A returning guest asks about tippage in CR. In particular should he tip for short taxi rides or long tours.
First it should be noted that both tipping and bargaining are not natural parts of the local culture. We get a lot of guests who have had a totally different experience in their own culture e.g. wacko reaction from a New York cabbie they once stiffed or when traveling e.g. making a deal for a rug in a Moroccan market or bargaining for a deal in Tijuana on a stuffed local zebra.
You see the locals don't really tip very much. Taxis are generally inexpensive and used a lot for short trips and a 2000 colone 10 minute trip usually won't get a tip. Buses are very inexpensive and almost never tipped by locals.
Locals also don't like to bargain or "make deals" . . . if they have come up with a price for something, they actually hope to get THAT price. This ain't Tijuana.
However there are a couple of ways you can get a "deal" . . . nearly everywhere will give you a deal for cash - from 5% to 15% depending on the product or commodity or how far you are from civilization. But you have to ask as it usually won't be offered (well except in gee gaw shops in Jaco).
Also many folk will give you a discount for volume . . . buy 5 or 10 of something and you may be able to make a bargain. But only if you are talking to the owner . . . Costa Rica is a country of very small businesses and thus there is a strong likelihood you ARE talking to the owner.
These thoughts were triggered by a question about tipping $5 for a 10 minute taxi ride to which I replied "John, oh please don't do it . . . you'll cause massive local inflation . . . a 10 minute ride from the airport costs $6 or $7 . . . or about 3000 to 3500 colones. If the driver is a suicidal maniac tip nothing at all and let him know what you think of his driving prowess cause nobody locally will tell him he's an idiot cause they'll get tied up in bad chi and negative quedar bien.
If he's a nice guy tip $1 . . . if he goes out of his way i.e. lends you his cell phone or hand gun, stops off at a bar for a round of drinks for everyone in the car, actually stops at traffic lights, allows old ladies to cross the road and such . . . he gets a $2 tip . . .
As for a "transfer" to Arenal . . . there is no expectation of tips on a big bus . . . if the driver got a few bucks from everyone he'd be a very happy person though. Particularly if he drove well, didn't overtake concrete trucks on blind bends, used actual signals like turn signals, didn't take short cuts on bridges that swayed a lot, actually stops at traffic lights, little old ladies etc.
If it was a tour as opposed to a transfer then that's a different matter. Same goes for trips in small vans where you're likely to get an engaing and interesting driver . . . a good driver/guide could make the Arenal trip into an excellent adventure. Then maybe $5 or $10.
Well IMHO, Berni