Taxi drivers all over the world are not exactly known to be the most honest, in terms of making sure they take you on the shortest routes so you can get the lowest fares. Nevertheless, I am convinced that Costa Rica’s taxi drivers take things to a whole other level.
It is not uncommon for them to mess with the meter, called “la Maria,” which ends up charging you more money for the trip than is typical. I have a million stories about the many problems I have had with that. One that sticks out is when a driver crossed the line from just being a shady taxi driver, to being a shady, sexist taxi driver.
I was leaving the Multiplaza with my daughter, after a nice day of walking, window shopping, and Häagen-Daz. It was a beautiful, clear evening, and I expected a relaxing ride home, where we would dine on some delicious take-out from the food court. We waited in line and got into the next taxi. The driver was a portly and friendly-looking Tico. I gave him directions to my apartment, also telling him the quickest way to get there. When he turned right instead of left, which was towards the freeway, I knew what was coming. I once again told him the correct way to my house, and he told me I was wrong. He rolled his eyes at me and kept going. When I saw the meter going up and up I reminded him of the directions again, also adding that he’s going in the opposite direction. That’s when he said, “Lady, I know where I’m going. I don’t need a woman telling me how to do my job.” My daughter looked at me in shock. Her presence held my temper in check…to a degree. I sat back in the seat, crossed my arms and legs, and replied, “You’re right. You don’t need a woman telling you how to do your job. But let me tell you something. This woman knows how much this trip costs. So you can glue some wings to this car and take us to Madagascar if you want, but I’m only paying ₡1,300 for the ride once I get home.” Silence followed. Suddenly, the taxi driver made a u-turn and started taking us the correct way home.
After he pulled into the driveway the meter read ₡2,500. He said I only owed the ₡1,300 that I had told him about. I got out of the car and paid him ₡1,000. He asked about the lower sum, and I informed him that I was imposing a 23% customer Inconvenience discount. He complained, and I said that I’ll give him the ₡300, but that I would be calling his boss before he reached the edge of the driveway if I did. He told me to keep the money and sped off.
There are many reasons why the taxi driver did what he did. The bottom line is that when traveling around by taxi, if you do not know exactly how much it costs to get to your destination, then ask for an estimate before getting into the cab and make sure they use the Maria the entire time.