Safety in Costa Rica

Due to some negative events, recently we are often asked about how safe Costa Rica is as a travel destination. This article will help you to properly assess the security risk and take the necessary precautions to fully enjoy your Costa Rica experience.

What do the statistics state?

Offences against tourists have indeed increased in Costa Rica in recent years. This has to do with the strong increase in visitor numbers as well. The official police statistics show a total of 1´728 reported cases in which tourists were the victims of a criminal act in the period from January 2017 to June 2018. (Source: Statistics OIJ / ICT). During the same period, around 4.5 million tourists arrived in Costa Rica. (Source Statistics ICT). From a purely statistical perspective, the risk of being a victim of a crime is 0.038%. Undoubtedly, there is an underreporting of cases that have not been reported to the police. These are mainly theft offences with manageable damage. Serious incidents are, however, included in the statistics.

91% of the reported cases are offences against tourists’ property (i.e. theft of valuables, money or passports). In 94 cases, the life of the tourists was threatened (e.g. armed robbery) and 8 cases were reported as sexual assaults. About 100 life-threatening serious incidents on tourists have taken place between January 2017 and June 2018. That is 0.002% of all visitors in the same period.

Statistically speaking, the risk is relatively small. However, it would be wrong to underestimate or mince potential dangers. That's why we give you some important tips to help reduce even more the chances of being a victim of a crime:

How to prevent being robbed

Opportunity makes thieves. Although idyllic beaches and friendly Costa Ricans give the visitor the feeling of safety and lightheartedness, this is also true for Costa Rica. Travelling has a lot to do with cultural exchange, and it would be wrong to suspect a potential theft behind every local. This being said, you should always keep in mind:

  • Your valuables should not be left unattended anywhere. This is especially true at the beach, in restaurants, bars, hotel lobbies, or busy places in general. 
  • Do not wear expensive jewellery
  • Do not carry too much cash around with you.
  • Valuables and passports are better kept in the hotel safe in your hotel room.
  • Change money only in banks, exchange offices or in the hotel. Store the money and documents before you leave the place.
  • If you must take cash and passports with you, make sure they’re safely attached to you. 

Safety and Rental Cars

Costa Rica is great to be explored by rental car. Again, there are a few rules to follow:

  • Do not leave any valuables visible in the car. If you take a break, go to the restaurant or visit a national park, you better take the valuables with you.
  • Park the car only on official and guarded parking spaces (public parking lots, hotels) and not just on the side of the road.
  • If your car has got a flat tire, try to find a busy place to stop and change it, if possible (e.g. gas station, restaurant, bus stop or police patrol). Always keep an eye on your valuables. It’s possible that robbers purposefully puncture your tire and then offer to help, seizing the chance to rob you. 
  • Do not pick up hitchhikers.
  • Try to reach your destination in daylight and avoid driving on lonely routes at night.
  • In a tropical heavy rain, it’s recommended to stop at a safe place and wait until the view is better again.
  • Follow the traffic rules and be patient with slow-moving trucks on winding mountain roads. Avoid dangerous overtaking manoeuvres.

What you should keep in mind

Thieves and predators have something in common: they go for those that separate from the group. Although it may seem so nice to watch the stars at night alone on the beach, it is not the best idea in terms of risk reduction. However, that does not mean, that these experiences are withheld from you. Just note the following tips:

  • Inform yourself proactively on potential security risks in every hotel before doing anything on your own.
  • Do not participate in activities or trips offered on the street. Inform yourself whether the provider has an official operating license from the Ministry of Tourism (ICT) or a certificate for sustainable tourism (CST), for these companies are committed to ensuring your safety.
  • Visit beaches at night only in groups.
  • Use an official Taxi or Uber to get around at night.
  • Avoid shady neighbourhoods in cities, especially in San José, Limón and Jacó. Ask about such areas in the hotel.
  • If despite all precautionary measures you should fall victim to an assault, do not resist under any circumstances. Valuables and passports can be replaced.

Give the water the necessary respect

The beautiful beaches of the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica sometimes make you forget that there are also dangers lying within. Underwater currents, the so-called "rip currents", are quite common and can be detected with good observation. But do not rely on your eye alone and always ask locals or surfers if swimming in the sea is safe. Also, pay attention to the local safety instructions.

