Safety in Costa Rica, things to know before you go

Safety in Costa Rica is the main concern not just for the local authorities but also for the United States Government who supports the Costa Rican government in protecting its people and tourists against organized crimes, drugs, and other related crimes.

To protect you and the people around you from COVID-19 international authorities strongly recommend we cover our nose and mouth with a mask and keep the social distancing and follow the local health and safety measurements in place.

Besides the COVID-19 pandemic-related restrictions Costa Rica is a safe and secure country with many amazing places to visit and explore.

Check the requirements related to COVID-19 testing before leaving home and make sure you will follow the rules otherwise you won’t be able to visit the country.

From green jungles full of plants and animals to volcanoes, pristine beaches, and amazing islands, Costa Rica is a true natural gem, home to more than 5% of the world’s biodiversity.

This is the right place to go if you are a nature lover as you will find in this tiny country the most diverse habitat in the world.

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Entry requirements during COVID-19 pandemic- is Costa Rica open?

International travel is back on track and people are anxious to get back to their lives and visit new places and experience new things.

Safety in Costa Rica
Safety in Costa Rica

Starting with 20 November 2020, Costa Rica opened its borders to tourists from all over the world.

In order to enter Costa Rica you need to follow the below steps:

  • fill in the Health pass within 72 hours before departure time, a questionnaire that has to be completed electronically elaborated by Ministry of Health
  • buy medical insurance from an international insurance company that covers you at least 50.000 USD for medical expenses including COVID-19 and at least 2.000 USD for lodging expenses in the situation of a COVID-19 quarantine (14 days is the quarantine period).

Stay safe abroad during COVID-19 pandemic

  • medical safety abroad
  • medical assistance including COVID-19
  • emergency medical evacuation
  • trip interruption -up to $5.000
  • travel delay - up to $100/day
  • get your tourist visa if you are on the list of the nationalities that need a visa to enter Costa Rica (United States citizens do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica).

Safety in Costa Ricais Costa Rica safe?

The good news about Costa Rican territory is that the Cold War and the gang violence are influenced little to none the country.

The bad news about it is that in the last couple of years crimes like drug traffic and money laundry increased but the national authorities take extra security measures for the safety of their people and tourists.

Travel Restrictions for Costa Rica
Travel Restrictions for Costa Rica

Because in Costa Rica the standard of living is higher than in most Latin American countries, thousands of citizens from Costa Rica’s poorer neighbors invaded this tiny country looking for a better life and better earnings.

But this thing is normal and it happens in other countries around the world, including Europe and America.

Costa Rica how safe it is

Based on the 2020 Global Peace Index, Costa Rica was ranked 32 out of 163 countries when we analyze it from a safety perspective.

In other words, Costa Rica is considered to be the safest country from Central America and the Caribbean area.

So, yes Costa Rica is an extremely safe country and the most probable thing it can happen to you is to be scammed by a taxi driver or a seller from the street.

Costa Rica Travel Restrictions
Costa Rica Travel Restrictions

Still, I want to give you some advice about travel safety in Costa Rica and what you should or should not do while visiting Costa Rica:

1. Don’t go to isolated areas especially when outside is dark or if you are in big cities; try to stay with the crowds or travel in a group especially if it is the first time in that area as you might get robbed.

2. Remove any jewelry or shiny items and put your telephone or gear in your backpack as petty theft is quite common. Do everything you can to blend in and do what locals do; if it happens to get robbed don’t be aggressive and follow the indications the robber gave you.

3. If you travel by public transport avoid putting your belongings in the overheads compartments as theft from there is quite common

4. Don’t leave your belongings unattended on a beach, in national parks, and in other places of interest as locals or some other tourists might take them away from you.

5. When walking on the street or using public transport keep your bag and valuable items in front of you to be able to see if somebody want to steal them

6. Make sure that you use an authorized taxi as taxi scams are quite common in Costa Rica and always keep an eye on the meter just to be sure that it is working properly. Don’t put your belongings near you in the taxi, keep them in your lap and be vigilant to the driver’s moves.

7. Don’t leave home without buying travel insurance, especially if you plan to do some activities, like ziplining, scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing and water rafting, and so on.

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8. Keep an eye on your watch, sunglass, telephone, and other gear you have as you might be robbed while staying in the queue at the traffic light if the car is open or you have an open window.

