A lot of people visit Costa Rica every year and since we lived there as expats we get asked questions all the time. The #1 question asked is "how safe is it?" There seems to be a lot of worries especially among Americans as to the safety in Latin America. I can say from first hand experience that it is definitely safe and most definitely worth taking a trip but I can understand the trepidation.
If visiting Costa Rica is in your immediate future we've put together some travel safety tips to make your first visit go off without a hitch.
Choose your hotel wisely
When deciding where to stay in Costa Rica you will run into a lot of different options. They are all great depending on your needs but if safety and security is on your mind you may want to consider Costa Rica all inclusive hotels as they are typically larger, more secure, and you are able to spend your day around the resort with no cash on hand. All inclusive resorts are great for many reasons and security is one of them.
The least expensive the hotel is typically will give you the least amount of that warm fuzzy secure feeling. Although of course this is not always true. But under most circumstances I have found that as you move up in star rating you move up in terms of safety and security.
Use caution with animals
I know that you will come across a whole variety of unique animals while in Costa Rica. They will seem tame and under most circumstances will remain so but wild animals are just that...wild! Monkeys looks small and cute but they bite, carry rabies, and can create quite a bit of havoc. There are venomous snakes, poison coated frogs, and more than a few predators both on land and in the sea. Use cation as you would with any wild animal!
Use only official taxis
Many people try to make extra money by offering taxi services. As with everything else this may end up being perfectly fine and save you a few dollars but is security is what you are seeking it is best to stick to the official taxi service to ensure your safety. At the airport this will be the orange taxis, in smaller towns typically the newer looking cars (usually red) will be your best bet!
Make withdrawals from ATM’s in the daytime wherever possible. In fact many of the machines are turned off in the evening to prevent petty theft. Furthermore, use machines in bank lobbies to avoid getting your card skimmed and losing your precious travel money. You could consider a hidden travel belt or a travel neck wallet with hidden pockets to conceal your valuables. If you have a card with the chip, an RFID wallet is also a great investment to avoid skimming.
Get a good night’s sleep the day before you fly. This might sound like common sense but you’d be amazed how many people stay up half the night getting themselves ready for their holiday. The next day they are so tired after their flight that they can lose their concentration and put themselves in unsafe situations. Don’t be one of those people.
Always check the water conditions
Many tourists have drowned in Costa Rica because they don’t respect the swimming conditions. If you are planning to swim at all check with your hotel or local restaurant to see what the conditions are in the ocean or at any hiking to waterfall type spots. Take heed of any warning signs and if you are not a strong swimmer stick with the hotel pool and enjoy the ocean or river from a safe distance!
Let your credit card company know that you are traveling to Costa Rica. The last thing you want when you are so far from home is for your cards to be cancelled or paused because you forgot to notify your bank. Believe me it is no fun at all, and yes I am speaking from personal experience.
Driving in Costa Rica can be a bit stressful. Rules are not the same as in your home country and roadways can be treacherous. Signage is virtually non existent and because of these things accidents are rather common.
I was involved in an accident in the middle of down town San Jose and had to sit there in the middle of the road tying up traffic for 2 hours. No fun but everyone understands and because I followed the rules they were able to determine I was not at fault.
Don’t act like a tourist
Standing on a street corner with a giant foldout map is a perfect way to draw the attention of those who would take advantage of a tourist. Read your map in a coffee shop or check where you are going before leaving your accommodation. Always look confident when you are walking on the street, even if you have no idea where you are!
This sort of goes in line with looking like a tourist. Try to blend in as much as possible. Consider getting one of these amazing travel jackets to keep your valuables on you and hidden at all times
This one is particularly good, as it doesn’t look like a travel jacket so you can blend in easier.
I would also avoid wearing flashy jewelry. When we moved to CR I left behind all my expensive rings and watches and I am so glad I did. It helped me to embrace a more minimalist lifestyle but it also helped me to blend in and not give off a "rob me" vibe.
Avoid visiting the beach after dark
This is not just a tip for Costa Rica but great advise for most countries. Beaches are meant to be visited during the day for fairly obvious reasons. Visiting at night opens you up to all kinds of risks that are best avoided. Everything from rogue waves you don't see coming to shady characters lurking in a comfy spot to sleep can and does occur is best to avoid it if you are at all nervous.
As you can see the travel tips for Costa Rica are fairly similar to travel tips for most countries. Being sensible goes a long a way to keeping you safe and keeping your valuables tucked away out of sight is one of the most important things you can do for your own safety.
Once you’ve taken care of the safety aspects make sure you have an awesome time visiting Costa Rica. It is a great spot for families traveling as well as single and couples! There is so much to do here that you’ll want to spend all your time exploring this beautiful country.
Have you been to Costa Rica? What are your thoughts on safety there? I'd love to hear about it in the comments below!