If you are nevertheless caught by a current and driven to the open sea, keep calm and do not try to swim against the current. Let yourself drift and try to draw attention to you. As soon as the current subsidies, first swim perpendicularly to the coast, away from the flow zone, and then with the waves back to the beach. The tourism authority provides this information video.

A bath in a brook in the middle of nature is one of the greatest experiences in Costa Rica. However, always ask first at the hotel or ask locals, whether the bathing area is safe. When thunderstorms form in the mountains or the water turns brown, flash floods are a threat, and you have to leave the water immediately.

Avoid jumping into the sea, rivers or streams from big heights without proper caution. You cannot tell if the water is deep enough or if coral reefs, rocks or wedged tree trunks lurk below the surface.

What is Costa Rica doing for the safety of tourists?

Tourism is a very important economic sector in Costa Rica and therefore safety is of great importance. The tourism authorities recently presented its security strategy:

  • You may find short videos with tips regarding safety on their homepage.
  • Training of 4´000 tourism companies on the subject of "proactive security management and networked communication".
  • Hosting a convention on security for tourists. Participants: security experts, tourism industry, police, justice and tourism chambers of the country. 
  • Reinforcement of the touristic police. These are specially trained, English-speaking officials responsible for the prevention and protection of tourists in the most touristically important areas.
  • Reinforce the Tourism Security Council (Consejo de Seguridad Turística) by involving all regional tourist boards and improving networked communication.
  • Increasing the number of prosecutors responsible for offences against tourists, from 5 to 10. Goal: more consistent law enforcement
  • Free hotline (800-8000-645) for anonymous reporting of suspicious observations or incidents.

Policia Costa Rica Titular min

But enough about all sorts of risks. We look forward to your Costa Rica adventure, enjoy nature to the fullest!

 Safety in Costa Rica

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  • Janaina & Dieter

    The trip was wonderful! Your help was invaluable and without your choices it would not have been so good! I am very very satisfied and very happy with the choices you made!

    Thank you very much for everything!

    Janaina & Dieter
  • Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo

    Hello dear Aline, many thanks to you for the great compilation and organization of the trip. We were able to spend eventful, interesting and wonderful days in Costa Rica and will keep them in good memory. A thank you also goes to the ARA Tours team, which was available 24/7 for problems and questions, which were solved and answered quickly and reliably. The punctuality of the transfers offered should also be emphasized. In summary, it was a wonderful holiday.

    Kind regards

    Kathrin, Ines, Matthias & Ingo
  • Carina und Thomas

    Hello dear Aline,
    Now we have arrived back at San Jose Airport after a great trip. Everything worked out great and the tour was just perfectly planned and organized. Thank you very much. We take a lot of positive memories with us.
    Best regards.

    Carina und Thomas
  • Yvonne Deiss

    The Costa Rica trip together with my family is already behind us - it was wonderful!!! Everything went smoothly from A to Z, we had a wonderful time, no incidents and wonderful experiences.
    We all enjoyed it very much; the nature is enormous, but also the warm-hearted people, the cleanliness, the food - we are very enthusiastic!
    At this point I would like to thank you very much for your support in the preparation, for all the bookings, clarifications and enquiries!!!
    We visited the waterfall in La Fortuna and had a great view of the Arenal. In Monteverde we did a Hanging Bridges and Zipline tour and in Nosara a surf course. In Finca Rosa Bianca we did the coffee tour, it was all great, fun and interesting 😊. All in all, we saw lots of animals, always ate well, enjoyed the beaches....even in rainy weather 😊. Often we were even glad that it was overcast, otherwise it would have been almost toouuu hot for us.
    So THANK YOU again so much for everything!!!!

    Yvonne Deiss
  • Christina

    Many thanks for the extensive support (before, during and after the trip) and the professional handling of our concerns. With your support we had a smooth and unforgettable vacation in Costa Rica! Our favorite hotels: Hotel Plaza Yara and the Poas Volcano Lodge - a dream!
    All the best

  • Steinebrunner

    Yay! I´m glad we are back on track. Thank you again for helping us with all these changes.
    I´m glad we choose ARA-you are amazing! Thanks for all your help! It made it a very memorable visit!