9. Don’t leave anything valuable in your car as car robbery are quite often; park in designated areas where there are cameras or it is a guarded area.

10. Touristy areas like beaches, national parks, or the city center of San Jose are preferred by thieves so be vigilant and keep an eye on what happens around you.

The favorite season for tourists and the time of the year when most of the robberies take place are during the dry season, from December to April, when the country is packed with tourists.

The beginning of the rainy season is actually a great place to explore the country as the prices are lower, the tourists are gone and you have this country more for your own.

And by the way, the violent crimes are lower and the price-quality ratio for hotels and rental cars is better.

Safety in Costa Rica for a family travel

Costa Rica is extremely safe for a family trip and there are plenty of activities to do and new things to experience in this country, so it is advisable to plan a trip for you and your family here.

Tortuga Island in Costa Rica
Tortuga Island in Costa Rica

More than that, families are generally not that interesting for robbers as they are traveling in groups, they don’t get drunk or walk alone in isolated areas during the night.

So yes, it is completely safe to go to Costa Rica with your family and have a wonderful stay in this amazing country.

Costa Rica safety for solo travelers

If you are a solo traveler avoid isolated areas, don’t get drunk, don’t stay out until late at night, and don’t be friends with people who are extremely friendly with you without knowing you.

Tourism in Costa Rica Entry
Tourism in Costa Rica Entry

Female travelers should show a higher degree of caution when traveling to Costa Rica as sexual aggression increased in the last years.

I don’t say it is dangerous if you are traveling alone, but you need to follow a simple set of rules and be extra vigilant when going out.

Places to avoid in Costa Rica

You most probably land on San Jose International Airport and from there you will start your journey across the country.

Show extra caution when traveling to cities like Quepos, Tamarindo, or Jaco, as well as Limon, Liberia, or Talamanca as these places, are considered to have an increased degree of danger because of the increased crime rate (pickpocketing and robberies).

The city capital of San Jose can be also riskier for tourists especially if you are traveling during the night and in isolated areas.

If you want to be safe, stay away from the following areas from and around San Jose: Los Guido, Pavas, Desamparados, Leon XIII, El Infiernillo from Alajuela, La Carpio and El Carmen from Cartago.

Another thing which I don’t recommend you to do while in Costa Rica is to camp on the beach as it is very dangerous.

Book your overnight stay at a hostel or a guesthouse, but don’t sleep in a tent on the beach.

Safety in Costa Rica – Safety tips

General aspects

The most popular months for visiting Costa Rica are December, January, February, March, and April when is the dry season.

During these months the number of tourists explodes, the prices go up and you will find queues to any popular attractions from all over the country.

It is a good time to make some money for thieves and crooks so don’t let yourself be fooled by small prices for tours, hotels, and cars as you might end up with no room, trip, or whatsoever and with your money taken.

Always get your trip from official providers or from your hotel, rent your car from companies with good reviews and never stay at hotels or guesthouses that do not have a good ranking on specialized sites.

Things tend to calm down during the rainy season, from May to November, when prices go down, famous hotels have availability even for last moment bookings, and popular car rental companies have good rates for tourists.

The beginning or the last period of the rainy season, which by the way is called by locals green season, is great for visiting Costa Rica.

Now the crowds are gone, the prices are low and you have more of Costa Rica just for yourself.

More than that, most of the days are sunny in the morning and just afternoon showers appear, not to mention the temperatures which are more suitable for exploring than during the dry season.

Safety in Costa Rica Travel Restrictions
Safety in Costa Rica Travel Restrictions

Avoid going to Costa Rica during September and October as these are the wettest months of the year and abundant rain might appear and sometimes, even extremely rare hurricanes might occur.

Can I drink tap water in Costa Rica?

Generally speaking it is safe to drink tap water in Costa Rica if you stay in the mountain area or in San Jose, not on the beach destinations.

We strongly recommend you purify the tap water before you drink it or buy bottled water just to avoid getting sick when you travel abroad.

Can I eat where locals eat in Costa Rica?

Costa Rica is ranked as a middle-level country when speaking about hygiene standards so we recommend you to pick your restaurants carefully especially if you have a sensitive stomach.

Some of the restaurants have unsanitary bathrooms and lower food prices, but I think it is more important to the quality of the food and not the price you pay for it.

