Costa Rica has been a favorite destination for tourists, retirees, and second home owners for many years. It is perfectly safe to travel and live here full time in this country. Of course you have to use caution in certain areas of the San Jose due to crime concerns and use common sense to avoid petty theft when travelling with cash, passports, and electronics throughout the country. In tourism areas there is always petty theft of thieves breaking into cars and taking wallets, cameras, and cell phones or snatching an unattended bag in a crowded public place. In the capital city of San Jose crime is of greater concern and many home owners have bars on their windows and live in gated communities with 24 hour security.
I have lived here for over 7 years and been traveling here since 1998, over 14 years. I have not ever felt unsafe or threatened. Crime rates have increased during this time, but out where we live in the rural area around Dominical it is not as much a concern as in other areas. There is also the C.A.P. (Crime Awareness & Prevention) on Crime of Costa Rica that was founded in Playa Dominical. They have taken many steps to reduce crime in the area and have even installed cameras at many local area establishments and near the beach. Below are tips from C.A.P. on how to travel safely around the country.
1. During your stay here use caution when contacting unknown people.
2. When swimming or playing in the ocean, make sure someone is watching your valuables.
3. Use caution when visiting remote locations or isolated beaches.
4. When in restaurants, markets, or other public areas NEVER leave your valuables unattended.
5. When you travel by car, always lock the doors, and never leave your personal items in sight.
6. When staying in hotels use the safety boxes to keep cash, jewels and documents protected.
7. Lock doors and windows in your place of lodging.
8. Keep a photocopy of all documents/passports in order to facilitate the retrieval of any lost item.
9. Don’t be a victim. Be aware of your surroundings and know WHERE you are at all times.
10. Do not wear valuable jewelry that can draw attention to you.
11. In the city carry small backpacks in front of you.
12. Stay alert if someone approaches or pushes you, or you feel that you are being followed. Notify the nearest police officer or walk into the nearest public establishment.
13. To exchange money only use banks or authorized exchange windows. You will need your passport for all bank transactions.
14. Use ATM’s that are located in public and well lit areas. Avoid help from strangers. Withdraw, count your money, and put it away before leaving.
15. If traveling by bus keep all carry-ons in your possession. Verify you have all items before departing bus.
16. In the event of an emergency always call 911 first. Ask for an English speaking operator. Identify your local police station and/or town.
17. If during your travels you feel lost or experience any difficulties you can call 800-TURISMO.
Costa Rica is a safe and peaceful country with the exception of a few bad apples. As long as you follow these suggestions above you should have a fun vacation or be able to live here tranquilly. If you are interested in donating funds towards preventing crime, then visit the C.A.P. on Crime website for more information.