  • Janka

    Hi Eli & ARA Team,
    We have spoken to the guest and they are super enthusiastic about their Costa Rica roundtrip! Everything was well organized, nice hotels, nice mix of activities & beach and they have big compliments for you guys!!
    Many thanks for all the good work!! The guest highly appreciate it!!
    They had lunch nearby in Ara Ambigua Lodge, and they loved this place. Friendly staff and good food!
    Do you work with this accommodation? If so, we would love hear 😊
    Once again, heads off for this amazing trip!
    With warm regards

  • Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula

    Dear Priska
    Happily I write some words to you in English, so you can easily forward them also to Ara Tours, please. Thank you all, we spent a magic time in Costa Rica! Baumeler's and Ara Tours organisation and logistics were perfect, everything worked out even better than we expected. The tours were brilliant, we really enjoyed everything very very much!
    All the accomodation was absolutely wonderful... the setting, the quality, the food, with happy helpful friendly staff everywhere. It was a wonderful way to experience this beautiful country the way we did, on a private tour with personal guide and drivers. We saw and learnt sooo much - it would have been impossible to do so on our own.
    Especially we praise our brilliant guide Fernando Perez, we benefited so much from his truly wide knowledge and deep love for his Country which he passed on in lovely encouraging way. We even became friends and we will meet in Switzerland coming September! Also our driver Carlos Sandi was great, not only as a driver but also as a compagnion, animal spotter and photographer. Thank you!
    So.... now we just enjoy our last day...
    Sunny greetings, pura vida

    Thomas, Deborah, Eva & Paula
  • Yvonne & Andrea

    Hello all
    Unfortunately, our wonderful trip is already over and everyday life has caught up with us again. We would like to thank you very much for everything. The trip was planned exactly according to our wishes and we have seen so many beautiful places.
    Thank you Stefanie!
    We have felt completely comfortable and top cared for by you. Via Whats App we got immediate answers to our questions, with the car everything worked out great. In all locations we were treated very warmly and nicely. It was just so indescribably beautiful, we will dream of the beautiful experiences for a long time. In any case, we will warmly recommend you and hope for a next time. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    Best regards.

    Yvonne & Andrea
  • Anita

    We have arrived safely in Switzerland and have already returned to work.
    It was a wonderful trip you put together for us.
    Your excellent service, as well as the 24 hour support service from ARA Tours, was truly outstanding.
    I have already recommended you several times and would book with you again and again. Thank you very much and keep me informed if there are any interesting offers.
    Best wishes.

  • Lukas & Isabelle

    Hello Pedro, our time in CR is coming to an end and we wanted to say "thank you very much for organizing a phenomenal week". Everything has been well organized and we have seen many beauties of nature. Thanks!

    Lukas & Isabelle
  • Reinout & Yvonne Woittiez

    Thanks Jenny for the clear answer. We will make an appointment via the link you gave us.
    Today we visited National Parc Cabo Blanco. What an amazing park, so quiet for tourists, so full of animals, really lovely and therefore together with Monte Verde, Cahuita and Corcovado the park today, Cabo Blanco, scores high in our ranking of most beautiful parks of CR.These parks give us reason, together with the Pura Vida in CR, to come back soon. We'll keep in contact.

    Reinout & Yvonne Woittiez
  • Dominik

    Good day Jennifer
    As we have already told Simone, the stay at Lapa Rios is extremely enriching, thanks to the well planned planting and the untouched environment we see a lot of animals. Contrary to the plans before the stay, we do not want to visit more animals in captivity at the end. We will have a look at the few hours before we leave.
    We thank you and your team very much for the excellent advice and the permanent support! We can only recommend Ara Tours.
    Best regards.