Don’t eat at buffets where the food stays in the shop for long as it might be altered and you will have stomach problems once you eat it.

Pick local fruits from the open markets and local food that is made based on order to taste a little bit of the local cuisine.

Is it safe to hike and explore Costa Rica on my own?

Costa Rica is a wild and untamed country and I strongly recommend you to explore it but only with a guided tour or with an experienced guide.

Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest in Costa Rica

An experienced guide knows the dangers and the land so you can avoid any unpleasant events during your stay in this Central American country.

Is it safe to try zip lining in Costa Rica?

This tiny but beautiful country is famous for its zip-lining tours so it is a pity to go here and not try the zip lines from the cloud forests from all over the area.

Costa Rica Zipline Arenal
Costa Rica Zipline Arenal

Book a zip lining tour from companies with long experience and great reviews on the internet or ask the hotel staff about the company before booking a tour, to avoid any incidents.

Most popular scams in Costa Rica

Safety in Costa Rica is extremely important for government authorities and they do everything they can so that tourists feel safe and secure and come back to their country again.

But the poorer the country, the more inventive the malicious people are so we should also pay attention to what happens around us.

Here is a list of the most popular scams so be careful and try to avoid getting robbed:

Passport theft

Take with you a copy of your passport and let the original documents be locked in the safe you have in your hotel room as the passport theft cases increased considerably in the last years.

Traveling from US to Costa Rica
Traveling from US to Costa Rica

Slashing tires

It is extremely important to park your rented cars in guarded parking and check the tires before you hit the road.

The slashing tire scam goes like that: all of a sudden you get a flat tire and you will pull over to check the car.

After a few moments, out of the blue, a person comes and offers to help you change the tire.

Glad that someone helps you, you accept and start the changing tire operation with the help of your new friend.

The problem is that your new friend has an accomplice that will steal from your car your money, your phone, and any other valuable items.

How to avoid this scam: even if you realize that you have a flat tire don’t stop in the middle of the road. Drive until a place with people around and good lighting and don’t accept any help.

Good reputation companies will understand the situation and safety is first so you won’t get penalized if you destroy a tire.

Mandatory car rental insurance

Don’t let yourself be fooled by the lowest price, as most rental companies that offer small prices do not have any insurance on the price.

And by the time you pick up your car, they will force you to buy the mandatory car rental insurance and so your rental price will double in a minute.

That is why I strongly recommend you avoid getting cheap rental cars and always ask for a detailed breakdown of the rental costs to see if the mandatory car insurance is included or not.

Taxi scam with the meter

The first thing you should do when you get into a taxi is to see if the meter is running and keep an eye on it to be sure that it is running correctly.

If the taxi driver will tell you that the meter is broken then get out of the taxi and search for another vehicle with a functional meter.

Ask at the reception of your hotel how much the ride should cost just to know what to expect and keep an eye on the meter to make sure it works correctly.

Cheap tour Scam

The sellers of these extremely cheap tours can be found near the main natural attractions of the country and they will tell you about the trip of your life for which you will pay significantly less than the prices asked by authorized companies.

Well, of course, you will pay less because in most cases the trip won’t take place at all.

In order to book the trip of your life you will have to pay some money in advance and the difference you will pay at the moment when you start the tour.

The main problem is that this moment will never happen as nobody will come to take you on the promised tour and you will remain the advanced paid.

That is why I strongly advise you to book trips only from authorized companies and don’t buy tickets for tours from the street.

Conclusion

Safety in Costa Rica is important for Costa Rican authorities as tourism is an important income source for the country and happy tourists are their main purpose.

Happy tourists mean good reviews which mean more tourists that will spend more money in this tiny country.

When in Costa Rica following the local rules, the driving restrictions, and always have with you a paper to be able to identify yourself if necessary.

Don’t get drunk, don’t fight, bear in mind what I have just told you above, act normal and nothing wrong will happen to you when in Costa Rica.

 

Plan your trip to this beautiful place: Logistical tips and tricks

Book your accommodation
We always use Booking.com as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.

You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.

Don't forget travel insurance
We never leave home without World Nomads Insurance or Safety Wings Insurance as they offer the best services and a good value for money.

Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected events and cost like illness, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.

We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.

Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.

We always rent our car from Rentalcars. com as they have free cancellation 24 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.

Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.

We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.

Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.

Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.
 

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