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Is Costa Rica Safe for Travel in 2024?

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If you wonder if Costa Rica is safe, you are in the right place. Many travelers are asking Is Costa Rica dangerous?” The answer is both yes and no.

From the tropical jungles to the wildlife, sprawling mountains that seem to touch the sky, beautiful beaches gracing both coastlines and a plethora of exciting activities catering to every budget.

Costa Rica is a haven for nature lovers like myself — and holds a special place in my heart because it is the first international trip I took with my now hubby.

I even got engaged in Costa Rica, so y’all know I believe Costa Rica is highly safe. 

However, Costa Rica’s safety is often the main topic when determining which area they should visit.

I will explore Costa Rica’s safety, including the safest areas in the country, the best time to go, travel advisories, and safety precautions to take while visiting.

If you are concerned about exploring this beautiful country without worrying about your safety, I will help you put those concerns to rest.

We will cover topics such as Costa Rica’s crime rate, the presence of dangerous wildlife, and other safety tips to help you feel secure while exploring this beautiful country.

So, if you are wondering if it’s safe to travel to Costa Rica, read on to find out!

The links in this post may be affiliate links.  That means that if you click them and make a purchase, this site makes a commission.  It will have no impact on the price you pay or the experience of your purchase.

is costa rica safe

Is Costa Rica Safe?

According to the Global Peace Index, Costa Rica is the safest country in Latin America (with a ranking of 38 for perspective, while the USA sits at 129).

However, even though Costa Rica is a top pick for safe travel and luxury eco-friendly hotels in Central America, it’s essential not to become overly complacent.

The primary concern for travelers is petty theft, emphasizing the need to stay vigilant about your belongings and surroundings.

This post will provide tips and guidance to guarantee a secure and worry-free visit.

Costa Rica’s crime rate is relatively low compared to other Central American countries. The government has made significant efforts to improve security measures and tourist safety.

Short Summary:

  • Costa Rica is generally safe for travelers, but taking necessary precautions is essential.
  • Consider checking government website travel alerts for updated information on safety in Costa Rica.
  • Follow safety tips, such as avoiding walking alone at night and staying in well-known establishments.
  • Familiarize yourself with local laws to ensure a smooth and trouble-free experience.
  • Opt for reputable transportation services, and be cautious about your surroundings.
  • Choose filtered water to stay hydrated and healthy during your travels in Costa Rica.

In the following sections, I will delve deeper into common safety concerns, provide tips for staying safe, and highlight the safest cities and areas in Costa Rica for solo female travelers.

So, let’s continue exploring whether Costa Rica is safe and how you can make the most of your trip to this beautiful country while prioritizing your safety and using your common sense.

Costa Rica Travel Advisory

LATEST UPDATE: September 8 – Latest Security Alert

According to the U.S. State Department, travel advisories for Costa Rica remain at Level 2: Increased caution due to petty crime.

Petty crime

Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs frequently. Tourists are common targets for theft because they are perceived as being wealthy.

Crime against property, such as house burglary, theft from cars, and vehicle theft, is frequent. Passport theft is also widespread and frequently increases during the peak tourist seasons, from November to May and from July to August.

Thieves often work in teams; one thief diverts the victims’ attention while the other snatches their possessions. Thefts commonly occur: 

  • in popular tourist areas, including viewpoints
  • on buses, on trains, in bus and train stations as well and in airport terminals
  • in hotel lobbies
  • at restaurants, including on patios located near streets

The U.S. Government has issued a level 2 warning for tourists visiting Costa Rica. Below is a list of each warning and what they represent:

Level 2 – U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution

Level 3 – U.S. citizens should reconsider travel plans

Level 4 – U.S. citizens should not travel

“The U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica advises U.S. citizens of increasing levels of crime, particularly violent crime, in Costa Rica and specifically San Jose.

In 2020, Costa Rica saw an increase in crime, including robberies, carjackings, and murders.

In some areas, particularly in specific urban locations, violent crimes such as assault have become more common, but again, as an area grows, so does the uptick in crime.

Additionally, keep all valuables close and avoid displaying large amounts of money or expensive items like drones, cameras, and even expensive handbags.

