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Is Costa Rica Safe to Visit in 2024? Travel Crime Advice

One of the most common questions we get asked is, “Is Costa Rica safe to visit?” The short answer is, “usually”.

We started this website to give you all the most genuine information about Costa Rica travel and we take that responsibility very seriously. 

However, one thing I didn’t consider when we started this site is how responsible I would end up feeling for your safety while you are in Costa Rica. I genuinely want you to have the best trip here possible and that means that you should feel secure while traveling.

Crime in Costa Rica is an ever-evolving issue. In general, this is a very safe country. The most common crime is petty theft. Violent crimes targeting tourists such as armed robberies, sexual assault, or homicide are very very unusual. In general, you will likely meet wonderful people and have the vacation of a lifetime. 

However, 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 safety questions.

Our Perspective on Crime in Costa Rica

costa rica safety

Thomas and I agree that in general, we feel secure in Costa Rica. 

We, fortunately, have never had any crimes committed against us in our several years of living here. 

That being said, we also use extreme caution and I sometimes feel it is exhausting to maintain our level of security. 

Although nothing has happened to us, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t heard of crimes being committed against friends. This has always been theft in various forms.

We have had friends leave things out visible in their car and their car has been broken into, a friend got robbed walking alone at night, a friend had their house broken into, and another friend was robbed in their driveway.  

Keep in mind that these incidents have been over about 8 years of living here. This is not an everyday occurrence.

But, yes, crime happens and it can be very scary. 

However, even if you are extremely cautious sometimes you just never know. We had a crime committed against us once in Europe in a very safe neighborhood. So, unfortunately, bad things can happen anywhere.

As of now, we still feel 100% secure in recommending that you visit Costa Rica. It is a beautiful country and in general, the threat against tourists is low. 

If at any point we feel that the security level in this country is too unstable, we will update this to reflect that. 

​How the Costa Rican Government Protects Tourists

downtown monteverde

Tourism is the biggest industry in Costa Rica. With that in mind, the government works hard to make this the safest destination for tourists as possible. 

In recent years there has been an increase in homicides. This is largely due to drug trafficking and gangs. I have read a lot of articles about it in the news recently. It seems that the government is taking action to alleviate the situation. Although, it is hard to say exactly what is being done. 

Crime rates against tourists have remained somewhat steady. However, the president of Costa Rica along with the Ministry of Public Security (MSP) are making it their mission to lower these rates.

One way they are doing that is by identifying crime hot spots. They are now working to increase police presence in these areas. 

Sometimes I wonder if this is just talk to keep tourists coming here and feeling safe, but I really don’t think it is. 

I have noticed an increase in police presence in some areas and I have even been stopped by a police officer on the beach to tell me that there had been a few robberies there recently and to keep an eye on my stuff. 

How to Protect Yourself in Costa Rica

manuel antonio national park beach

Here are all the safety tips I suggest doing to protect yourself while traveling in this foreign country. 

Pre-Trip Preparation

Here is what you need to do before you even leave home. 

Register With STEP

If you’re a United States citizen, enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).

This program 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 give family and friends a way to contact you in the case of emergencies.

If you are from another country. see if your government offers a similar program. 

Check 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 is stolen. 

Get your travel insurance quote from Heymondo here.

Give Travel Plan to Trusted Person

Inform a trusted person of your travel plans and keep them updated. I like to write out a document with all hotel info, any preplanned activities, flight info etc. for my mom.

I then update her on my license plate number if I have rented a car once I arrive in a destination.

I usually also try to check in once a day and just send her a quick message of my plans.

That way, if I go missing, somebody has a record of my intended movements. 

Travel Tip: If you are an iPhone user you can turn on “share your location” with a trusted family member or friend. That way, someone always knows exactly where you/ your phone is.

Rent Your Car Directly from a Company

Third party sites often have car rental deals that seem too good to be true…they are. These rates don’t include any added taxes, fees, or mandatory rental insurance. Check out our guide to rental scams for more info.

