We started this website to give you all the most genuine information about Costa Rica and we take this responsibility that we have put on ourselves extremely seriously. However, one thing I didn’t consider when we started this site is how responsible I would end up feeling for all of you. I genuinely want you to have the best trip here possible and unfortunately, crime in Costa Rica has recently become much more of a concern for travelers and for us.
So, because we feel responsible, here are all our tips about safety in Costa Rica. Please read through them and please contact us if you have any questions regarding safety.
- 1 How We Feel About Safety in Costa Rica
- 2 Common Crimes in Costa Rica
- 3 How to Stay Safe from Crime in Costa Rica
- 3.1 Register With STEP
- 3.2 Check the Embassy Warnings
- 3.3 Get Travel Insurance
- 3.4 Know Your Address
- 3.5 Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
- 3.6 Keep Money In Several Locations
- 3.7 Get A Secure Bag
- 3.8 Don’t Walk Around at Night
- 3.9 Keep Personal Info Private
- 3.10 Lock Everything
- 3.11 Copy Your Passport
- 3.12 Walk Facing the Traffic
- 3.13 Only Use Registered Cabs
- 3.14 Don’t Leave Your Drink Unattended
- 3.15 Don’t Fight Back
- 3.16 Tell Someone Where You’ll Be
- 3.17 Trust Your Instincts
- 3.18 Keep Your Room Secure
- 3.19 Don’t leave Your Rental Car in a Remote Place
- 3.20 Be Wary of Flat Tires
- 4 Places to Avoid in Costa Rica
- 5 What to Do if Something Happens in Costa Rica
- 6 Products we Suggest for Costa Rica Safety
How We Feel About Safety in Costa Rica
Thomas and I both agree that in general, we feel safe in Costa Rica. We, fortunately, have never had any crimes committed against us in our three years of living here. That being said, we also use extreme caution. I will get into all the things we do to stay safe in a minute.
However, even if you are extremely cautious sometimes you just never know. Unfortunately, bad things can happen anywhere sometimes.
Common Crimes in Costa Rica
The most common crime in Costa Rica is petty theft. It is unusual for crimes to turn violent (although it has been known to occasionally happen).
Most thefts occur when cars are left unattended or in the evenings when people are walking alone in the dark.
Unfortunately, in the past years, there has been an increase in violent crimes in Costa Rica especially targeting women. I don’t really know what to tell all you solo female travelers. I don’t think you should avoid visiting Costa Rica, but please be cautious.
How to Stay Safe from Crime in Costa Rica
Register With STEP
If you are a US citizen, you should definitely register with STEP (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program) before traveling. This allows the US government to notify you regarding potential security threats in the area you are visiting, get in contact with you regarding natural disasters and gives family and friends a way to contact you in the case of emergencies. I always register with STEP before I travel anywhere and definitely feel a little safer knowing that the local embassy knows that I’m in that country in case of disaster.
Check the Embassy Warnings
The US government has a whole page dedicated to the safety in Costa Rica. Make sure to check it our before you travel so you can be aware of any areas to avoid or current crime situations.
Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance has multiple benefits. Not only will it help you out in case you get hurt, but it is also great if one of your belongings are stolen. I highly recommend World Nomads. They are the only company I use and I absolutely love them. I’ve gotten sick abroad and they covered everything. You can read about my experience here. I luckily have never had anything stolen, but I know people who have and they were fully reimbursed for their losses. Check ’em out here!
Know Your Address
If you get lost, your phone dies etc. it is good to know the address of the place you are staying in your mother tongue and in Spanish. I write it down and keep it on me. Sometimes in a panicked situation, it’s easier to just hand someone your address rather than try to think of it.
In Costa Rica this is difficult because there are no addresses, it’s strange but true. Instead, make sure you know the name of your hotel and any landmarks that are located nearby the place you are staying.
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
When you are traveling it’s easy to get distracted by all the beautiful new sites, but you need to also be aware of the people around you. Look around often and avoid standing in large crowds. If you feel uncomfortable in a situation or place, just leave.
A friend recently got robbed at her house. She had just taken a large amount of money out of the bank and drove home. We believe the men that tried to rob her followed her from the bank. Keep this in mind as an example. If you take money out of the bank pay attention to who is around and watching you.
Keep Money In Several Locations
Don’t put all your money in your pocket or purse. It’s best not to carry much money at all, but if you have to, divide it up. I put some in my shoe, some in my bra, and some in each of my pockets. That way if I am robbed they hopefully won’t find all of the money and I can just give the money from one spot.
If you need more info on if you should carry money or use credit cards in Costa Rica, we have a full post on the subject here.
Get A Secure Bag
If you want to walk around with a backpack get one that has a lock. It will make it more difficult for anyone to steal anything out of it. If you like to carry a purse, I recommend a crossbody bag. It is too easy for someone to slip a bag off your shoulder. Also, with a cross body bag, you can position it so it rests on your front thigh so you can always see the zippers.
This is my favorite anti-theft backpack! It has a ton of storage and offers great security. Check it out on Amazon here.
