Is it Safe to Travel in Costa Rica?
Is Costa Rica safe for traveling and exploring? A resounding yes. You may be surprised that Costa Rica is actually one of the safest countries in North and South America–along with the United States and Canada. In fact, Costa Rica is considered safer than many parts of the United States. Every year an average of three million tourists including families, couples, backpackers, surfers and yogis explore Costa Rica.
That being said, you are still traveling in a foreign country and you shouldn’t let your guard down! It is important to take basic personal safety precautions at all times.
Traveling with a Reputable Travel Agency like My Costa Rica
Traveling abroad in any country can be stressful and, if not planned carefully, even dangerous. There are many details to consider. What parts of the country are safe? Will I be able to understand the language? Which hotels have the best reputation? Is is wise to bring my children? Or my grandparents? How will I travel from place to place? Who do I call in case of an emergency? The list goes on. However if you travel with an agency, the details are left up to them, allowing you to relax and just enjoy your vacation. The only things you need to consider when selecting an agency are:
- Is it local? There are some general travel agencies that are not in-country and many that have never even visited Costa Rica. Make sure to pick an agency that is in-country and is specifically knowledgable about Costa Rica.
- Is it certified? Travel agencies that are certified by the Costa Rican Chamber of Tourism (CANATUR) are the best option. They work with safe and reputable providers and have been recognized as an outstanding company.
- Will they be there for me throughout my entire vacation? Some travel agencies will make your itinerary and help you book for you hotels and that is it. Select an agency that will be available to you in-country until you’ve landed safely back home again.
My Costa Rica has been in business for 14 years and has brought over 10,000 customers to Costa Rica safely and successfully. Customer safety is our #1 priority. We are certified by CANATUR and we are there for you from the very beginning to the very end of the trip. We work with only the best and safest providers and our determination to be the best travel agency in Costa Rica has given us an unbeatable reputation. Let My Costa Rica worry about the details while you relax and have a wonderful vacation in paradise.
Crime to Lookout For
By far, the most common crime in Costa Rica is theft and petty theft. Tourists are often targets for petty theft because they are seen as easy targets. Take the following safety measures to avoid being targeted:
- Don’t carry valuables. Leave large amounts of cash, valuable jewelry and you passports in your hotel safe.
- Bring photocopies of your passport. Leave your passports in hotel safes when possible but carry color photocopies of your passports at all times.
- Never leave your things unattended. Many tourists are often robbed when they leave bags laying around on the beach or in restaurants. Always keep an eye on your personal items and never leave them unattended.
- Watch for pick-pockets. Don’t carry phones or wallets in back pockets or open purses. Keep items in your front pockets and carry your bags in purses in front of you. Only use bags that can close securely.
- Keep your bank’s phone number handy. In case your credit card is stolen, have your bank’s phone number easily accessible so you can call and cancel the card immediately.
- Avoid walking at night. Take official taxis and Ubers at night. If you must walk at night, do not walk alone.
- Stay alert. Always keep in mind that you are traveling abroad and it’s important to never let your guard down.
- Remain calm. If you are robbed, it is important to stay calm, don’t fight back and give up your belongings easily. Violent robberies are very rare and most thieves are unlikely to attack you. Victims are usually only injured because they resisted or fought back.
It is always a good idea to do your research about health, safety and vaccinations before traveling abroad. Make sure that all your routine vaccinations are up-to-date. The CDC also recommends Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations. Yellow fever is not always recommended but it is best to discuss the best vaccinations with your doctor. For more information, check out the article about vaccinations and talk to your doctor about your options. You can also visit the CDC website to learn more.
Dengue Fever and Zika Virus
Some bug or mosquito bites can cause diseases like Zika or Dengue in Costa Rica, although it is very rare. Many travelers are currently worried about the Zika Virus in Central and South America. The concern has died down significantly in the past year, but it is still a concern for pregnant women, children and the elderly. Talk to your doctor before traveling to Costa Rica to make sure it is safe for you. According the CDC, symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, headache, red eyes, muscle and joint pain. The symptoms of Dengue Fever include sudden, high fever, severe headaches, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, rash, pain behind eyes and muscle and joint pain.
