered account, a payment method and Internet on your phone to use Uber. Uber does allow you to schedule rides up to 30 days in advance in the app. We have never used this tool so I can’t say how reliable it is but you can see if it works.
If you don’t already have an Uber account and you plan to use it in Costa Rica, I would create your account when you are at home so you have everything ready when you arrive.
Select a Nearby Landmark for Your Destination
Since addresses don’t exactly exist in Costa Rica, but you can enter the name of your hotel or place you are going as your destination. For houses, Airbnbs or vacation rentals, it is best to use a landmark or business. When we stayed at our Airbnb in San Jose, we set it to the Universal store across the street. Our Airbnb didn’t have a name or was on the map so it was easier to find the closest business.
Pretty much everyone uses Waze in Costa Rica so once you get in the car, you can tell the driver the closest landmark to your destination and have them drop you off where you need to go.
Useful Spanish Phrases
It will be extremely helpful to know some Spanish phrases. A lot of city Costa Ricans know a degree of English but not all. Here are some useful phrases and words:
Voy a X: I’m going to X (hotel, restaurant, etc.).
Donde esta?: Where are you?
Aqui esta bien: Here is fine.
Gracias: Thank you.
Mi hotel es cerca de X: My hotel is close to X.
There are Uber Drivers in the Wee Hours of the Morning
We’ve needed to call Uber for early morning flights and had no problem getting one at 4 AM in San Jose. So don’t worry too much if it’s late in the night or super early in the morning, we’ve never had a problem calling an Uber at 11 PM or 4 AM.
You May Have to Use Surge Pricing During Rush Hour
Surge pricing is annoying and unfortunately it is also in Costa Rica. San Jose, notorious for horrible traffic, impatient drivers and long ignored pot holes, is a mess during rush hour and surge pricing may be necessary to get a ride.
However, if you’re not in a rush, you can wait 10 minutes and see if other drivers are nearby. You can also select the carpool option for a cheaper ride.
Wait Times Aren’t That Accurate
Because of San Jose’s traffic, you should give or take at least 10 minutes. We’ve had to cancel Uber requests a few times even though the driver was just a couple blocks away but they were stuck in traffic. Instead we picked a different driver that was coming from the side of no traffic.
Estimate Your Fare Online
The Uber website has a fare estimate which is helpful to know around how much you’ll pay for both UberX and UberXL. We were surprised at how much cheaper it was. Normally, we pay around $15 USD for a 15 kilometer taxi ride from Yeison’s mom’s house in Heredia to the San Jose airport. With Uber, we paid a little less than $10.
Don’t Need to Tip
When it comes to tipping in Costa Rica, it is not mandatory to tip Uber drivers in Costa Rica but they have the option now. Rather than tipping in the app, you can also give your driver some cash if you want (local Costa Rica currency is best).