I believe that bad things can happen anywhere. We had a gun pulled on us once, in Germany, a country that is extremely strict on gun laws, in a neighborhood that we had always felt really secure in. You don’t have to be in a foreign country that is known for sometimes having problems with petty crime to be robbed. However, being aware and using some basic steps of caution will help you with safety in Costa Rica and other countries.
Before you start getting scared, I believe Costa Rica is relatively safe. People here use a lot of caution (such as big fences, barbed wire, and bars on windows) but that doesn’t mean it is dangerous. We’ve been here for over two years and have never had anything happen to us, but we have had friends who have been robbed at knifepoint, had their cars broken into etc.
The country also really works hard to keep people safe. Tourism is a huge industry here and the government would like to keep it that way. Because of that, they put in a lot of ongoing effort to protect travelers.
A little caution will go a long way here. These are the things we do (and I suggest you do as well) to try to stay safe.
- 1 Safety in Costa Rica – Register With STEP
- 2 Safety in Costa Rica – Get Travel Insurance
- 3 Safety in Costa Rica – Know Your Address
- 4 Safety in Costa Rica – Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
- 5 Safety in Costa Rica – Research Which Areas To Avoid
- 6 Safety in Costa Rica – Carry A Fake Wallet
- 7 Safety in Costa Rica – Keep Money In Several Locations
- 8 Safety in Costa Rica – Get A Secure Bag
- 9 Safety in Costa Rica – Don’t Walk Around at Night
- 10 Safety in Costa Rica – Keep Personal Info Private
- 11 Safety in Costa Rica – Dress Minimally
- 12 Safety in Costa Rica – Lock Everything
- 13 Safety in Costa Rica – Walk Facing the Traffic
- 14 Safety in Costa Rica – Only Use Registered Cabs
- 15 Safety in Costa Rica – Don’t Fight Back
- 16 Safety in Costa Rica – Tell Someone Where You’ll Be
- 17 Safety in Costa Rica – Don’t Leave Your Drink Unattended
- 18 Safety in Costa Rica – Trust Your Instincts
- 19 Safety in Costa Rica – Know The Address And Phone Number Of The Embassy
- 20 Safety in Costa Rica – Keep Your Room Secure
Safety 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance has multiple benefits. Not only will it help you out in case you get hurt, 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!
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – Research Which Areas To Avoid
If you are not familiar with Costa Rica you might sometimes find yourself in an area you don’t want to be in. Ask at your hotel if there are any areas you should avoid near where you are staying. People who are locals in that area will always be your best sorce of information regarding safety.
Safety in Costa Rica – Carry A Fake Wallet
I heard this tip from another travel blogger and loved it! If someone asks you for your wallet pull out the fake wallet and throw it past them. When they run after it, run away.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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 boyfriend and he is on his way to meet me. I also never say which hotel I am staying in.
Safety in Costa Rica – Dress Minimally
I don’t mean wear a minimal amount of clothing haha. I mean, don’t dress to impress. I know, it can be tempting to buy a ton of new super cute clothes to wear while on vacation, but don’t. Dress simply and conservatively. Don’t wear any flashy jewelry. If you stand out you are much more likely to be a target. I know, sometimes you’re automatically a target because of your skin color, but don’t add to that by being showy. If you need some tips on appropriate clothes, we have a full packing post for women here and one for men here.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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 don’t keep your windows rolled down all the way. We have heard stories of people getting robbed while waiting at traffic lights. Because of this I always keep me purse on the floor between my feet while inthe car.
Beer. Beach. And a sunset. I’ve got everything I need!…… —— Santa Teresa is a great beach for surfing and a cool atmosphere. Just a warning though, I heard recently from a girl in a Facebook group I’m part if that she was held up at gun point here late at night. Please be careful and dont walk around at night alone.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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 it 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. Of course, I always forget this when I’m in the US and try to buy alcohol and get denied because I don’t have a proper ID…grrrrr!
Safety in Costa Rica – Walk Facing the Traffic
If you walk facing traffic motorcyclists will not be able to drive up behind you and grab your bag. Where we live in Costa Rica this happens. 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).
Safety in Costa Rica – Only Use Registered Cabs
Here in Costa Rica the registered cabs are red and have a special sticker. The cabs from the airport will be orange. However, taxis here are ridiculously expensive and I suggest taking an Uber when possible. You’ll save A LOT of money.
There are also pirated taxi drivers who will try to get you to go with them. This often happens at the airport or bus stations because the taxi drivers will bombard you when you exit the airport or get out of a bus. If this happens to you and you need a taxi, make sure to inspect their car before you agree to get in anybody’s vehicle. The picture above shows you exactly what a legit Costa Rican taxi looks like. Sometimes the car might be a lot older looking, but it will be red with a sticker. If this is not the case, do not agree to go in the taxi.
A friend recently made this mistake and was charged almost a $120 for a taxi ride that should have cost $12 at most. I have also heard of these pirate taxi drivers threatening customers. If this happens to you, just call the police or threaten to call the police. They don’t want to get in trouble for that stuff and will likely let you go. But seriously, Uber, it’s the best!
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – 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.
Safety in Costa Rica – Trust Your Instincts
If you feel hesitant about a person or a location, trust yourself. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Safety in Costa Rica – Know The Address And Phone Number Of The Embassy
If something does happen to you, it is important to be able to get in touch with your local embassy. They are there to help you. We live near the US Embassy in San Jose and I like to think they have some secret bunker for US citizens if one of the nearby volcanos erupts or something. Thomas thinks I’m crazy, but I feel weirdly safe being near the embassy. Whatever helps me sleep at night I guess. 🙂
Safety in Costa Rica – Keep Your Room Secure
Try to get a room not on the first floor of a hotel (they are most often 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 a rubber door stopper and wedge it between your door. Even if someone breaks the lock the rubber door stopper should keep them from getting in. I haven’t tried this myself yet, but it seems like a good piece of advice.
I really hope this list does not deter you from visiting Costa Rica. As I said in the beginning, bad things can happen anywhere. If you just use some caution you should be fine and will have a great trip in paradise.
If you have any questions about safety in Costa Rica or have some tips from your own experience leave them in the comment section below. We love to hear from you!
Want to feel a little more secure? Here are some great products.
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