By Christopher Howard, Live in Costa Rica – Sounds like I am talking about living in a communist country during the cold war or being in jail, but I am not. The real purpose of this article is to try and dispel the fears of many potential retirees who have visited Costa Rica or who have seen information about the following subject on line.
On my monthly relocation/retirement tours it is inevitable that someone always asks questions about the bars and razor wire that are visible in many homes here. Well the truth is that the bars have been part of Spanish colonial architecture for centuries. Made from iron, cast iron or steel verjas or rejas (window bars) are hand-made to order to suit individual customer requirements, sizes and designs. Some of the styles I have seen are very ornate and simply beautiful.
Seeing homes with bars on windows and barbed-wire fences may make you feel uncomfortable and unsafe. However, this phenomenon is found throughout Latin America. As soon as you cross the border with Mexico you will notice that most home have metal bars in their windows. Many people from the U.S. are only use to seeing window bars in ghettos, war zones and crime-ridden areas.
Burglary and petty theft are the main crimes in Costa Rica. Not everyone gets burglarized and not all people who get ripped-off are foreigners. Most of the victims are Costa Ricans. Many gated communities and condo complexes in Costa Rica have metal gates, restricted access and no bars on the windows. Bosques de Velarde is a beautiful gated community near where I live in Heredia. The development boasts 128 two-story homes and none of them have barred windows. Be assured that there are numerous other communities which are similar. So if you don’t like the eye-sore of having bars in your windows or feel like you are in prison, look for a gated community that has homes or condos without bars.
Razor wire is a different story. Many business and homes in poorer neighborhoods use razor wire. I admit that razor wire is unsightly but in some areas people can’t afford burglar alarms, bars on their windows or security guards so razor wire is a cheap solution.
In my 34 years of living in Costa Rica I have observed that electric fences, neighborhood watchmen and companies like ADT seem to work a lot better as a deterrent than bars in windows or razor wire. You have to realize that people here are slightly paranoid and go overboard when it comes to home security. I don’t live in a gated community so my home has gates and an ADT monitored alarm system but no razor wire . Knock on wood! I have never had a problem here. The whole idea is to put as many barriers between your home and the bad guys which serves as a deterrent.
Believe me I would not be living in Costa Rica if I thought the country was unsafe or that my family was in danger.