10 Safety Tips for Costa Rica

  1. Avoid Isolated Areas: You’ll be at a greater risk of getting robbed, especially at night, so stay in well-lit areas.
  2. Carry a Minimal Amount of Cash: Carrying a minimal amount of cash is a good idea to reduce the risk of losing it or having it stolen. Use credit or debit cards whenever possible, and keep the amount of cash you carry to a minimum.
  3. Use Reputable Transportation: Opt for recognized taxi services or rideshare apps, and when renting a car, go for reputable companies to ensure a reliable ride.
  4. Secure Your Belongings: Petty theft can happen, so keep an eye on your belongings, especially in crowded areas.
  5. Don’t Wear Expensive Handbags and Jewelry: – Petty theft is common here, so remove any jewelry or watches before you go out, and don’t wave your phone or camera around.
  6. Beach Safety: When visiting the beaches, pay attention to warning flags and currents and always swim in designated safe zones.
  7. Respect Wildlife: Costa Rica’s biodiversity is incredible, but keep a safe distance from wildlife. Some animals may seem friendly but can be unpredictable.
  8. Currency Exchange Awareness: Be aware of the currency exchange rates to avoid being shortchanged. Familiarize yourself with both the colón and the U.S. dollar, which are commonly used.
  9. Stick to Designated Trails: When exploring national parks or natural reserves, stick to marked trails to avoid getting lost or encountering unexpected wildlife.
  10. Learn Basic Spanish Phrases: While many Costa Ricans speak English, learning a few basic Spanish phrases can be helpful and enhance your overall experience.

Is Costa Rica Safe for solo female travelers

In short, Costa Rica is generally considered safe for solo travelers.

While Costa Rica is generally safe for travelers, it’s essential to be aware of common scams and areas to avoid. While some may disagree, how you dress will also play a role in your safety.

One of the main safety concerns in Costa Rica is petty crime. Like any tourist destination, some opportunistic thieves may try to take advantage of unsuspecting travelers who are all too eager to help criminals take advantage of them.

This can include pickpocketing, bag snatching, and theft from unattended rental cars.

Keep an eye on your belongings at all times, especially in crowded areas. I strongly suggest using a money belt or a hair scrunchie with a hidden zipper to store your money and credit cards rather than exposing them in a backpack or purse.

Another safety concern for solo female travelers in Costa Rica is transportation. As I stated earlier, while public transport is generally safe and reliable, it’s essential to be cautious when using taxis.

Stick to licensed taxis or reputable ride-sharing companies like Uber. I know it sounds silly, but avoid getting into unmarked or unofficial vehicles.

Consider pre-booking transportation through your accommodation or using reputable tour operators for organized activities or day trips if possible.

Common Scams in Costa Rica

Here are some scams to dodge and keep your trip smooth:

  1. Taxi Tango: Some taxi drivers might “forget” to turn on the meter or take the scenic route to inflate fares. Use official taxi stands or agree on the fare beforehand.
  2. Fake Cops Hustle: Watch out for people posing as cops asking for on-the-spot fines—honest officers issue tickets, not cash demands. Ask for ID and, if unsure, head to the nearest police station.
  3. ATM Shenanigans: Be cautious at ATMs; skimming devices are rare but not impossible. Stick to ATMs at banks and check for anything unusual before swiping your card.
  4. Currency Confusion: When paying in cash, be clear on the currency. The Costa Rican colón and the U.S. dollar are both used, and confusion can lead to getting shortchanged.
  5. Fake Tours and Guides: Only book tours through reputable agencies. Some scammers might offer deals that sound too good to be true, and sadly, they usually are.
  6. Overpriced Everything: In touristy areas, prices might magically skyrocket. Bargain a bit, and don’t be afraid to walk away if it feels too steep.

Transportation Safety in Costa Rica

Whether you plan to rent a car and drive yourself or use rideshare companies like Uber, safety should always be a top priority. Here are a few different means of transportation in Costa Rica.

1. Renting a car in Costa Rica is a common and popular option for travelers who want to explore the country at their own pace. However, it’s important to choose a reputable rental company and inspect the vehicle thoroughly before accepting it.