To reduce your risk of bug bites, wear long sleeves and pants to cover more skin, use a repellent that has 20% DEET or more, stay in air-conditioned or screened rooms and use bed nets if your sleeping arrangements are exposed to the outdoors.
Water in Costa Rica
Within the San Jose city limits, the water is drinkable (potable). Outside of San Jose the water is safe for showering, washing your hands and brushing your teeth, but not drinking. It is recommended to drink only filtered bottled water.
Traveling as a Female
It is not uncommon for female tourists to travel through Costa Rica either alone or in groups. If the right safety precautions are taken, female travelers can (and do!) have safe and amazing vacations in Costa Rica. Just like traveling anywhere, however, females should always take extra care with their personal safety. Follow these tips to make sure you have the safest vacation possible in Costa Rica:
- Travel with a friend. Although traveling alone is generally safe (if the right precautions are taken), traveling with friend is always safer.
- Travel during the day. When traveling to a new destination it is always better to travel in the daylight. Remember that the sun usually sets in Costa Rica by 6pm at the latest.
- Share your travel itinerary with family. Make sure your family and friends know your plans before you leave. Keep them up-to-date on where you’re staying and if you change any plans. It is also good to check in every day.
- Do not confront harassers on the street. It is very common for men to say things as they pass women on the street. Don’t worry too much though, most of the comments are harmless if ignored. Most likely you will hear things like “preciosa”, “reina” (queen) or “que linda” (how pretty). If you don’t acknowledge the comment and keep walking the interaction is likely to end there.
- Do not walk alone at night. This is true for all travelers coming to Costa Rica. Take official taxis or Ubers at night to avoid unnecessary trouble.
- Watch your drinks. The nightlife in Costa Rica is really fun and usually safe. However just like you would at home, keep an eye on your drinks and never accept any from strangers. Remember that as a foreigner you’re likely to be more targeted than local women.
- Stay in reputable hotels. Avoid couch surfing or Air B & Bs. Do your research and select hotels with good safety reputations. Always make sure to let your family know where you are staying. It may be a bit more expensive but you safety and peace of mind will be worth it.
- Travel with an agency. Traveling with a reputable, in-country travel agency is a great way to stay safe abroad. They are experts on the country and are available in country should you need help.
- Keep your guard up at all times. Unfortunately, women can almost never let their guard down and that is especially true when traveling abroad. Be smart, use common sense and practice the same safety measures you would at home to stay safe and have an incredible vacation in Costa Rica.
Traveling with Families
Costa Rica is a great place for safe family vacations. Costa Rica welcomes families from all over the world and works hard to provide accommodations and tours that are safe and fun for the entire family. Kids can do almost everything that adults can do including zip lining, rafting, horseback riding and kayaking. In fact many tour providers offer discounts and added safety precautions for those traveling with children.
You will also find many family hotels and resorts available in Costa Rica that offer special deals and activities. Finally, you can book dozens of different family tours or family vacation packages that we created specifically for families looking for an unforgettable adventure.
Tours and Activities
The most important thing you can do to watch out for your personal safety is do you research before you book anything. One of the best parts of traveling to Costa Rica is the amazing tours and activities available for every type of traveler. However you should never book a tour before you look up certifications and safety records of your provider. Additionally you should talk to your provider about the current weather conditions. Some tours may change due to rain. However reputable tour providers will be well aware of climate conditions and will only take you out if they know that it is safe. Finally, each tour should include properly fitted safety equipment and safety demonstration. It is their job to make sure you feel safe before the start of the tour. Fortunately Costa Rica has some of the best quality tours in the world and it is easy to find safe reputable providers throughout the country.
My Costa Rica personally inspects every tour provider we use and we only use the best and safest providers. Some of the incredible Costa Rica tours include zip lining, white water rafting, waterfall repelling and hiking.
