Before I arrived in Costa Rica, I knew I would need to take a taxi sometimes but I was not aware of how common taxis are here and the relatively low rates of a taxi. Both locals and tourists take taxis often, so outside of any school or shopping center there is generally a line of taxis waiting for people in need of a ride. If you are at a place that does not have a line of taxis outside it, you simply can waive at a passing one on the highway or street you are on. If that does not work to hail a taxi, you can always call to get one (that is something I never have had to do because of the sheer number of taxis!). The fare is not expensive either if you are going somewhere relatively close. To keep costs at bay, I would not advise you to take a taxi to a destination more than 7-8 miles away. In that case, it is best to either figure out a bus you can take or get a big group so you can split the taxi.
Within the city of San Jose, most places I have wanted to visit are not that far away, so my friends and I usually take a taxi because it is very simple and pretty inexpensive too. There are a few bus routes that I know by heart that I take, but if I am in the center of the city and am not familiar with an area I choose to take a taxi. Another plus of taxis: most drivers know the city so well; I have not yet experienced a taxi driver not knowing where a certain location is. There have been a lot of times that I try to find a place by asking different people directions, and although a lot of those times I have been able to eventually find my destination it is quicker and safer to take a taxi for $4 USD (more or less). If you are going to be taking taxis a lot like I have been, it is important you know a few things about them that I have learned from experience, my host mom, my program director, and even taxi drivers themselves!
The first important thing to know is that in the entire country of Costa Rica, official taxis are red with a yellow triangle on the doors. The yellow triangle has a number in it, and that number is basically the registration of the taxi. With that number, you can identify which taxi you had if you ever leave something in the taxi or if there is a bad situation with the taxi driver.
Whenever I get into a taxi I quickly snap a photo of the triangle to ensure I have a record of which taxi I took in case anything goes wrong. There are taxis that are not official, but I advise you not to take them! The next thing all official taxis have is a meter, called “una maria” here in Costa Rica. It is important you tell them to start the maria before they leave. There are a lot of taxi drivers that will tell you that it is broken or they will say they can give you a better rate without it. Do not believe them! That has happened to me, and when it has I just say thank you but I am going to take a different taxi.
Once in a taxi, every taxi driver I have had has been a little different. Some are quiet, some are talkative, and some are a little bit of both. The general rule-of-thumb is to follow their lead. I never start a conversation with a taxi driver if they are not talking to me. I have had really good conversations with taxi drivers though, but each time it was them initiating it. My program told us that here, if you try to initiate a conversation with them or are overly friendly as a female they may think you want something more than the taxi ride. I am not sure if that is always true, but regardless it is not a good idea to irritate the driver by talking too much. The last bit of wisdom I picked up from my host mom is to not take a taxi with an overly-aggressive driver. The only incident I have seen taxi drivers be pushy is at bus stops that are coming from out of town. The taxi drivers will often be waiting at the front door of the bus asking each passenger if they need a taxi. When I was coming back from a weekend trip with my roomates, taxi drivers were almost yelling at us to see if we wanted a ride. The pushy taxi drivers generally are that way because they have had a slow day and they may feel more inclined to bring you on a longer ride than necessary to increase the price of the ride. Instead, finding a taxi with a driver that is not so pushy will insure a better chance of getting a fair rate.
Taking a taxi is a great way to practice your Spanish with a local and get around the city quickly and affordably! Happy exploring!