2. Use the Official App: Always use the official Uber app to request rides. This ensures that you are connected with a registered and vetted driver. Verify the Car: Before getting into an Uber vehicle, verify that it matches the information provided in the app. Check the driver’s name, photo, and license plate number to confirm they are the driver assigned to your ride.

3. Take private shuttles, especially for getting to and from the airport or for day trips from Manuel Antonio to San Jose. 

  1. Private transportation is often more convenient than other transportation options. You can be picked up and dropped off at your desired location, and you can often schedule your transportation in advance to avoid wait times.
  2. Knowledgeable drivers: Private transportation drivers in Costa Rica are often knowledgeable about the local area and can recommend places to visit, eat, and explore. They can also help you navigate the local roads and traffic.
  3. Avoiding scams: Unfortunately, there have been reports of scams and thefts on public transportation and taxi services in Costa Rica. By using private transportation, you can avoid these risks by purchasing a private car in advance.

Is Water Safe in Costa Rica?

In general, tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink, especially in urban areas where the water is treated and purified.

However, taking precautions to avoid getting sick from water-borne illnesses is always a good idea. Here are some tips to ensure you have safe drinking water while in Costa Rica:

  1. Drink bottled water: If you’re not sure about the safety of tap water, you can always drink bottled water, which is widely available in Costa Rica.
  2. Use a water filter: If you’re staying in a rural area or planning to spend a lot of time outdoors, you may want to purify your drinking water. Portable water filters can be purchased online or at outdoor supply stores.
  3. Boil your water: If you don’t have access to bottled water or a water filter, you can boil your water for at least 3-5 minutes to kill any bacteria or viruses that may be present.
  4. Avoid ice in drinks: While the tap water in Costa Rica is safe to drink, ice may be made from tap water that is not purified. It is best to avoid ice in your drinks or ask if the ice is made from purified water.
  5. Be cautious with fruits and vegetables: It’s essential to wash them thoroughly before eating them, significantly if they have been cut open. You can use purified water or a fruit and vegetable wash to rinse them.

Sampling street food in Costa Rica can be a delightful culinary adventure, offering a taste of the country’s vibrant flavors. While many locals and tourists indulge in street fare without issues, it’s crucial to exercise caution to ensure a safe experience.

To enhance your street food escapade in Costa Rica:

Is Street Food in Costa Rica Safe?

Sampling street food in Costa Rica can be a culinary adventure, offering a taste of the country’s vibrant flavors from the empanadas to the Gall Pinto.

I’ve never gotten sick or experienced travelers’ diarrhea from eating street food but it’s crucial to exercise caution to ensure you don’t end up sick instead of enjoying yourself.

To enhance your street food escapade in Costa Rica:

  1. Choose Popular Stalls: Opt for vendors with a steady stream of customers. A bustling spot often indicates a good reputation and fresh, high-turnover ingredients.
  2. Observe Hygiene Practices: Check if the vendor follows basic hygiene standards. Cleanliness in food preparation and handling reduces the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  3. Ensure Proper Cooking: If the food requires cooking, make sure it’s thoroughly cooked. Hot and freshly prepared items are generally safer.
  4. Fresh Ingredients: Confirm that the ingredients appear fresh and are stored properly. Avoid items that seem stale or have been exposed to the elements.
  5. Ask Locals for Recommendations: Seek recommendations from locals or fellow travelers. They often have insights into the best and safest street food options.
  6. Trust Your Instincts: If something doesn’t feel right or the hygiene standards are questionable, it’s okay to skip that particular vendor.

mosquitoes & Zika Virus in Costa Rica

I travel to Costa Rica annually and I personally believe mosquitoes are the biggest threat you will encounter.

The mosquitoes in Costa Rica look like large animals and will have you itching for weeks after your trip if you do not take proper precautions.

