Almost by definition, when you move abroad, you also leave your comfort zone. (Literally and figuratively.) And when you’re outside your comfort zone, one of the first questions you ask is, am I safe?
In Costa Rica, the answer is yes. Costa Rica is a safe country, generally speaking.
Are there precautions you should take? Yes. Are there dangers? Of course. Is there crime? Yes. But, where isn’t there?
Safety and Security in Costa Rica: The Official Word
The U.S. State Department, Government of Canada, and other governments rate Costa Rica as mostly safe, with a few cautions and provisos:
- Natural Disasters: There is no hurricane season in Costa Rica – we’re out of the hurricane path – but the country does experience earthquakes. Additionally, we have several active volcanoes and flash flooding can occur during the rainy season.
- Crime: The 2017 OSAC Annual Crime Report indicates that crime – or, at least, the reporting of crime – is on the rise in Costa Rica, although notes that “the vast majority of visitors do not become victims of crime.”
- Civil Disturbances: Costa Rica is a very peaceful country and marches seem to be a national pastime. That said, protests are “generally peaceful,” according to the U.S. State Department. In almost every instance, the worst consequences of a protest is mere inconvenience: traffic jams and/or detours, due to street marches.
- Health: Yellow fever and malaria are not a concern in Costa Rica; zika, dengue, and chikungunya are present. Be safe, wear repellent.
Do This, Not That: Safety Precautions
Okay, so now that we have the scary bits out of the way – and really, they are the Big, Scary Parts, the things that probably won’t happen but we want to get out there – let’s get to the advice, the precautions, and the provisions to help you stay safe in Costa Rica.
- Use Common Sense: Common sense is a big one in Costa Rica: This is the kind of country where you can’t expect peanut butter to be labeled, “Caution: Contains peanuts.” Err on the side of caution, always.
- Don’t Leave Possessions Unattended: This should fall under common sense, but we’ll mention it anyway: Don’t leave bags, purses, wallets, or any other valuable or possession unattended. Yes, even if you want to take a quick swim. Pickpocketing may not be common, but crimes of opportunity (ex. snatching an unattended wallet) happen the world around.
- Try Not to Drive at Night: Costa Rican roads are narrower and more pot-holed than you’re likely used to. Additionally, many backroads aren’t well lit. If at all possible, drive during daylight hours (typically, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
- Be Aware of Your Surroundings: Exercise caution and be aware of the people around you. And, don’t take unneeded risks: Don’t visit the ATM at night. Don’t go into seedy-looking bars. Don’t buy drugs on the street. Etcetera, etcetera. Show the same caution you’d show at home.
- Be Careful of Crocs: Crocodiles usually stick to freshwater, but they do head out into the ocean to catch a meal. DO NOT SWIM NEAR ESTUARIES OR RIVER MOUTHS. And never, ever cross an estuary on foot or swimming.
- Be Careful of Riptides: Most Costa Rican beaches do not have lifeguards. Before you wade into the water, ask if it’s safe. And even when it is, be cautious. Strong currents can roll in at any time.
Our Costa Rica safety cheat sheet: Exercise the same safeguards you would in any unfamiliar city back home. When you’re in paradise, it’s easy to throw out your normal rules. Don’t. Costa Rica is a real place, just like any other, and it requires standard precautions. Stay safe and have fun!