Safety Tips For Travel in Costa Rica

Some great tips to be sure you have a fabulous holiday

Costa Rica is one of the most extraordinarily beautiful places on the planet, with some of the most genuine, warm, and gentle people. With regard to safety, Costa Rica is like most other countries you may visit.  There are a few places where it is not safe to go into.   There are even some people not to trust. But with common sense, being aware and being careful, and trusting your own ‘gut’ feeling, you can have a fabulous visit without any major problems.  And hopefully have such a great time that you will want to come again and again.

It is important to understand that compared to most Costa Ricans, you have more than they do.  There seems to be a cultural misperception that foreigners and tourists can always get more – whether that is cash, another camera, or cell phone.  Which somehow makes it seem OK for them to take yours, as they perceive that you can easily get more or replace it.  An odd cultural misperception considering that the vast majority of Costa Ricans are proud, honest, and simple people who are very influenced by their Catholic upbringing.

Simple Safety Tips – Think before you …

  • Flash your cash. This is just like a red flag to a bull, it catches someone’s eye and feeds that misperception that you can easily get more.
  • Leave your things unattended in public places like parks or beaches.
  • Trust an overly-friendly, overly-helpful local you just met.
  • Believe something that you know is too good to be true.


Unfortunately there are some ‘professional’ thieves who look to tourists as their personal ATM machine, either taking their cash or belongings that they then turn into cash.  And they use the same scams that have become well-known to watch for.  For your safety, being aware is thevery first step for prevention.

Beach Thefts – most beaches are banked by thick jungle, dense bush, and trees which are easy places to hide waiting for you to take a quick dip in the ocean.  It only takes a few minutes to swoop in, and grab your bags while your back is turned or you are out for a swim.  For the safety of your belongings, it best to take turns going in for that refreshing dip, and always leave someone to watch over your bags.

Flat Tire on Rental Car – you have just picked up your rental car, and making your way out of San Jose heading to the beach.  Suddenly you have a flat tire, and even more mysteriously, suddenly 2 or 3 very friendly locals appear to help you change the tire.  That tire was punctured at one of the recent traffic lights, and they have been following you until you stop to deal with the flat tire.  While one is helping you at the front of the car, another is grabbing the bags out of the back.  For your safety, it is best to drive on the flat until you can get to a safe place to change the tire.

Store Parking Lots – you are just running into the supermarket to get a cold bottle of water.  You will only be gone a moment.  That is all that it takes, as there are local thieves who sit in the parking lot waiting and watching for this opportunity.  Best to always leave someone in the car.  And if they decide to come in too, then be sure to lock the car – even if just for a moment.  For your safety, it is always best to lock the car no matter how long you might be gone.

Beach Parking – rental car models are known to thieves.  So those cars are known to be driven by tourists with a very good probability that they will have valuables in their car.  Thieves are waiting and watching in the bushes while you head off to enjoy a day at the beach.  For the safety of your belongings, it is best to never leave any valuables in the car.

Strangers on the Road – it’s dark and you see a pregnant woman on the side of the road waving her arms in distress, asking for assistance.  You stop to help, and that is when her 3 accomplices jump out of the bushes.  For your safety, it is best not to stop when the situation looks suspicious.


  • Leave your contact details and travel plans with a family member or close friend.
  • Don’t wear any expensive jewelry.
  • Leave at home whatever you wouldn’t want to lose.
  • Only bring what is necessary for your visit.
  • Inform credit card companies that you will be traveling over-seas so your transactions are not blocked for your safety.
  • Research the local embassy emergency contact information.
  • Only carry a copy of your passport, and leave the original in the hotel safe.
  • Only make ATM withdrawals during the day.
  • Learn how to identify a rip tide on the beach. Our beaches are notorious for dangerous rip tides, and very few of our beaches have lifeguard programs.
  • Only go in the ocean to your waist if you are not a strong swimmer. A strong wave can easily knock you down, and then the rip tide takes you out to sea.
  • Don’t leave valuables visible in your car, even in secure parking.
  • Always have some emergency cash with you in small denominations.
  • The Emergency Number is 911, and there are English speakers on staff.

The vast majority of Costa Ricans are proud, honest, and simple people who are delighted that you have come to visit their beautiful country. They want you to have a fantastic visit, tell your friends all about your wonderful holiday, and then come back again.  With common sense, and remembering these safety tips, hopefully we will see you again.

Contact Us for more information on what to see and do while in Costa Rica.

VIAJannette MacKinnon
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