Costa Rica : Safety by City
Costa Rica (officially known as the Republic of Costa Rica) is located in Central America.
It’s a small country sharing borders with Nicaragua to the north, Panama to the south, the Pacific Ocean to the west, and the Caribbean Sea to the east.
Costa Rica is known for being “the happiest nation in the world” as well as “the greenest country in the world”, which is no surprise considering its abundance of world-renowned beaches, both in the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, its bewilderingly diverse culture, flora, fauna, and landscapes.
It also boasts several active volcanoes that can be visited within a safe distance.
It is, also, no wonder that Costa Rica is considered to be the most expensive country in Central America and perhaps in entire Latin America.
Everything there is to enjoy in this country, like wine, chocolate, coffee, national parks, everything is expensive compared to prices in Western Europe and North America.
But add to this its gorgeous beaches, tropical forests, high mountains, and marshy lowlands and you have got yourself a land worth the price.
Warnings & Dangers in Costa Rica
OVERALL RISK : MEDIUM
Costa Rica is generally safe, but you should take precaution on the streets of major cities, and after dark. Be wary of pickpockets and bag snatching and keep your valuables safely by your side. Never carry all your money in one place or leave your valuables in plain sight in a car or at a beach when swimming.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : MEDIUM
Public transport is generally safe in Costa Rica, but do be careful on buses and bus stops - especially those destined for San Jose - since that's where pickpockets and petty thieves operate. Be especially careful not to fall asleep, because you may wake up and find your valuables stolen.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : HIGH
Pickpockets are a common occurrence on the streets of Costa Rica and tourists are recommended to remain vigilant at all times when on the street. Make sure you don't flash your valuable possessions on the street, be careful when withdrawing money from ATMs and of course, keep all your valuables in a safe place in your accommodation or safely by your side.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
As for natural disasters, the most common ones are earthquakes. Earthquakes are quite common in Costa Rica: there are small ones that occur daily and then there are strong earth tremors occurring a few times a year. The deadliest earthquake occurred in 2009, claiming 34 lives. Other minor natural threats come in the form of volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and occasional hurricanes.
MUGGING RISK : MEDIUM
Mugging is not altogether uncommon on the streets of Costa Rica. In such a situation, hand over all your possessions immediately and do not resist. Avoid poorly lit and deserted areas.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Although there haven't been any terrorist attacks in Costa Rica's recent history, they shouldn't be ruled out so remain vigilant at all times.
SCAMS RISK : HIGH
Scams are very common in Costa Rica, so double check your change, never pay anything upfront and negotiate everything in advance. Watch out for the known robbery scheme where someone slashes your tires and when you stop to fix the flat tire, one or two "friendly" people stop to help you with that all the while picking your pockets or just simply grabbing everything you own and running away.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : MEDIUM
Traveling to Costa Rica is generally safe for solo women, but bear in mind that you should always hike in company, never alone, and the same applies for exploring any city. Stay away from poorly lit and deserted streets and areas and from people that are visibly intoxicated or under the influence.
So... How Safe Is Costa Rica Really?
Costa Rica is mostly safe, with 1.9 million visitors annually making it a popular travel destination.
However, there are dangers that come with such destinations – mostly in the form of pickpockets and petty theft such as purse snatching, armed robberies, and carjacking, so tourists should exercise caution.
In larger cities, even muggings and robberies at gun or knifepoint happen, so be careful when walking alone along the streets of Costa Rica.
They quickly become deserted in the evening after the public buses stop circulating, so it can be extremely dangerous to walk around San Jose after dark.
It is advised for tourists to take a taxi in such situations instead of walking.
Visitors are advised to use common sense and not leave valuables in plain sight in a car, or at the beach when going into the water.
Another issue to bear in mind in Costa Rica is the traffic: watch out when crossing the street since pedestrians, in general, do not have the right of way.
Roads in big cities may be safe but in rural areas, they tend to have potholes, so be careful when driving.
Driving at night is not recommended.
What you should watch out for are the strong currents and rip-tides in some areas at Costa Rica’s coasts.
Although Costa Rica has some of the best beaches in the world, you should bear in mind that there are no signs marking unsafe beaches due to riptides nor are their lifeguards, so follow local advice on where it is safe to go swimming.
It would be best to learn how to swim out of rip tides, in case of emergency.
How Does Costa Rica Compare?
- Visas - Many countries do not need a visa for Costa Rica, for any stays shorter than 90 days. Your passport must be valid at least 1 calendar day beyond the date that you enter Costa Rica. You may be asked to prove your financial means in order to prove you can cover your entire trip in Costa Rica.
- Currency - The official currency in Costa Rica is the colón, a currency named after Christopher Columbus. However, US dollars are accepted almost everywhere and you can withdraw them from most ATMs, but carry colones for souvenirs, bus fares and rural shops. Credit cards generally accepted throughout the country.
- Weather - Since Costa Rica is located between 8 and 12 degrees north of the Equator, it mostly has tropical climate year round. However, the climate in this country varies depending on elevation, rainfall and the geography of a particular region.
- Airports - Juan Santamaría International Airport is the busiest, primary airport in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. It is located in the city of Alajuela, about 20 km west of downtown San José.
- Travel Insurance - Just like anywhere else, we recommend getting travel insurance when traveling to Costa Rica, since it covers not only the costs of medical problems, but also theft and loss of valuables.
Costa Rica Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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14 Reviews on Costa Rica
Had a lot of fun in Costa Rica
Reading this article you would probably be scared of pickpockets but when I was there nothing of the sort ever happened. Of course, I was careful and never went into poorly lit areas but this goes for any other place in the world. I generally had a lot of fun in Costa Rica.
