Safety concerns in Costa Rica are at an all-time high. Right after The US deemed it to be a level 4 travel safety concern, all hell broke loose with the Covid-19 pandemic. In all fairness, nearly every country is at a level 4 right now. Still, as we get a grip on the coronavirus disease and people start emerging again in Costa Rica, it's going to be a wondrous place of masked strangers and sweaty elbow bumps.

Costa Rica's safety altogether isn't #1 on the "scary places to visit" list. Nonetheless, there is a higher than average rate of petty theft among tourists. Victims are usually those sidetracked by the beauty that is Costa Rica.

But, when comparing the crime rates such as murders and sexual assault, although high, they are more common within the local population. These usually happen in pretty shady areas that no one would suggest anyone go, especially a tourist.

Besides, tourism is the heartbeat of the Colon (Costa Rican money), and the government is aware of that. They understand the hazard one negative tourism experience can bring. So, they do what they can to make tourism as safe as possible. Keeping Costa Rica safe is fiscal responsibility for the government and businesses.

What Can I Do To Stay Safe From Theft?

Pay attention to your surroundings, have fun, be free, but be vigilant. This is for anywhere you travel. Unfortunately, we live in a world where people hurt others and take what isn't there's.

Knowing how to stay safe in Costa Rica should be a part of your packing list. Honestly, making safety muscle-memory when making your travel lists for any foreign place should be a yoga pose.

 

Lock it up

When searching for hotels, ask for safes and lockers. These are common here, and you can buy a lock or bring your own. You won't need your passport everywhere you go.

A copy of the personal data page and the entry stamp you received when arriving in Costa Rica will suffice. Don't always count on your phone to hold these items either; batteries die, phones get stolen or wet.

You will, however, need your passport when driving. It is your driving license. If your stamp is out-dated, that expiration date on your State driving license is useless.

 

Don't be Flashy

Don't carry around large sums of money or wear your grandmother's Le Bijou du Roi. It is the law that businesses have card readers, and this provides some ease of enjoyment. We do suggest carrying a small amount of local cash for street vendors.

From experience, making sure you let your banks know you are traveling is important. Getting stuck having to contact a bank because of the failed transactions is a pain in the rear.

Even worse, this can cause cards to stop working altogether. Now, you are without, and wire transfers can be expensive.

Fanny packs are the new black, especially in Costa Rica. Not only will you fit in and look super rad, but your essential items are also close to you and easy to access. And I wouldn't lie, fanny packs are hot! But, not getting robbed because you took the appropriate steps is even sexier. They sell them everywhere here for any style; FANNY PACKS FOR EVERYONE!

TIP: Put your paper copies and phone and anything not water-resistant in a plastic baggy. Things here get wet.

Security!

Most people traveling to Costa Rica will join in on a tour of some sort. They are very entertaining and sometimes offer food and drinks. It is a sure way to go when entertaining your adventurous side and looking for places you can't find on a map. You can book securely throughthe InCostaRica app as well and save money.

Be sure that if you are leaving your items on a tour bus, the driver is going to be watching it. Most parking lots have a security guard as well, even the grocery stores. You tip them some monedas, and they help you park, and people don't bother your car.

Having the added security for your belongings when you're trekking the cloud forests or shredding those waves makes vacay life a little less stressful.

Drill into your head that tourists are a target for petty theft, it's just fact. So, once again, keep it simple by leaving your valuable things locked up in a safe in your room. If you must carry any of these items with you, keeping them close to your person or in your sweet fanny pack.

 

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Beach Bums & Theft

This is one of those things that can be really frustrating. How are you supposed to enjoy time with friends in the water surfing if someone has to stay and watch your items? There is only one answer to that: rotate.

Now, you can bring the bare necessities: a towel, some shoes, water, and some snacks; no phones, wallets, etc. But, that isn't always the best option, especially if you are spending all day getting salty. Be alert! Pay attention to your surroundings.

Homicide (murder)

We have to share that this happens, here and everywhere; the dark side of paradise. This shouldn't be a reason why you don't come to Costa Rica because these things happen everywhere.

Nighttime is go-time for criminal activity, which is when most of these incidents take place. Now, unless your slinging drugs or carrying loads of money on you and flashing it around, you should be fine.

These unfortunate events happen more in areas like the San Jose slums or isolated areas where tourists usually aren't headed. Moreover, murders typically occur because of bad drug deals, territory issues among Los Narcos Traficantes, or those involved in those telenovela lifestyles.

It isn't very often you hear of murders outside of this except for a random act of crazy from time to time, which can happen anywhere. But, for the most part, you'll see petty theft and Pura Vida.