We work exclusively with our favorite local rental company, Adobe Rent-a-Car. You can get a 10% discount plus other great perks here.

Make a Photocopy of Your Passport

I suggest making one or two copies of your passport to bring with you while traveling.

Then, while in Costa Rica you can leave your passport in your hotel safe and only carry the paper copies with you. 

Get an eSIM Card

It is a good idea to always be able to stay connected and have a working cell phone.

We suggest getting an eSIM card from Airalo for this.

However, you can check out our guide to SIM cards in Costa Rica for all the different ways to stay connected. 

Purchase Security Products

This is not absolutely necessary, but there are a few products I really like for keeping me and my stuff safe while traveling. 

  • Doorstop: Put this under your door at a hotel. When someone tries to open the door the alarm will sound.
  • Money belt: Helpful for walking around towns so that your money, cards, etc are hidden. This one is also RFID blocking so nobody can scan your cards.
  • Safety Alarm: Carry on your keys. Presd the button to activate the alarm if you are attached.
  • Headlamp: It gets dark very early here. If you plan to walk around at night it is a good idea to have a headlamp.

Monetary Theft

Here are some of the ways you can protect yourself from being scammed or robbed while in Costa Rica. 

Pay with Credit Card Instead of Debit Card

Credit cards make it easier to refute fraudulent charges than debit cards. I suggest checking your credit card account after any transactions to make sure that the amount is correct. 

Travel Tip: It is a good idea to get a credit card that is made for travel so you will not pay a percentage on every transaction.

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 them my wallet and move on.

If you need more info on whether you should carry money or use credit cards in Costa Rica, we have a full post on currency and paying.

Only Change Currency at Banks

The currency exchange places at the airport will give you a very bad exchange rate. Don’t use them!

Also, there are often people exchanging currency on the Nicragua or Panama border. Don’t use them either.

Instead, you will get the best exchange rate directly at a bank. 

Check All Receipts

After any payment, check the receipt to make sure the amount adds up correctly. Often in Costa Rica store employees need to manually enter the total on a credit card machine.

It is so easy to accidentally (or purposely) add an extra “0” and overcharge a customer.

We’ve had it happen to us. Luckily, the employee noticed it when he charged us several hundred dollars instead of about $50 for gas.

He was so embarrassed and pointed out his mistake to us and fixed it.

So, just double-check. 

Personal Safety and Awareness

Here are all the things you should do to protect yourself.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

When you are traveling it’s easy to get distracted by all the beautiful new sights, 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.

If you take money out of the bank pay attention to who is around and watching you.

Dress Like You Belong

We get it, you are on vacation and probably want to wear all your nice warm weather clothing.

However, in Costa Rica it is best to blend in.

Leave the nice jewelry or flashy items at home and dress in a relaxed way.

Don’t Walk Around Alone at Night

Unfortunately, it gets dark by 6pm in Costa Rica year round. 

As I mentioned above, it is a good idea to have a headlamp if you plan to walk around after dark.

Also, it is best to never go out alone.

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.

Don’t Leave Your Stuff Unattended

If you plan to go to the beach it is never a good idea to leave your personal belongings unattended while you are in the ocean or taking a walk. 

​Keep Stuff Secure at Restaurants

A lot of restaurants in Costa Rica are open air. This means it is easy for anyone from outside to walk by your table and swipe something.

Don’t leave your cell phone, wallet, keys, etc just sitting on the table.

Also, don’t just put your purse or backpack on the back of your chair. I always put mine on the floor between my legs with one strap under my leg so it can not be taken. 

Know Your Hotel Location

If you get lost, your phone dies etc. it is good to know the place you are staying in your mother tongue and in Spanish.

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.

Keep Personal Info Private

People in Costa Rica 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 you are a solo traveler, 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.

Lock Everything

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.

Don’t Leave Your Drink Unattended

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.

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.

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.

Transportation Safety

Here is how you can protect yourself from transportation-related crimes.

