Is Costa Rica Safe for Visitors?

Is Costa Rica safe?  Unfortunately, there is no where in the world where you can say you will be 100% safe, 100% of the time. In the U.S., unlike Costa Rica, children are not safe even at school. And if there is little or no crime in the area where you live, there are still natural dangers—tornados, floods, fires—that rob you of complete peace of mind.

That said, however, Costa Rica is safe in general, and it can be considered VERY safe if you take reasonable common sense precautions.

Here are some things that are very safe in Costa Rica:

1. Water is potable everywhere in Costa Rica. That is, unless you are buried in the jungle somewhere and your only water source is a mud puddle. Then maybe not so much. But everywhere else, Costa Rican water is clean and tasty, except for some strange reason in the San Jose airport water fountains—yuck!

2. Food offered in restaurants will not make you sick. Costa Ricans are sticklers for cleanliness. However, I am not making any promises about roadside stands where proper refrigeration of perishables may be lacking.

3. Unless you are sleeping overnight deep in the aforementioned jungle, you will not be attacked by wild animals. Big cats and snakes wisely avoid populated areas; attacks by the former are unheard of and by the latter very rare.

4. The government will not be overthrown during your visit. Costa Rica experiences almost no civil unrest. It abolished its army in 1949, and protests and marches take place rather quietly.

The criminal activity that blights most Latin American countries is also prevalent in Costa Rica, although to a much lesser degree that most of its Central American neighbors. Pick pocketing and petty theft are common here, but chances are you will be able to enjoy your vacation without incident if you take these precautions:

1. Beaches. Swimming in Costa Rica is safe owing to almost no incidents of shark attacks, jellyfish flotillas, or red tides. Beaches where the currents are strong (surfers love those!) and where riptides are possible are well marked. Read up on what to do if you feel the current taking you out. Here is a good Link to Read. Stay calm and you will be fine. If worried about it Come to Playa Hermosa, Guanacaste, you won’t have that issue. By and large, Costa Rica’s beaches are safe from forms of personal assault, but petty theft of belongings is common. Do not leave your things unattended on the beach while you are playing in the waves! Park your car in sight or in guarded parking areas. Even then, do not leave valuables in sight in your car. However, don’t make a big, noisy show of moving everything to the trunk, either. Trunks are not impregnable! It is better to leave your valuables back at your rental villa or hotel when you are traveling around.

2. Do not carry a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry. Carry a copy of your passport and leave the real one in a safe place at your residence. Conversely, carry a credit card but leave copies of your cards back home so you will have the card number and customer information in case your card is lost or stolen.

3. Use good judgement after dark. Do not walk around alone, and if you need directions, ask persons in lighted establishments, not someone sleeping under a tree. Do not accept help from persons who approach you. Better yet, take a taxi—the red or orange ones are licensed and safe. Frankly, if you are wandering around alone on dark streets after midnight, you are on your own. I can’t help you.

4. Don’t use the overhead shelves on buses. People can easily take your bag when exiting the bus while you are looking out the window. If your bag is too big to fit at your feet or on your lap, store it in the luggage compartment under the bus and ask for a ticket.

5. When you get back to your condo from the beach, you may want to leave all your wet stuff drying outside your condo. This is not a good idea if your porch or balcony can be accessed by others or if you are on the ground floor. If you do leave things outside, make sure you bring everything in before going out for the evening or going to bed.

6. Just say “No” to drugs anywhere anytime.  They are never worth it.

So, is Costa Rica safe?  Yes! Costa Rica can be a very safe place to visit and live. If you are from a small town in rural USA, you will have to take precautions you are not used to. But if you do, then Costa Rica can be the paradise of your dreams.

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