The main concern for travel to Cost Rica is petty theft. However, in general, Costa Rica is a safe country to visit and you can rely on friendly people during your time in Costa Rica.
Therefore, staying safe when traveling to Costa Rica is not difficult. As long as you use some common sense rules and not put yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time, you are probably, not going to have any problems.
However, in order to minimize the chances of anything happening, I’ve done some research and put together 13 of the best and most common sense safety tips while traveling in Costa Rica.
General Safety Tips For Travel in Costa Rica
If this is your first time traveling to Costa Rica or just need some tips, this article will give some helpful insights and “how to” instructions for keeping safe and enjoying your trip to Costa Rica
Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can happen to anyone whether you are at home or traveling some place in the world and Costa Rica is no exception.
People come to Costa Rica for a vacation and tend to let their guard down. Even though the people of Costa Rica are very friendly and very inviting you are still in a new environment and will be unfamilar with your surrounding. Therefore you need to take the necessary basic precautions and be on your guard to stay safe.
13 ways To Stay safe When In Costa Rica
1. Take a Taxi
Although Uber is becoming more popular and therefore more widely used in the larger cities of Costa Rica, there are still plenty of times when getting a taxi is your only option or the easier one.
Even though its rare, taking the wrong taxi can be dangerous and taxi drivers with not the best of intentions can see it as an opportunity to rob you and then leave you on some unfamiliar place or corner.
To avoid any of these unfortunate situations, then when you need a taxi get one from your hotel or any hotel nearby. The reason being is that hotels usually have their preferred taxi drivers that have been “vetted” and that they can trust.
Another good idea is to use either Google Maps or an app like maps.me so that way you can follow where you are going and if you see anything unusual about the direction you are going, you can just get out and catch another taxi.
2. Keep Money Hidden
Costa Rica is not as wealthy as alot of other countries and therefore just a small amount of money can go a long way. Therefore its always prudent to use caution when taking out your wallet or any time you are showing money whether its buying a souvenir or paying your bill at a restaurant.
A suggestion that I have always found useful is to keep a small amount of money in one pocket or place to pay for small items or meals. That way you are not showing alot of money at one time and reduce that chance of calling attention to yourself.
3. Avoid the Wrong End of Town
Every town has an area that may not be the best to be if you are a visitor. If its your first time to Costa Rica and more specifically to the town you are visiting, then it can be a bit difficult to tell what is the rough side of town.
The easiest way to avoid them is to trust your instincts and if you start to feel uncomfortable or uneasy about an area you are, don’ t go crazy and just backtrack to an area that you feel more comfortable in.
Another option is to ask before you go. Check with locals and ask them about the area you are going and they should be able to give you a good idea on what that neighborhood or area is like for non local.
4. Keep your Passport at your Hotel (or AirBnb)
Instead of carrying your passport with you instead of leaving it at your hotel or Airbnb, before you go to Costa Rica or while you are there, just make a copy of it and bring that photocopy with you when you are out walking around or touring for the day.
Its unlikely that you will ever be asked for it and the downside to losing it or having it stolen is much worse then any convenience or security you may feel by carrying it.
Besides the difficulty in having to go to the embassy in San Jose and the filling out of all the papework to get a new one can be daunting.
5. Be Watchful on Buses in Costa Rica
Buses are a great and inexpensive way to get around Costa Rica but they do come with their own set of concerns when it comes to traveling on them. When going on bus keep a careful eye on your bags and if they are too large to carry with you in the bus, make sure you see them get stored either underneath or on top.
If you are able to store them inside the bus, keep an eye on them and make sure no ones tries to put open them up and take whats inside.
This is especially true on crowded buses where you don’t have alot of room to move so cases like this keep your back in front of you.
6. Watch your Drink
If at all possible try to drink just bottled water and not water from the tap. This is especially true in smaller more rural towns but can also be applicable to larger towns like San Jose or Liberia as the water there could contain bacteria that the locals are used to but you are not!
Bottle water can be found everywhere and keep in mind that this water warning also applies to anything made with ice cubes like a Margarita or Pina Colada!
7. Stop by a Clinic
This is more of a health safety issue then anything else. In Costa Rica if you find yourself not feeling well and you think you may have picked up something, you can easily check to see if you have a parasite by going to a pharmacy and picking up a “test kit”.
After you have the kit you will need to place the stool sample in the kit and drop it off at a clinic to have it tested. The way time for the results is not very long and if, by chance, you do have something you can get the “antidote” at the closest pharmacy.
8. Get or Bring a Phone
Most people will bring their unlocked phones with them and either get a SIM card in Costa Rica or just use the international plan from their current provider .
In either case, make sure you have the important numbers readily available, for example, the police, friends and family back home etc. This way if anything happens such as a earthquakes or anything that causes a delay you can call them and let everyone know what is happening.
9. Be Careful of Extreme Sports
A lot of people want to go back home and tell tales of something unusual they did on their vacation to Costa Rica and this could include activities like bungee jumping or Class 5 river rafting. With Activities like this you have to use some commons sense and or your “gut feeling” to see if something you should do.
In my case, when I went to do bungee jumping (years ago) the way they pulled you up after you made the jump was by attaching a rope to the back of a pickup truck and having it drive across the bridge to bring you back up.. Needless to say, I decided it not to do it.
10. Volcano Danger Ratings
Costa Rica has 6 active volcanoes ( 61 dormant or extinct ones) and although the chances of getting caught in a unfortunate place should one erupt is unlikely, if you are going hiking near or going to visit one of these volcanoes it good to get an idea of any concerns that their might be about their recent activity. You can checks like the Smithsonian Institution to see what is going on lately.
11. Watch the Falling Rocks
Some people think I am kidding when I mention this but this is especially true during the rainy season (May – November) when the rain loosen up the rocks on the sides of the mountains and have them coming down onto the roads.
There aren’t any nets put up to catch any falling debris like you may see in other parts of the world and the falling rocks makes the roads impassable so you have to be careful when driving and going around corners.
12. Check for Disease Risks
In Costa Rica you never know what type of disease risk may be going on during the time you decide to visit. Regardless of whether you are traveling to the mountains or to the beaches, its always good to check out the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to see what may be of concern and where in Costa Rica it may be most prevalent.
13. Wash Those Fruit and Vegetables
If your buying fruits and vegetables from either the local grocery store or a local market, make sure you wash them thoroughly before eating. The reason for this is because alot of farmers in Costa Rica really like to use to pesticides and chemicals for their crops.
The good news here is that this is changing in Costa Rica and many farmers are using more organic methods but its still safer to rinse your fruits and vegetables well because the downside of not doing so could be…. how should I say…. unpleasant