Be Wary of Rental Car Issues

We have heard recently about a travel scam in which people are 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.

Check out our guide to driving in Costa Rica for more info.

Only Use Registered Taxis

Make sure to only use official taxis while in Costa Rica so that you do not get scammed out of a lot of money.

You can tell an official taxi because it will be red (or orange if coming from the airport) with a yellow triangle on the drivers and passenger side door (or green triangle from the airport). 

We wrote a complete guide to using taxis and Uber here in Costa Rica. I suggest reading that to help you stay safe in taxis.

Be Cautious in Public Transportation

If you opt to take a public bus it is best to keep an eye on any belongings you put on the shelf above your seat.

Always make sure you keep your passport and valuables physically on you.

We have heard about people having their bags stolen while they were sleeping on public buses. 

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).

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.

What to Do if a Crime Happens in Costa Rica

ticos farmers market

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.

If something happens to you and you need to call the local authorities just dial 9-1-1. There should be at least one person at the police station who speaks 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 United States citizen the US embassy is located in the Pavas / Rohrmoser neighborhood of San José. The phone number is (506) 2519-2000.

Dangerous Areas

Here are some areas that are sometimes considered unsafe. In general, the larger cities such as San Jose, Alajuela, Puntarenas, and Limon tend to have a higher crime rate. 

San Jose

San Jose is the capital city of Costa Rica. This is where we live and I feel mostly safe here during the day.

However, you need to stick to exploring the downtown area or reputable neighborhoods.

If you plan to stay downtown I suggest Barrio Escalante or the area near the stadium at La Sabana Park.

Petty theft during the day is very widespread here. It is a good idea to have a secure backpack and hide stuff in a money belt.


In downtown Alajuela, you should use increased caution.

However, above the city in the beautiful rural areas you should feel very safe.


Tamarindo is a popular destination for families, surfers, and backpackers. It is a larger town, so mostly due to its size there tends to be more crime.

Santa Teresa

Santa Teresa is one of our favorite places in the country. It is a beautiful remote Pacific Coast surfing town.

However, because it is so remote it seems to be a hot spot for criminals to hide out in.

This doesn’t just mean Costa Rican criminals. I also mean shady people from around the world who have committed crimes tend to hide in this area.

For example, I just watched this episode of 48 Hours recently about a woman from the US who murdered another woman and was hiding out in Santa Teresa. 

Anyway, during the day you should be completely fine here, but use more caution at night. This especially applies to walking alone or if you plan to enjoy the nightlife scene. 

Panama Border on Osa Peninsula

This area is mostly safe for tourists. However, this is where a lot of drugs pass through from Panama into Costa Rica. So, use caution if in very remote areas.

Other Safety Concerns

Is Costa Rica Safe to Visit in 2024? Travel Crime Advice

It’s impossible not to fall in love with Costa Rica, but sometimes I feel like this country is slowly trying to kill me in a million ways.

From poisonous animals, earthquakes, erupting volcanoes, weird illnesses, a crazy high UV index, etc.

So, crime is not the only thing you need to think about in regards to safety here. A few other tips to stay secure from just this crazy tropical country as a whole are…

