Vacation nightmare: American couple slapped with a $30k Uber bill in Costa Rica for a single ride

Originally published at: Vacation nightmare: American couple slapped with a $30k Uber bill in Costa Rica for a single ride | Boing Boing


I’ve heard of surge pricing, but this is ridiculous.


trying to understand this part.

either a) it was a credit card, and so presumably she or her partner still have their real money; but for some unspecified reason, don’t have access to it. or, b) it was direct debit, and they had $30,000 in a joint account but have no credit cards in their name as an alternative

neither seems particularly likely.

that leaves c) they were paying for the whole trip on credit, and have little to no actual money

which seems both plausible, and depressing


My guess is they used a debit card tied directly to their bank account and their credit union approved the transaction thereby leaving them with a negative balance.

Another reason why NEVER to use a debit card for travel expenses. ALWAYS use a credit card for hotels, airfare, rental cars, taxis, etc. Credit cards have built in consumer protections that debit cards lack.

Also Pro Tip: Be careful when booking a rental car in Costa Rica. The country requires additional mandatory liability insurance which is typically not displayed in the online rental car rates. This can add an extra $500 - $600 on to a weekly car rental. (learned from personal experience)


Better to just hire a regular driver. I had a guy drive us around last time we were down there and it was awesome. No fuss. No hassle. Cheap.

We did however make several stops at what seemed like several of his girl friend’s homes or businesses. :wink:


No, that’s actually around 555 times more. Six hundred percent more would be $342, and you may not have noticed that kind of overcharge as easily.


The last time I was in France, I got a rental car. When I received the final bill, someone had made an error by shifting the decimal point. Instead of being charged $330.00 for a week, I was charged $33.00. I did not contest the charges.


could be wrong, but with a charge that big on any card, I’d expect a block was placed on the funds to cover it or on the card itself (unless you’re in the habit of charging tens of thousands of dollars per transaction, the card company would be likely to put a block in place). So you can’t access funds.

BTW, the mention of renting a car in France reminds me to point out that France is just about the cheapest place in the developed world to rent a car (even without the inadvertent “discount”). Go for it.


Another travel tip, if you are using a debit card-- remember to add a text or email alert to the account for withdrawls larger than what you’d normally spend with it. That gives you a heads-up so you can call your bank more quickly about any scammed withdrawls.


Oh yes, that also reminded me. Hopefully loads of people know this already, but if you are getting currency outside your country from an ATM, and that ATM offers the option of doing the conversion itself or letting your card company do it, let the card company do it. This assumes, also, that your card doesn’t charge FOREX (makes for a several percent diff, like $30 on $1,000). If the ATM does it, it will charge FOREX. Over a trip of even several thousand dollars, this nets you enough extra for some nice meals or the like. And it’s your money anyway; don’t you want to keep it unless you’re getting something good for it? If you’re paying FOREX you’re just paying extra without getting extra for it.

So don’t! (as that preacher character from a Firesign Theater album said)


Since we’re all sharing our tips for Costa Rica, only use the official red taxis with the yellow triangles (there are official orange ones exclusive to the airport, but they’re more expensive). The pirate taxis will rip you off.

Even with the official taxi, make sure the driver sees you tracking the length of the trip on your phone map app. The country is free of a lot of travel scams you see in other tourist economies, but a certain percentage of taxi drivers the world over always seem to be waiting for an opportunity to pull a short con.


Good advice for traveling anywhere South of the Border.


Anywhere in the world, really. When a taxi driver claims the trip will be “short and inexpensive” make sure he knows you’re checking.


I was in Costa Rica for some work stuff – I did some work with hospitals there – and there were a bunch of us a tour bus going from once place to another. He took a detour so he could help his daughter move a mattress up a flight of stairs. He was quick about it, but he thought nothing of delaying 25 people for a half hour.

Tico Time is very real.


ProTips (from one who drove between Northern California and Central America several times):

  • Do not use credit cards; always pay cash.
  • Use a debit card at a guarded bank to obtain local currency; avoid the money-changers at national borders.
  • Many vendors will gladly accept USA dollars… at an exchange rate in their favor, not yours.
  • Know the price before you pay for anything.

Good luck with that in a lot of places. In some countries, more and more businesses are refusing cash.


Even here in the states, but I think that’s even more common in northern Europe, yeah?


Hard to find data and studies on businesses refusingcash versus aocieites becoming cashless more generally, but yeah, that your guess does seem possible:

Norway, Finland and New Zealand are the three countries closest to becoming cashless societies, followed by Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, the UK, Singapore and the Netherlands, according to research published by Merchant Machine.


Italian/Swede here, so I get to live both cashless in Sweden and cash-bound in Italy.

I take objection to the metric in the research: how is Sweden in the 5th place if only 1% of the transaction is cash-based? 45% CC should not matter much, everybody is banked and has a debit card (I only have a - compulsory - corporate CC, in fact).

Everybody here - including beggars! - use Swish for small money transfers and payments.
All shops take CC/DC. Many start to be cashless.

I mostly use my phone, sometimes plastic (e.g. company lunch coupon DC).

Note that I’m talking about Stockholm, so there might be some bias in my experience.

OTOH, in Italy there was some step forward with the previous government, making POS payments compulsory for all activities. There was a lot of protest, boycotting and you got the stink eye if you tried to pay small amounts - I got a lot of free coffees, some bars would prefer to give it away rather than taking out the POS terminal.

The current government reversed course (fuck’em), IMHO just to cement their electoral base of small shop keepers (one of the major source of tax evasion in Italy), less free coffees, good for my blood pressure.

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