Taxis are cheap and your best bet for getting around San José. Just about every driver is friendly and eager to use a few English words to tell you about a cousin or sister in New Jersey; however, cabbies truly conversant in English are scarce. Tipping is not expected, but a good idea when you've had some extra help, especially with your bags. Taxis are not shared with strangers here; the ride is for you and your party only.
Cabs are red, usually with a yellow light on top. To hail one, extend your hand and wave it at about hip height. If it's available, the driver will often flick his headlights before pulling over. The city is dotted with paradas de taxi, taxi queues where you stand the best chance of grabbing one. Taxis generally congregate around the central park in most other cities and towns. Your hotel can usually call you a reputable taxi or private car service, and when you're out to dinner or on the town, ask the manager to call you a cab—it's much easier than hailing one on the street, and safer, too.
Taxi drivers are infamous for "not having change." If it's just a few hundred colones, you may as well round up. If it's a lot, ask to go to a store or gas station where you can make change. To avoid this situation, never use a 10,000-colón bill in a taxi, and avoid paying with 5,000-colón bills unless you've run up almost that much in fares. Drivers will round the fare up to the nearest 100 colones.
Outside the capital area, drivers often use their odometers to creatively calculate fares. Manuel Antonio drivers are notorious for overcharging. It's illegal, but taxis charge up to double for hotel pickups or fares that take them out of the province (such as San José to Alajuela). Ask the manager at your hotel about the going rate. Outside the capital, try to avoid taking an unofficial taxi (pirata), although it's sometimes the only option. It's better to ask your hotel for recommendations.
The ride service Uber operates in Costa Rica with service primarily in San José and the metro area. Uber also offers rides to a few destinations elsewhere in the country for fixed rates.
It's always a good idea to make a note of the cab number (painted in a yellow triangle on the door), and sit in the back seat for safety.