Sexual Assault and Harassment

Sexual assault also falls under night-time crime. Harassment comes in layers. It reflects on cultural views, catcalls, gropes, etc., which can be a nuisance. These are more an inbred machismo thing than an actual assault; they think they are complimenting you. We are not excusing this behavior at all, it's a cultural thing, and you should prepare.

As far as sexual assault in Costa Rica, this goes back to being self-aware. Don't go out alone at night and pay attention to your surroundings. If you notice a creeper or someone following you around, get help immediately. Jump in a cab, duck into a store; do anything that will put you in the public eye.

Date rape drugs

Date rape happens but isn't very common. It is also something that happens to about as many men as it does women, surprisingly. Do not leave your drinks lying around or accept them from strangers. Not everyone has your best interest at heart.

Do not become complacent in the vibe of vacation life. Complacency will set you up for failure every time. Relax, but don't let your guard down because the vultures will pick your bones, your pockets, and your wallets. If you put yourself in their environment, they will be watching.

Natural Safety Concerns

Costa Rice holds 6% of the world's biodiversity. Nature also comes with its hazards. There are ways to help keep yourself safe from insects and wildlife when exploring. It is also a good idea to practice safety when getting into the ocean.

Mosquitos

Malaria and dengue are two common mosquito-borne illnesses that can wreak havoc on your system and your vacation. Mosquitos are a burden, so get bug spray or bring it with you, it's a bit of a commodity here.

Snakes

These little "nope ropes" come in all sorts of designs, from the coral snake and the terciopelo (fer-de-lance) to the old fashioned rattlesnake. The terciopelo is a viper that carries the title of the most aggressive snake in the land of Rica. They are the most venomous as well. Therefore, when you're hiking the jungles, carry a stick, and watch where you're walking.

Malaria and dengue are two common mosquito-borne illnesses that can wreak havoc on your system and your vacation. Mosquitos are a burden, so get bug spray or bring it with you, it's a bit of a commodity here.

Learn more about the 7 most dangerous snakes in Costa Rica

Scorpions, Spiders, and Ants

Teranchalas, hormigas, y alacranes; OH MY! While most of these hurt more than they kill, it's no joke when you get a scorpion in your shirt, and it hits you five or six times. As the Ticos say, “ellos pican duro, mae!”

You will feel the numbness in your tongue and the pain, don't panic, it goes away. Las brujas say it's great for protecting against gripe, better than the flu shot, but it still hurts like hell.

Hormigas (ants) and spiders are everywhere. Sometimes they bite, some are poisonous, be careful. Ants can be dangerous depending on the class, and they are in armies. If you see them, walk around or away from them. They are not hunting humans.

Shake your clothes out before you put them on. Scorpions like cloth and spiders get in there as well. Like always, pay attention and take the extra step to keep the pain away.

Rip Currents

In 2009, there was an earthquake that completely restructured the coast of Guanacaste. This also created some serious wishy-washy water. The beaches of Costa Rica have always been unforgiving, and surfers live for the waves. However, it's nothing for the ocean to wishy-washy you away as well.

If you find yourself getting pulled into a current, DO NOT try and fight it. The further out you are, the less chance it will pull you under, but it can pull you out to sea. If you panic, you'll sink. Ride the wave and holler; someone will help you. When you inhale, your lungs fill with air, and you will float.

Rip currents close to shore can pull adults and children under fast. These are more dangerous because they are aggressive and unexpected, and it only takes a drop to drown.

Don't ignore the beach signs; they are there to help protect you. I always do an ankle check before going in. If you feel the water tugging you hard at your ankles, we suggest not going past your thighs.

The Ministerio de Salud is funding a Red-Cross lifeguard team for all the beaches in Costa Rica. This plan was getting started right before the pandemic, which is now probably stalled, but it is in motion.

The idea is to make the beaches much safer from theft and to protect people from drowning -- part of that fiscal tourism safety responsibility.

The Wrap-up

So, Costa Rica isn't all doom and gloom. It has a small population that thrives on tourism. Poverty is an issue in some locations, which feeds the reasoning behind petty theft. But for the most part, the people are amazing, and with some increased awareness of your surroundings, you'll be fine.

It isn't our plan to scare you. Take all this as a reminder; the world is a weird place with weird people doing strange things for no reason. This shouldn't keep you from enjoying new places, especially Costa Rica.

The InCostaRica app has an excellent GPS feature that can help you get around while highlighting fun areas to enjoy, safely. Don't go out at night alone in dark alleys and nightclubs, keep your stuff fanny-packed and locked up, and don't go to the ghettos. Other than that, Pura Vida!