I’m obsessed with this bag. It’s secretly like Hermoine’s purse and can hold so much stuff. Plus, I feel safe wearing it and it comes in a ton of fab colors. I just flip it over so the clasp to get into the bag is resting against my leg and nobody can get into it. Check it out on Amazon here.
Don’t Walk Around at Night
Thomas and I are guilty of walking at night because all of our friends live in the same neighborhood as us. We have recently started taking an Uber home even if it is for really short distances. We often feel guilty having an Uber come to us for a very short ride when they will only make a dollar or so. If you feel bad, just give them a few extra dollars to make it worth their time. Your safety is too important not to.
Keep Personal Info Private
People in Costa Rica are bound to be interested in your story. They generally really enjoy talking to tourists and they are usually extremely nice and welcoming, however, to stay safe in Costa Rica you should still be cautious. Don’t reveal too much. If traveling alone, NEVER tell anyone that you are by yourself. I always just say I’m with my husband and he is on his way to meet me. I also never say which hotel I am staying in.
When going out make sure you lock your car, hotel room etc. Also, don’t leave anything of value in your rental car. It is not unheard of for windows to be smashed and things stolen. When driving, lock your doors and use the AC instead of rolling down your windows. We have heard stories of people getting robbed while waiting at traffic lights. Because of this I always keep my purse on the floor between my feet while in the car.
Copy Your Passport
Some people say to copy credit cards as well. I don’t like to risk someone getting their hands on my credit card numbers so I copy them and leave the copies at home with someone I can trust. If something happens abroad they can always relay this information or fax it to you.
I don’t carry my passport with me on day to day activities. To stay safe in Costa Rica I always keep my passport locked up in a secure spot at my hotel. You can ask your hotel to lock up your passport in their safe (if you trust the hotel). I only carry a photocopy in case I need to show it to the police for whatever reason or for entering certain activities.
Walk Facing the Traffic
If you walk facing traffic, motorcyclists will not be able to drive up behind you and grab your bag. Walking facing traffic also means you will see any cars coming and are much less likely to get hit (and people drive like maniacs here sometimes).
Only Use Registered Cabs
We just wrote a complete guide to using taxis and Uber here in Costa Rica. I suggest reading that to help you stay safe in taxis.
Don’t Leave Your Drink Unattended
Roofies. It can happen. If I feel a bit sketched out by a place I always order bottled beer and keep my finger over the opening when I’m not drinking it.
Don’t Fight Back
If someone robs you, let them. It’s better to have to cancel your credit cards and lose some money than to fight back and get attacked. It’s just not worth it.
Tell Someone Where You’ll Be
In order to stay safe in Costa Rica, you should always tell someone where you’ll be when going out. Even when traveling alone just send someone from home a quick message telling them where you are going that day or if you feel comfortable with the employees at your hotel or hostel you can let them know.
Trust Your Instincts
If you feel hesitant about a person or a location, trust yourself. Your gut instinct is usually right. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Keep Your Room Secure
Try to get a room not on the first floor of a hotel (they are the most likely to be broken into). I always put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on my door even when I’m not there, so it looks like someone is in the room. I recently heard a great piece of advice to travel with an alarm door stopper. Even if someone breaks the lock the door stopper should keep them from getting in and the alarm will go off. I haven’t tried this myself yet, but it seems like a great tip.
Don’t leave Your Rental Car in a Remote Place
Sometimes cars are broken into when left in remote places. At most public places there will be a guard watching cars. You can (usually) trust them to keep a good eye on your car. However, we still strongly suggest that you never leave anything of value in your car and definitely don’t leave anything of value visible.
Be Wary of Flat Tires
We have heard recently about people slashing tires at traffic lights and then conveniently pulling up when you pull off to the side of the road. They will then rob you. If you can, always drive to a gas station or another populated place before fixing your tire.
Places to Avoid in Costa Rica
I don’t think it is fair to see you should altogether avoid certain places in Costa Rica, but there are definitely some places where you need to be more cautious. For example, I would avoid downtown San Jose once it gets dark out. It gets a bit sketchy down there at night.
In fact, most of what I suggest avoiding is walking at night. Most of the time when I hear of tourists having serious problems with crime in Costa Rica these issues occur at night when fewer people are out and it is more difficult to see an attacker.
What to Do if Something Happens in Costa Rica
If something happens to you and you need to call the police just dial 9-1-1. There should be at least one person at the police station who speak a little bit of English.
Also, it is best to contact your embassy as soon as possible. They can assist you in whatever you need as a citizen. Contacting the embassy is also important because it can help future travelers. Most embassies will then update their safety pages accordingly.
If you are a US citizen the US embassy is located in the Pavas neighborhood of San Jose. The phone number is (506) 2519-2000.
Products we Suggest for Costa Rica Safety
Want to feel a little more secure? Here are some products we suggest checking out.
If you have any questions about crime in Costa Rica please leave your questions in the comment section below and we will get back to you ASAP. Also, if you have some tips from your own experience leave them in the comment section below. They will definitely help out our readers.
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