  • Always Stay on Marked Trails: This will help keep you away from some potential wildlife threats like snakes. 
  • Don’t Swim in Weird Bodies of Water: This should go without saying, but it is easy to get weird rashes and skin issues from unclean water. Check out our guide to safety from environmental issues for more info.
  • Only Drink Bottled Water: In most towns, it is fine to drink the tap water here. However, because you are not used to the water it is best not to risk your vacation. Just buy bottled water so you don’t end up with stomach illnesses. I like to bring my refillable water bottle from home and buy several-gallon jugs while traveling. 
  • Avoid Street Food: It is a good idea to be cautious of food safety so that you don’t get sick while visiting. The best way to do that is by only eating at reputable restaurants or cooking your own food. 
  • Trust Your Instincts During Activities: If participating in day tour or activities with reputable companies you can generally expect a high standard of safety. However, if something feels unsafe to you, trust yourself. It is best not to risk your security. 
  • Be Cautious of Flooding During the Rainy Season: It is not unusual for there to be flash floods or road flooding.
  • Be Aware of Natural Disasters: There are five active volcanoes in Costa Rica. That doesn’t mean that they are all actively erupting, but some are actually active at the moment. Earthquakes occur pretty much every day. Again, that doesn’t mean that you will actually feel them. Usually they are so minor that you won’t even notice. For more info, check out our natural disaster guide
  • Wear Bug Spray: The mosquitos here are generally not a problem during the day, but once the sun goes down they come out in full force. Mosquitos here can carry dengue, zika, and more. So, always load up on bug spray to avoid mosquito bites.
  • Wear SPF 50+ Sunblock: One of your biggest concerns here needs to be the sun. Costa Rica is not THAT far from the equator. The UV index is really high. Bad sunburns are often the number one medical issue that travelers face when visiting. 
  • Be Aware of Entry Requirements: Check out our guide on entry requirements to stay up to date on things like Yellow Fever vaccine requirements, how long you can stay in the country, etc.

It’s Not All Bad

santa teresa beach

I know this post is a lot of doom and gloom. But, in reality, Costa Rica is an amazing travel destination filled with friendly people. In general, Costa Ricans are welcoming, kind, and peaceful. 

When we first moved here after living in Europe for four years we were so caught off guard. Several people that we had never met before went out of their way to help us find a place to live, help us buy furniture, gave us things, helped us adjust to the lifestyle etc. 

We turned down a lot of help because we felt like we would then owe them something. 

It took us a while to realize that no, people here are just very kind-hearted. The country operates a lot based on helping out your friends, family, and neighbors when you can with the mindset that someday they might need help and you can step in. 

Also, a lot of people work in tourism. They want to make sure that tourists feel welcome here.

Conclusion: Safety in Costa Rica

In conclusion, there are several things that can happen while traveling in Costa Rica, but with common sense and some caution, you should find that Costa Rica is a safe place.

Overall this is a peaceful country filled with beautiful beaches, lush rainforests, and kind people. 

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.

You Might Also Like:

Costa Rica Travel Details: What You Need to Know

🚗 Should I rent a car in Costa Rica?

Having a rental car will give you the most flexibility when traveling in Costa Rica. This will also allow you to take fun day trips on your own.

🏄🏽 How can I book things to do?

We find that Viator tends to have the most comprehensive selection of activities with secure booking and good cancellation policies.

🍍 I’m overwhelmed with planning. Can you help?

Of course! I suggest joining our Facebook group for specific questions and head to our Start Here Page to get started planning.

✈️ What is the best way to book a flight?

Usually, we have the best luck finding great prices with Skyscanner. Check for flights to both San Jose Airport (SJO) and Liberia Airport (LIR).

🛏️ What is the best way to book my Costa Rica hotels?

We highly suggest Booking.com for hotel bookings and typically use VRBO for Costa Rica vacation rentals.

🗣️What is the main language in Costa Rica?

The main language in Costa Rica is Spanish. Most people working in tourism speak at least some English.

💰 What is the currency in Costa Rica?

The currency used in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC). However, the US dollar is widely accepted in most tourist areas

📞 What is the best way to stay connected?

An eSIM from Airalo is the easiest way to get 4G data while traveling in Costa Rica.

🌴 Is Costa Rica safe?

Generally, Costa Rica is considered safe for tourists. However, like any travel destination, it’s best to use caution and be aware of your surroundings.

🛂 Do you need a passport to go to Costa Rica?

Yes, Costa Rica is its own country. You will need a passport to visit.

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  1. Daniel B. says:

    Nice article! The anti-theft bag is something i’ll get for the trip. I’m realy like a scaredy cat when it comes to savety in a foreign country. Thanks for all the Infos Sarah.

    1. Don’t worry. Thomas will protect you 😉

      1. Sure he will. He’s my boy!

      2. Daniel B. says:

        I hope so ?