Costa Rica has proven to be a favorite vacation destination for people from around the world. With now over 2 million visitors arriving every year, this small Central American country is starting to feel like a second home to vacationers everywhere. While many people know the ins and outs of local culture, new visitors still ponder security when visiting a foreign country. Security risks, including everything from crime to road safety, is a major consideration when planning any overseas trip, so we want to put your mind at ease.
You may read that Costa Rica has one of the lowest crime rates in all of Central America. Costa Rica is considered a very safe country, but certain precautions should still be taken. Read through our list of tips and resources to make sure your next trip to Costa Rica is safe and relaxing.
Costa Rica is a politically stable country free of military occupation and violent riots. This fact alone sets it apart from other Central American countries. Costa Rica also boasts a low crime rate, with violent crime rates dipping even lower. If you follow common sense security measures, you’re at very little risk of being involved in a violent crime during your time in Costa Rica. You should walk in groups late at night and be careful of poorly lit urban areas, but this is nothing you’re not used to from your home town.
The biggest risk lies in low-level crimes, namely thievery and pick-pocketing. These rates rise dramatically around tourist hotspots. Be sure you are aware of your belongings. You cannot leave your beach bag on the beach unattended while you go for a swim, and you should be aware of putting your purse behind you in restaurants. You’ll be safest if you travel with only the necessary on you at any given time.
The water in Costa Rica is totally potable, but the sensitive stomach may have some reactions while accustoming to the local bacteria. If you are on a short trip, you may choose not to risk a couple days of sickness. Buy bottled water and asked for filtered ice cubes. Food will be generally well prepared, but always be aware that street food may be in the sun for hours on end. Sensitive stomachs will want to stick with restaurants.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you visit a travel clinic, or your normal doctor, four to six weeks before your trip to Costa Rica. Most of this is preventative work, but your doctor will be able to update you on any tropical diseases you should be aware of. Costa Rica does a great job with mosquito control, but when in the tropics, malaria is always a risk. You can talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of taking anti-malarial medication, if you’re worried about this.
You’re in Costa Rica to have fun, and we want you to be safe throughout your adventure. One thing you should be aware of is the state of some inter-city roads. While Costa Rica is well developed, not all of their roads have caught up to the times. If you plan on driving during your time in the country, stay alert for large potholes. Remember, some rural roads will not be lit during the night, so you’re going to need to take it more slowly.
Another personal safety topic to mention is your daily adventure tour. Tour operators are held to a rather high standard in Costa Rica, but you need to do your part to ensure everyone’s safety. You plan on hiking through the wild jungle, scaling a few volcanoes, and bungee jumping over a river, and while these activities will most likely be the highlights of your trip, don’t let your common sense run away. Listen to your guides and stay on the trails. You need to listen attentively and use common sense, and please, don’t pet the monkeys.
Dealing with the Police
Costa Rica has a strengthening economy and the urban development improves almost monthly, but it’s good to remember that you’re still visiting a rather poor country. Countries in Central America have less financial resources, which means the police are working with a lot less equipment than you might be used to. They probably also have much less professional training. If you ever find yourself in a bind, definitely call the police. They can help our and ensure your safety during any situation. If you call the police to investigate a robbery, however, there’s a good chance you won’t retrieve your missing belongings. The police are friendly and helpful in Costa Rica, but with a lack of funds and equipment, any investigations may come up short.
Even if you don’t plan on doing any extreme adventurism on this trip, it’s a good idea to have some numbers written down. First of all, Costa Rica has a 911 service, just like the United States. You should be able to call for any emergency and speak to an English-speaking operator. Other numbers are also available for local responses.
If you need an ambulance, dial 128. You can dial 118 for a fire and receive a local fire fighting team. Remember, these local numbers may not always offer an English speaker at the other end of the phone.
If you need to contact the United States embassy, for anything from a lost passport to a death, call 506-8863-4895. If you are in the United States at the time of the call, add a 001 at the beginning of the number.
In general, if you are calling an American number while in Costa Rica, you’ll need to add a 001 at the beginning of the number, this is known as the country code
If you are having a serious health emergency, you’ll need to call for emergency and ambulatory services first. After that, you can also call the Travel Hotline for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at 404-332-4559.
-Travel with enough cash for your outing, no more. If you want to withdraw large amounts from the ATM, it’s best to leave extra cash in your hotel room.
-You need to have internationally recognized ID on you, but a laminated copy of your passport will do. Keep your real passport in your hotel safe. The last thing you want is a stolen passport and the rest of your vacation spent at the embassy.
-Be careful where you pull out your expensive cellphone. Feel free to take pictures, but it’s a good idea to check your environment. Leaving your iphone on a table in a crowded room is dangerous in any country.
-Consider leaving expensive jewelry at home. Your wedding ring is more likely to be lost on a surfing trip than it is to be stolen, but either way, it’s a good idea to just wear a band during your trip.
-After dark, take a taxi. This is a general rule in any county you visit.
-Whenever you can, stay in a group. Costa Rica is a safe country, but sole visitors are more likely to be taken advantage of.
-Enjoy your trip! You’re visiting a safe country with years of positive tourism experience, and we expect you to have nothing but a great time. Keeping logical safety measures in mind will help your trip to be stress-free.