There are no current reports of a Zika outbreak in the country, so taking measures to stay safe from mosquito bites is crucial. Here are some tips to minimize your risk:

  1. Use insect repellent: Apply an effective insect repellent containing DEET, picaridin, or lemon eucalyptus oil to exposed skin and clothing.
  2. Wear protective clothing: Cover your skin as much as possible by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and socks, especially during dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  3. Stay in screened or air-conditioned accommodations: Choose accommodations with proper screens on windows and doors or opt for places with air conditioning to keep mosquitoes out.
  4. Sleep under a mosquito net: If you’re staying in open-air or rustic accommodations, use a mosquito net while sleeping to create a physical barrier against mosquitoes.
  5. Avoid mosquito-prone areas: Try to avoid areas with stagnant water, as they are breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Mosquitoes are more common in tropical forests, rural areas, and near bodies of water.
  6. Be aware of the time of day: Mosquitoes are most active during dawn and dusk, so take extra precautions, such as staying indoors or using mosquito repellent.

Remember that these precautions apply to Costa Rica and other regions with a high mosquito population.

Safest cities and areas in Costa Rica

There is a reason I have traveled to Costa Rica time and time again: It is one of the safest countries in Central America, and it simply feels like home to me.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the safest cities and areas in Costa Rica.

1. Manuel Antonio: Located on the central Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio is a popular destination for its beautiful beaches and national park. This area is well-known for its safety and attracts many tourists, making it comfortable for families, solo female travelers, and couples alike.

2. Tamarindo: Situated on the northern Pacific coast, Tamarindo offers travelers a vibrant and welcoming atmosphere. The town has a strong expat community and a bustling tourist scene that offers fun activities, contributing to its safety.

3. La Fortuna: Known for its iconic Arenal Volcano, La Fortuna is a small town in northern Costa Rica. It is a popular destination for adventure activities, such as hiking and hot springs, and has a reputation for being one of the safest destinations in Costa Rica.

4. Puerto Viejo: Located on the Caribbean coast, Puerto Viejo is known for its laid-back vibe and stunning beaches.

5. Monteverde: Nestled in the cloud forests of the Cordillera de Tilarán, Monteverde is a nature lover’s paradise. This area is renowned for its biodiversity, and it’s simply a peaceful getaway- just what you need to unwind from your life back home.

While these cities and areas are considered safer than others in Costa Rica, it is still essential to use your common sense.

Always trust your instincts, be aware of your surroundings, and research and choose reputable accommodations and transportation options.

Is Costa Rica Safer than Mexico?

When it comes to safety, Costa Rica and Mexico are both popular tourist destinations for Americans.

While both countries have unique challenges and attractions, knowing the safety precautions to take before visiting either is essential.

Costa Rica has a much lower crime rate than Mexico, with only about 15-20 homicides per 100,000 people per year compared to Mexico’s average of 28.

In addition, the US Department of State rates Costa Rica as “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution” while they rate Mexico as “Level 3: Reconsider Travel” due to its high crime and drug-related violence.

The most significant risk to tourists in Costa Rica is petty theft and pickpocketing, so keeping valuables close and not leaving them unattended is essential.

It’s also a good idea to avoid walking alone at night or entering areas known for crime.

In Mexico, crime rates are much higher and more dangerous.

The U.S. Department of State warns against traveling to certain areas of Mexico due to an increase in crime and violence and suggests taking extra precautions if you must visit them.

In some cities, like Tijuana, there have been reports of shootings and kidnappings.

The most significant risk in Mexico is the potential for violent crimes such as robbery, carjacking, and sexual assault. If you’re visiting Mexico, traveling with a group and avoiding going out at night is best.

Regarding safety, it’s essential to research Costa Rica and Mexico before visiting. Take extra precautions when visiting either country and always consider your surroundings.

Is Mexico Safe

General Travel Safety in Costa Rica

If you know you’ll be active during your trip, deciding what to pack is vital for traveling to Costa Rica, including bringing the right equipment, apparel, and accessories to suit. 

Bring comfortable shoes, long pants, socks, and band-aids if you plan to hike. If you plan to raft, zipline, or go canyoneering, bring strap-on shoes (flip-flops are not permitted) and clothing you’ll feel comfortable wearing while also donning equipment (e.g., waist harnesses, life jackets, helmets).

Check out my Amazon store must-haves.

