Since 2015, Uber officially made its way to Costa Rica. After several disputes with the government, Uber has settled down and is now in every day vernacular when talking about getting around Costa Rica.
Using Uber in Costa Rica is an excellent alternative form of transportation and it’s our preferred option when we’re in San Jose. Whether you need to go to the airport, downtown or to the mall, Uber is there for you.
The concept is exactly the same but there are still a few kinks here and there so here are our tips for taking Uber in Costa Rica. If you haven’t opened an Uber account yet, you can get $10 off your first ride by using this coupon code: yeisonkue. Sign up here.
Tips for Using Uber in Costa Rica
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.
Only in San Jose
Right now, Uber only exists in San Jose. This covers San Jose, Alajuela, Heredia and Cartago.
Outside this area, there are no Uber drivers anywhere. We’ve checked LIR airport, touristic areas such as Playa Tamarido and La Fortuna and haven’t seen any drivers at all. Hopefully it will expand in the future but so far, only in San Jose.
You can estimate a fare from San Jose to another destination on the website but I’ve found that it’s about just as much as a shuttle and it’s highly unlikely you’ll get any Uber drivers accepting your request since they will need to drive back to San Jose.
You Can Use it at SJO Airport
Airport taxis are known to be expensive so to have Uber as an alternative option is awesome.
You can perfectly call an Uber to drop you off and pick you up at SJO airport. We highly recommend setting your pick up location at the bus stop on the street down the ramp or go upstairs to departures.
This is because Uber drivers and taxi drivers are at odds and it’s best to avoid any crossing of paths as much as possible. You can ask to get picked up at arrivals but since Uber is still technically not “legal,” getting picked up at departures is a safer option.
The moment you walk outside the airport and leave customs, you will see a huge crowd of people waiting, most of them taxi drivers. There is an escalator to go upstairs to departures (in the photo). We always ask our Uber driver to pick us up there.
You can also use it at the Pavas International Airport, where many of the local flights from Nature Air arrive and depart.
Select a Nearby Landmark for Your Destination
Since addresses don’t exactly exist in Costa Rica, find a nearby landmark on the map to set as your location. When we stayed at our Airbnb in San Jose, we set it to the Universal store across the street. Pretty much everyone uses Waze since it works the best in Costa Rica so once you get in the car, you can tell the driver to put the landmark in Waze and have them drop you off where you need to go.
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, even at Yeison’s neighborhood in Heredia. 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 before requesting a ride. In the meantime, you can see if there is anyone around to split a ride with you. Otherwise, surge pricing may be the only way to get a ride fast.
Wait Times Aren’t That Accurate
Because of San Jose’s awful 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. Always request a ride at least 5-10 minutes early.
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 for a 15 kilometer taxi ride from Yeison’s mom’s house in Los Lagos, Heredia to the SJO 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 actually not part of the culture because tip is included in the price. It is not mandatory to tip Uber drivers (at least in Costa Rica).
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