Driving and Transportation
Driving in Costa Rica
Many tourists are interested in renting a car for their Costa Rica vacation. There are many reputable car rental agencies throughout the country so it is definitely a safe option. Just like many other countries Costa Rica traffic can be very hectic during rush hour. If you are coming from a smaller town, then San Jose driving might be uncomfortable and we recommend using private transfers to get around. However if you have lived in bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, London, Tokyo, or Mumbai for example than driving here will be a breeze. Beware of the driving culture however. Off the road Ticos are very “pura vida”, meaning friendly and relaxed. Behind the wheel, they are a little different. Drivers in San Jose are fast, aggressive and sometimes dangerous. Motorcycles will whip in and out of traffic faster than you can imagine, so make sure to watch out for them, especially when you are turning or driving through a roundabout.
Driving outside of San Jose is a totally different world. Outside of the city, drivers calm down but the road conditions are not as kept up as they are in the city. Additionally, you must drive through many mountain ranges to get to popular Costa Rica destinations. Expect to have many curvy roads in the mountains, drive over bumpy gravel roads and swerve carefully around significant pot holes.
All in all, driving in Costa Rica is not that bad if you have any experience driving in cities or on unkept roads. Driving yourself offers you more freedom and flexibility than taking buses or shuttles. However, when using private transfers or shuttles, you do not have to worry about parking, filling the tank or car maintenance. As a helpful side note– don’t leave any expensive belonging visible in the car as petty theft does happen here. It is also recommended to park in secure lots with a guard.
Public transportation is generally safe throughout the country. Only take official taxis. They are red with a yellow triangle on the side. In San Jose, Uber is the safest option and highly advised at night. Never use “piratas” or pirated taxis. These are cheap taxis that aren’t red and don’t have the yellow triangle. Pirated taxis are known to drive you away from your destination and rob you.
Public buses are also very modern and safe in Costa Rica. However the safest option is to use private transfer shuttles from a reputable company. Examples include Gray Line and Interbus.
Remember that Costa Rica is a tropical country with 5% of the world’s biodiversity. While we love all the different animals and critters running around, it’s important to remember that wild animals can be dangerous. It is extremely rare for tourists to have run-ins with dangerous animals like snakes and spiders. However you should always listen carefully to what your tour guide says regarding animal safety. For example, in rainforests, snakes like to wrap around trees and disguise themselves as vines. Your tour guide will tell you to watch out and not touch the surrounding flora fauna. Listen to them! During the wet season snakes especially become more lively and aggressive. Check out snake safety here. Also be wary of spiders and scorpions crawling in places you might not want them, including shoes and open food or luggage.
More Costa Rica Safety Tips
The My Costa Rica Team is determined to make sure that everyone who visits our beautiful country has the best, and safest, time possible. When traveling abroad it is important to use common sense and take extra precautions. Here we’ve listed some additional safety tips.
1. Use Common Sense
When you are visiting a tropical paradise like Costa Rica, it is easy to let your guard down and assume that nothing bad will happen. However the best thing you can do to protect yourself is use common sense and stay alert at all times.
2. Get Travel Insurance
Travel insurance is not only great for peace of mind while abroad, but it will protect you in case of theft or injury.
3. Have a plan
Plan your trip carefully and do extensive research. By doing your homework you will find the safest destinations, hotels and tour providers available. You should also share your itinerary with friends and family who are not traveling so they know where you are at all times. You can find many great articles to read here in the Travel section.
4. Keep track of belongings at all times
Leaving belongings unattended is a good way to let people know you don’t care about them. Many tourists are robbed on the beach or in restaurants because they leave bags unattended. Additionally, make sure to leave important documents and valuables in your hotel safe when you’re out and about.
5. Use a reputable travel agency
Use a reputable, certified travel agency that is familiar with Costa Rica–or whatever country you’re traveling to. For example, My Costa Rica is located in-country, certified by CANATUR and available to our customers 24/7. Check out our Always There for You Guarantee and our customer reviews.