Costa rica is a tourist destination for many people. I would like to go their one day
Would give it a bigger safety index
Costa Rica is an amazing place and I’m glad I got a chance to visit it this year. While I was there someone did try to give me an incorrect change but I was paying attention and told them and they apologized so… I would give it a bigger safety index, maybe a 74.
As safe as you make it.
Just get out of San Jose as soon as you can. Other than that, most smaller or remote towns were full of friendly and helpful people. I had my guard up when first arriving, but let it down significantly once I was there for a day or so. I live in a very big city, so using my everyday common sense helped me stay safe, yet enjoy everything our trip had to offer. We are going back again this year!
You "forgot" to mention men's risks
You “forgot” to mention the travel risk for men. In the USA, men are violent crime victims twice as often as women are, but everyone ignores that fact. So are things any different in Costa Rica? I just won’t patronize your advertisers.
The article should have a clarification
This is a pretty good point. Men are more likely to be victims of crimes from other men. Generally, women are more likely to be kidnapped and sexually assaulted than men, though. The reason concern would be exclusive to women would be derived from sex related crimes and human trafficking crimes, but the article doesn’t convey that appropriately. There is no information clearly conveying that here.
The article should have a clarification, because that section doesn’t clearly speak to the primary concern women have about traveling across the globe.
The rest of the article is talking about all genders, the reason it has a part specifically to women is because there are more risks for women when it come to certain things. Don’t get so butthurt over the fact that there isn’t a part dedicated to men, the whole rest of the article talks about everyone.
Costa Rica is not very safe, I agree with the website index ranking. having lived there for many years, it’s easy to say “oh yeah it’s safe, don’t worry”, but things happen every day to tourists and locals alike, yes, the chances are low that something will happen to you specifically, it’s not like every person who walks in the street is going to get pickpocketed, but it happens too often if you ask me.
A very beautiful country
Costa Rica is a very beautiful country.
I actually found their prices to be decent compared to other, bigger countries which makes it easier to have a very nice vacation here.
Do your research and you can find good deals.
It’s indeed the greenest country in the world.
No bad experiences while I was here, no pickpockets or things of that sort.
It really depends on where you stay and what you do. If you avoid crowded areas and generally keep to yourself (focusing more on nature) you are a lot safer. That being said, I have gone a handful of times, and while it is a beautiful place with some amazing people and stunning nature… I have never felt completely safe.
I’ve visited Tamarindo in 2018 with a group of friends hoping to find a safe haven for surfing. It was just like we pictured, with excellent beaches and very friendly locals.
We decided on this location after getting positive feedback from a neighbor. Hoping this might help others, here are some of the recommendations they got from their local guide:
1. Don’t be too trustful. You might see kids walking in groups and approaching you, be vigilant as this seems to be a classic MO: they distract your attention and then go through your pockets.
2. If people offer to help you with your bags at the airport, in bus stations, taxis, just say no. If it seems too good to be true, chances are your instincts are spot on.
3. Make sure the taxi is metered, they like to overcharge as hell.
4. Avoid unmarked paths, unlit/poorly lit areas
5. Since we traveled in a bigger group we didn’t have to worry about our belongings when we went to the beach, one of us was always nearby. I would strongly suggest getting a waterproof phone pouch thingie. I get it, not the most attractive thing, but you can easily keep your keycard, phone, ID and cards in it.
If you decide to rent a car I would be super cautious when driving; the roads are poorly maintained and incredibly narrow. Add to this their appetite for speed and a total disregard for rules and you will get a general idea about driving a car in crowded Costa Rica areas. We rented one for two days only, it was a clear no from the start.
Streetwise I can’t say I felt super aware, having to constantly watch my back, if you just a bit aware of your surroundings you will be fine.
Should be higher in Rankings
Costa Rica is an Exceptional country with lots of wonders. The pickpocketing rate is not high at all and I did not experience any problems or witness them of my 2 week stay. This is what I would rank it
What this article says : 64
Yes, a 64, but this is mainly based on the measly San José which is a decent ranking for a 60 to a 65. Up the North West Coast of Costa Rica you would experience no problems with a ranking of I would say honestly a 85 – 95.
A Special Place.
Costa Rica is unique and exceptional country. I have been going off and on for over 20 years now, and have been to the CR at least 20 times and never once felt unsafe. I agree with the previous comments, other then San Jose, perhaps Puntarenas as well, there is very little crime, even in the larger cities which has petty crime. I have travelled from one end and back of this country, in rented vehicles and found Costa Ricans as lovely and respectful people. Other than a pair of expensive sunglasses taken , I have had on bad experience in CR. I have travelled there on my own a few times but mostly with my wife and 3 kids since they were young, now teenagers. We have travelled budget and off the beaten track to 5 star resorts, and I would say Costa Rica is ( by far) safer to travel to then Mexico and the USA sun destinations.
Just my take and experience, and I have traveled a good part of the world. CR is a unique and lovely place, depending on what one is looking for. I/we have just returned from 15 days in CR and the secret is out, it in no longer a bargain destination and it is no longer off the beaten track, so that brings its own problems. But it is still our favourite vacation destination, by far for us.
I went here in April 2022 as part of the Girl Scouts travel troop. It is a beautiful country and absolutely worth seeing. The San Antonio national park is one of my favorite places I’ve ever visited, as well as the La Fortuna waterfall. Delicious food and coffee too. Locals are friendly and there’s lots to do.