While most tourists are able to visit Costa Rica without experiencing any security risks, it is important to be aware and alert of any dangers beforehand. We therefore offer you this overview of some factors that may affect your security during your stay.
We suggest you organize your stay through a travel agency, preferably one favorably known by your Embassy. Such an agency will be able to make useful recommendations and arrange your stay in the best possible security conditions. In addition, in the event of harm, the agency can be helpful in assisting any victims.
Passports, bank cards, currency, and plane tickets should not be stored in backpacks or handbags, but should preferably be hidden under clothing. Passport thefts are frequent. It is advisable to deposit essential documents in the hotel safe and to keep with you only a copy of the passport, including the page on which the entry stamp to Costa Rica is located.
Do not carry valuables with you (watches, jewelry, etc.) or large sums of money. Divide them between your luggage and / or co-travelers.
Preferably use regular public transport or official taxis (red, with a yellow triangle displayed on both the driver and passenger doors). Monitor your belongings on buses, where gangs travel for the sole purpose of robbing sleeping or distracted travellers. This surveillance should also be carried out on beaches, hotels, restaurants, and bus terminals where pickpocketing is common.
Crime and Delinquency
Costa Rica has experienced a significant increase in the homicide rate and the level of violence throughout its territory for several years, often linked to drug trafficking. With organized crime encouraging local delinquency, gangs commit numerous crimes such as simple theft, pickpocketing, and purse-snatching, as well as violent and armed robbery.
Throughout the country, it is recommended to avoid nightlife in neighborhoods away from the city center or on the beaches and to travel alone, due to the possible risks of armed robbery or assault. In the event of aggression, it is advisable to offer no resistance.
Most Costa Ricans risk, fear, and experience this violence as much as you do. If you ask them, they will give you safety recommendations or information on recent and local violence.
Rental Vehicles Targeted by Thieves
Some car models are very commonly used as rental vehicles and are easily spotted by thieves.
Thefts from rental vehicles occur frequently on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts.
The belongings of tourists on beaches, buses, and rental vehicles are often targeted.
Beware of the ‘puncture scam’, which unfortunately is a common scenario employed by thieves. People pretending to be in distress will ask you to help them replace the punctured wheel of their vehicle. Meanwhile, an accomplice steals your belongings from your rental car, and all flee before you have had time to understand what has happened. If another vehicle hits yours slightly, or to carry out any necessary repairs, it is advisable to go first to a place where other people are present.
Be careful, and do not leave your parked vehicle unattended. Lock all doors and the trunk; switch on the alarm if the vehicle is equipped with one; and do not leave any documents or valuables in the vehicle.
Costa Rica has a very high rate of road accidents. It is advisable to drive with caution for to a number of reasons: the poor condition of many roads; the lack of signs; the winding configuration of some roads which narrow frequently due to the lay of the land; and one-lane bridges on two-lane roads; as well as the disrespect for traffic laws you may encounter and other unpredictable behavior shown by many drivers.
When you travel on a bicycle or motorcycle, caution is also advisable.
Traffic is often dense, in particular due to the presence of many heavy trucks and buses.
Use heightened vigilance at night, because some motorists drive without headlights. In addition, it is common to meet pedestrians walking on the side of the road, including at night.
Floods and Landslides
During the rainy season from May to the end of November thunderstorms are frequent, and the rains are sometimes heavy. The risks of flooding and landslides are therefore significant, and, depending on their severity, certain roads may be cut. In some areas significant river flooding can lead to entire villages being evacuated.
The majority of the country’s beaches are unguarded. Even when dangerous currents are reported along the coasts, no signs are posted with information and/or warnings.
After automobile accidents, drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death in Costa Rica. It is therefore advisable to be extremely vigilant and to avoid swimming alone.
In some surfing spots and well-known beaches, crocodile attacks have been reported. Some crocodiles can also be found around estuaries passing from fresh water to salt water.
When hiking in the jungle or near volcanoes, it is recommended to be well-equipped and accompanied by a guide who knows the place well. Stay on the trails, and follow the warnings and signs.
In Costa Rica there are 140 species of snakes, of which 23 are considered toxic, and some are potentially fatal to humans.
Beware of the Sea Serpent, the Coral Serpent, and the Vipers such as the Fer de Lance snake.
Others like the Boa Constrictor are not equipped with venom glands.
In case you are bitten by a snake, do not panic. Do not try to extract or prevent the spread of venom in your body. Try to memorize the appearance, patterns, and colors of the snake or take a photo if you can so that the nearest care center can intervene knowledgeably.
On the basis of these elements they will be able to know if the snake is indeed toxic or not and then inject you with the appropriate antidote.
If you suffer from ophidophobia (an abnormal fear of snakes), please send these instructions to the person accompanying you.
The Risk of Volcanoes
Some volcanoes in the country are under close and constant surveillance. Please observe the safety instructions put in place by the authorities around the volcanoes.
The Turrialba volcano emits columns of ash which can disrupt the operation of Juan Santamaria International Airport, resulting in its temporary closure.
The Poas volcano has a large acid lake at the bottom of its crater. The volcano emits ash columns and can project rocks into the spaces set up for visitors. The number of visitors and the length of their stay, therefore, are strictly controlled, and evacuation teams are always present.
The Arenal Volcano is famous for its fossilized lava flows that can be observed up close in the national park. The activity of this currently dormant volcano could intensify if there are seismic disturbances.
The active Rincon de la Vieja volcano emits dangerous mudslides on its northern flank that have led to the partial closure of the national park.
The Irazu volcano, whose activity is currently reduced, could intensify if the event of seismic disturbances.
You may find updated information here: Comision Nacional de Emergencias, or
Costa Rica is located in a region of heightened seismic activity, where earthquakes, so far of limited magnitude, are common. The peninsulas of Nicoya to the north and Osa to the south, are particularly at risk. In all cases, in the event of an earthquake keep calm, follow the instructions given by the local authorities, and wait for help. Any major earthquake is followed by a series of secondary aftershocks. If an earthquake occurs during your stay, it is recommended to contact your family or loved ones immediately to reassure them and to be in touch as well as your nation’s embassy in Costa Rica.
Risk of Hurricanes
Costa Rica is rarely affected by hurricanes, which generally form and progress further north. Still some hurricanes do reach Costa Rica, where they have on occasion sowed great disorder followed by a burst of generosity to help the victims rebuild their lives It is recommended to regularly monitor the progression of such major climatic phenomena on the maps of National Hurricane Center.