Unfortunately, thievery in Costa Rica is a serious problem. Violent crimes with robberies at gunpoint have increased. Petty theft is the most common threat to tourists in Costa Rica as well as pickpocketing and carjacking.
Take extreme care and use common sense to avoid any risk while visiting the county with some of the best beaches in the world. Both coasts, The Atlantic and the Pacific coasts.
Is Costa Rica a safe or dangerous country? The Safearound.com safety index for the country is 64% – a MEDIUM overall safety risk that means one should exercise common sense and remain vigilant for suspicious behavior as in any other country.
Costa Rica has created the Policía Turística – a tourism police force – dedicated to improving the security of visitors.
The most important for a safe vacation in Costa Rica:
- Be alert – you might always be watched.
- Never, really NEVER, leave valuables unattended in your vehicle.
- Keep your hotel room’s doors and windows locked and store valuables in a safe.
- In a restaurant or bar, keep contact with your bag. Also, take care that nobody has the opportunity to put something into your drink.
- In crowds, buses, or on lively streets wear your backpack on the chest -your front, not on the back. Always be suspect if anyone pushes against you.
- On buses most thefts happen inside the bus. Never put your bags in the overhead bins.
- Women, in particular, should not walk alone on the streets or beaches at night.
- With a rental car be alert if you have a flat tire and people show up to help you. The incident might have been manipulated and your helpers just want to rob you.
- As in any other country, taxi drivers will try to take advantage of travelers by overcharging them.
- Take care of your debit and credit cards, card skimming is common.
- WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: Many women travel safely in Costa Rica without any issues. However, there have been reports of sexual assault throughout the country. Avoid isolated locations and traveling alone after dark. Remain extra vigilant at bus terminals and in taxis.
- Natural disasters include flooding and landslides that can happen during heavy rains of the rainy season (May to November). In the dry season (the rest of the year) brush fires are common in hot areas. Both may result in public transportation disruptions. Costa Rica is located in an active seismic zone.
- Public bus transportation is unreliable, yet relatively safe. Buses and bus stops (especially those that go to and from San Jose) are frequent locations for theft. Any bus rider who falls asleep has a good chance of getting their baggage stolen.
- Traffic in Costa Rica is dangerous, so be careful. Pedestrians, in general, do not have the right of way
Useful information for visiting Costa Rica:
- Most visitors do not need a Visa to enter Costa Rica and can stay in the country for up to 90 days, based on their nationality.
- The currency in Costa Rica is the Colon. U.S. dollars are widely accepted, provided the bill is not too large such as $50 or $100, that may not be accepted easily other than at banks.
- Credit and debit cards (Visa and Mastercard are accepted all over the country, there are some issues with American Express cards. Never, ever, leave your card out of sight.
- Costa Rica has a tropical climate year-round. The year can be split into two seasons: the dry season (December-April), and the rainy or green season (May-November). While the temperatures can be hot in the coastal areas, they are much cooler in the higher altitudes (mountains) and in the city of San Jose. Always have a sweater handy at night, even at the beach.
- Costa Rica has two major international airports: The Daniel Oduber in Liberia (LIR), Guanacaste and the Juan Santamaria in San José (SJO).
More advice on travel safety. In Costa Rica petty crime (a theft worth less than US$1,000) is hardly punished, nor is there prosecution for minors below the age of 18. Even if you catch the thief and deliver him/her/them to the police they will probably be released the following day without any consequences.
Obtaining help – police, fire, ambulance – is by dialing 9-1-1 from a cellular phone or landline.