Is Costa Rica safe to travel to?
Of course, travelers want to know if Costa Rica is safe to travel to before booking a vacation here. We are at some of our most vulnerable moments when we travel. We’re out of our comfort zone, out of our routine, and often out of our language. Staying safe is first and foremost on our minds.
We’d love to be able to answer this quickly and simply and say, “Yes! Costa Rica is safe to travel to!” However, we also believe in being transparent with our travelers. Costa Rica is a relatively safe country to visit. But there are risks, just like with any place.
Here, we’ll go into some detail on the situation in Costa Rica so you can be fully informed before making any big decisions.
Before diving in, many travelers forget to ask about water safety when evaluating a destination’s safety. We’ll start there, then talk about crime and security later on.
Can you drink the water in Costa Rica?
One of the biggest benefits of traveling to Costa Rica compared to many other popular countries is our potable water. In nearly all parts of Costa Rica, tap water is perfectly fine to drink, as it has been tested, filtered, and treated as appropriate. The water is safe to drink in Costa Rica, whether in the capital city of San Jose, at remote Tortuguero beach, or in the jungles around Arenal.
Is there a lot of crime in Costa Rica?
Costa Rica, of course, is not free of crime. In fact, the US embassy has reported an increase in crime in Costa Rica over the last several years. While this trend is alarming for both citizens and travelers, it’s worth putting into context.
On the one hand, most of the crime the embassy is warning travelers about is petty theft. While this can ruin a vacation, very rarely are tourists’ lives in danger. Costa Rica does not have the problems with kidnapping or mass shootings that some countries have. On the other hand, crime is increasing worldwide, often hand-in-hand with an increase in poverty rates.
How does Costa Rica compare to other favored tropical destinations?
In 2020, Costa Rica had a crime rate of 11%. In comparison, Cancun’s crime rate was 28%, and the rate in the Bahamas was 19%. Costa Rica’s poverty rate has increased by 5% from 2019 to 2020 to sit at 16%. On the other hand, Cancun had a 28% poverty rate in 2020, while Bali sat at 50%.
To answer the question – is there a lot of crime in Costa Rica? No, not a lot. And not a lot compared to other tropical tourist destinations. But enough for travelers to want to practice safety when out and about.
What can you do to stay safe while traveling?
- Passport: Once you arrive at your hotel, don’t take your passport with you out and about. Keep it in a safe place and carry a copy with you of the photo page and the page containing your entry stamp.
- Going out: When going out to bars or clubs, go in groups with other people you know.
- Food and drink: Don’t consume food or drinks you have left unattended or accept food or drinks from strangers.
- Night time: Avoid walking around at night, especially alone. This includes the San Jose city center, beaches, and secluded areas. Tourist towns like La Fortuna are often hopping places at night, and rarely present a danger, but it always pays to be careful.
- Driving: When driving, keep purses and backpacks on the car floor and/or out of sight of a person who could see them and grab them.
- Parking: When leaving items in the car, Costa Rican citizens almost always put their bags in the trunk. You can take a tip from them! Better yet, avoid leaving valuables in the car when possible.
- Crowd: Keep a firm grip on your cell phone and wallet when walking through crowded areas. Alternatively, keep it in a zipped pocket or bag. Pickpocketing is not quite so rampant here as other places, but it does happen from time to time!
- Changing money: Only change money in banks or other legitimate financial institutions.
- Transportation: Try to use private transportation, such as that arranged by a hotel or your travel agency when possible. If not, apps like Uber include built-in safety features, like map tracking and ride sharing, providing what is usually a reliable, safe service.
- Violence: If the worst happens, and someone tries to rob you and is armed. Give them your phone, wallet, etc. Nothing material is worth your life!
Travel with a reputable, certified travel agency
When looking at statistics of crime—both violent and petty—that tourists to Costa Rica have experienced, you’ll find that most were travelers who did not come to Costa Rica through a travel agency. In fact, the Netherlands government found this so interesting that, years ago, they interviewed Camino Travel and other travel agencies whose travelers were not experiencing near the same amount of crime and incidents as those traveling on their own.