Bring insect repellent, sunscreen, and a long-sleeve shirt to protect you from direct sunbeams). While cuts, bites, blisters, and sunburn can harm you while you travel, each can be avoided by planning and packing smartly.

Suppose you’re looking for travel safety essentials. In that case, you can check out my Amazon store for a selection of must-have items that can enhance your safety and security while exploring Costa Rica.

Safest Hotels in Costa Rica

Here are some of my favorite and safest luxury hotels in Costa Rica:

1. Four Seasons Costa Rica

Four Seasons Resort Costa Rica at Peninsula Papagayo: This luxurious resort is located on the Papagayo Peninsula and offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

The resort offers various amenities, including a golf course, spa, and several restaurants. It is also gated and has 24-hour security. Click here to book the Four Seasons.

Four Seasons
Photo Credit: Four Seasons

2. Andaz Costa Rica

Andaz Costa Rica Resort at Peninsula Papagayo: This eco-friendly resort is located on the Papagayo Peninsula and offers beautiful views of Culebra Bay.

The resort has several swimming pools, a spa, and various dining options. The property is gated and has 24-hour security. Click here to book Andaz Costa Rica

Costa RIca
Photo Credit: Andaz Costa RIca

3. Nayara Springs

Nayara Springs: This adults-only resort is located in Arenal and offers luxurious villas with private plunge pools and stunning views of the Arenal Volcano.

The resort has a spa and several restaurants and offers hiking and bird-watching activities. The property is gated and has 24-hour security. Click here to book Nayara Springs 

Nayara Springs
Photo Credit: Nayara Springs

4. Florblanca Resort

Florblanca Resort: This luxury resort in Santa Teresa on the Nicoya Peninsula offers beautiful villas with private pools and outdoor showers.

The resort has a spa and a beachfront restaurant and offers activities such as surfing and yoga. The property is gated and has 24-hour security. Click here to book Florblanca Resort

Hotel Florblanca
Photo Credit: Florblanca Resort

5. Villa Buena Onda

Villa Buena Onda: This adults-only boutique hotel is located in Guanacaste and offers luxurious suites with private balconies and views of the Pacific Ocean.

The hotel has a swimming pool and spa and offers activities such as snorkeling and kayaking. It is gated and has 24-hour security. Click Villa Buena Onda

Villa Beuna Onda
Photo Credit: Villa Beuna Onda

These are just a few of the safest luxury hotels in Costa Rica, but many more options are available.

When booking your accommodations, look for properties prioritizing safety and security, and ask about their safety measures and procedures.

By taking precautions and choosing safe accommodations, you can enjoy a worry-free and luxurious vacation in Costa Rica.

 
 

Helpful Resources to Help You Stay Safe and Explore Costa Rica

  • Expedia is the best website for finding cheap flight deals and hotels to and from Costa Rica.
  • Hotels.com is another excellent hotel booking website for finding fabulous Costa Rica accommodation.
  • Tripadvisor: this famous review website now allows you to book accommodation and tours directly.
  • Get Your Guide: my favorite resource for finding tours and activities in Costa Rica and elsewhere.
  • Viator: another great option for finding fun things to do, skip-the-line tickets, and fabulous tours in Costa Rica.
  • Discover Cars: the best way to rent cars and find the cheapest car rental rates.

Emergency Assistance:

Conclusion: Is Costa Rica Safe

While the question of whether Costa Rica is safe may arise, the answer is not a simple yes or no. Like any country, certain areas may pose more risks than others.

However, with proper precautions and research, Costa Rica can be a safe and enjoyable destination for solo female travelers.

It’s essential to be aware of the safety situation in Costa Rica and take necessary precautions. The overall crime rate in Costa Rica is relatively low compared to other countries in Central America.

In conclusion, while being cautious and aware of potential safety risks is essential, Costa Rica can be a safe and enjoyable destination for solo female travelers.

By taking necessary precautions, choosing reputable accommodations and transportation, and staying informed, you can have a worry-free trip and fully immerse yourself in all Costa Rica offers.

So pack your bags and get ready to explore this beautiful country’s stunning beaches and lush rainforests. Happy travels!

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