Of course, people traveling with an agency are more likely to use official tourism transportation and stay in official hotels with appropriate security measures. Beyond that, the Netherlands identified one practice that made the most difference.
The meet and greet. At Camino Travel, we often met our travelers at the airport, before they go to their rental car or shuttle to their airport. During this time, we help orient our travelers to Costa Rica. We also give them a “safety talk” with advice for their specific trip. If they were renting a car, we gave them the do’s and don’ts of driving in Costa Rica. This one practice made so much difference to the future safety of our travelers and their belongings, we made a commitment to do this for every traveler from then on.
What are the safest places to visit in Costa Rica?
Some of the safest places in Costa Rica are areas that have invested well in solid tourism infrastructures, such as La Fortuna (near Arenal Volcano) and Manuel Antonio. Here, you’ll find strength in numbers, as there will be many others in similar tourism situations as you. These areas also tend to have a police force that pays close attention to the safety of travelers.
Here’s a list of some of the safest places to travel in Costa Rica. Keep in mind that these are the safest places in Costa Rica, in our experience, and not a guarantee of complete safety. Unfortunately, anything can happen to anyone in our world. However, these places have excellent track records!
Safest places to visit in Costa Rica:
- Manuel Antonio
- Guanacaste, Costa Rica
- Dota, Savegre Valley, Costa Rica
- Puerto Jiménez, Drake Bay, Corcovado, Costa Rica
- Arenal Volcano & surrounding areas
What are the areas to avoid in Costa Rica?
While not an exhaustive list, here are some of the known dangerous areas in Costa Rica you might want to avoid:
Areas to avoid in Costa Rica:
- Downtown Limon
- San José downtown at night (if walking)
- The beaches at night (unless in a good size crowd of people you know)
Is San Jose, Costa Rica safe?
Like any city, San Jose, Costa Rica, has safer areas and more dangerous areas. As someone who lives in San Jose, I don’t often feel in danger, even at night. However, I also practice safety by generally avoiding walking around at night, especially alone. If an area looks like it might be dangerous or I get a bad gut feeling about it, I won’t walk through there, whether day or night.
That said, I’ve lived here for nearly a decade and have not experienced anything dangerous in San Jose, nor have most of my acquaintances and friends. Everyone knows someone who has been pickpocketed or had their phone stolen. However, these instances remain relatively rare, thankfully.
Is Liberia, Guanacaste safe?
As a tourist hub, much of the capital of Guanacaste (Liberia) and its coasts can be considered safe. Most people ask if Liberia is safe because of the airport there. We can confidently say that the airport is a safe and excellent choice of destination to fly into. As far as the rest of the city, practice safety, and you shouldn’t have any problems.
Is Limon, Costa Rica safe?
As we mentioned before, the city of Limon is not known as the safest place. However, most travel occurs in the extreme north (Tortuguero) or south (Cahuita and Puerto Viejo) of the province of Limon. While Puerto Viejo has had a bit of a spike in incidents in recent years, it can still be a safe destination for those practicing safety. Avoid the beaches at night and only use official transportation; you shouldn’t have any problems!
What should you do in case of an emergency?
Your first point of contact in case you experience violence or a crime is to call 911. If you’ve booked your trip through a travel agency, you should contact them as well. Prepaid SIM cards are pretty inexpensive in Costa Rica. We suggest you stop by a Claro or Movistar store and pick one up.
What Camino Travel does to make sure travelers are safe
At Camino Travel, we’ll provide you with an emergency line that is answered 24/7 for any emergency our travelers may have.
We’re very proud of our new-perfect track record. In fact, in the last several years, our travelers haven’t had a single negative incident. Years ago, the Netherlands government interviewed Camino Travel and a couple other
Incidents that threaten our safety can ruin a vacation! We do our best to help our travelers have the safest and smoothest visits possible. From authorized transportation to carefully choosing the destinations we recommend, our travelers very rarely ever have any problems. We’re here to support you, no matter what!