  • Daniel, Jana und Theo

    A big thank to you, you saved our vacation!
    Communication already worked very well in Germany. The help from you, especially through Aline, should be mentioned here. This was fantastic from the first WhatsApp message to the last. We already know Costa Rica, so we knew what we wanted and what not. Ara Tours was an important point of contact for us. We are very grateful to Aline precisely because our actual travel agent cancelled our trip 36 hours before departure. She immediately organized everything for us. Whether the hotel in beautiful Punta Leona, the tours to the national parks, even the shuttle service with the great driver Guillerno Ortega has to be mentioned here. We are very grateful to you, dear Aline, but also to the entire Ara Tours team. You too made our almost 3-week trip to Costa Rica unforgettable again. We would love to come back and of course we will book through Ara Tours again.

    Daniel, Jana und Theo
  • Wolf Family

    Thank you, everything really worked out great. Super organization and at any time quick info / help / support from you!
    We liked it very much. The conclusion in Quepos was crowning. We liked the beach in the National Park Manuel Antonio very much. We would have liked to stay longer, but we take home many wonderful, unforgettable impressions. PURA VIDA!
    Many thanks to you Aline! We will gladly recommend you to others.

    Wolf Family
  • Neumann

    - The route was super planned, first time to arrive at the beach and then from Monteverde with excursions inland etc. and at the end again beach - perfect!
    - Support from Ara Tours was VERY good!!! Through Whatsapp reachability the service was great, very quick answers / very flexible, good suggestions etc. Also with the doctor Ara Tours helped with translations by phone - that was very, very good!
    - The Home Stay day was absolute highlight - very authentic - so they got to know the locals REAL, the family was super friendly and very open and have talked about everything. Not at all touristy perceived, you were also allowed to look at the house there and Mrs. Neumann found it also a great experience for their children

  • Marine & Bruno Serra

    We would like to thank you personally for this beautiful trip that you organised for us and for the follow-up that you did throughout the stay. A big thank you also to Jennifer d'Ara tours! Thank you again and have a great week!

    Marine & Bruno Serra
  • Walter Eggenschwiler

    We really appreciated your (almost) daily updates from Costa Rica on Covid and related issues. That was a highlight compared to other incoming agents worldwide! We thank you for your effort and wish you that you manage the coming time well and stay healthy.

    Walter Eggenschwiler
  • Ronald Raadsheer

    Our great compliments for keeping us informed every day on the developments. We wish you all the best and keep yourself and families in good health and mood during this unprecedented period!

    Ronald Raadsheer
  • Kathrin Vonschiller

    You are really super! It is impressive how you manage the crisis with your super flow of information and the great reversal. Hats off!

    Kathrin Vonschiller
  • Michael White

    Hello, we were on a round trip in Costa Rica from 27.11., which was booked through BigXtra and organised by them. We would like to take this opportunity to thank you very much. The tour was simply amazing! The support by Carlos was just great. We have done many trips before, but this one was an unforgettable experience thanks to Carlos. Carlos speaks very good German and was able to sensitively introduce us to Costa Rica, its incomparable nature and its great, friendly inhabitants. Pura Vida became for us a term for the attitude towards life in Costa Rica. Please say hello to Carlos from us and once again a huge thank you to him in the name of the whole group of 8. We wish him only the best for his future.

    Michael White
  • Evelyne Thommen

    Wie just did a 4 week trip in Costa Rica which was organised from ARA tours and we really liked it - well done Ara Tours! We also had a guide - his name is Enrique. His German is really good and he knows a lot about Costa Rica and he showed us a lot of animals. We had a wonderful time with hime - thank you so much Enrique!

    Evelyne Thommen
  • Tanja Weber

    perfect tour perfect tour guide pablo, everything very well organised 👍👍👍👍🇨🇷🇨🇨🇷 were thrilled

    Tanja Weber
  • Ines Lechner

    Many thanks and great praise to our tour guide Mauricio and our bus driver Adrian! We felt very comfortable during the 2 weeks in Costa Rica. The wide-ranging knowledge of Mauricio and the super driving skills of Adrian were particularly admirable. Thanks to the eagle eyes of both of them, we had the opportunity to observe a variety of animals in Costa Rica. Thank you for everything!

    Ines Lechner
  • Sabine Schumacher

    I can only recommend ARA Tours. Thanks again to Nicole for the great planning of the tour and the support. Our tour guide Peter Käser was simply incredible (a walking encyclopaedia) and always had an answer to all my questions about the flora and fauna and the history of CR. Our driver Julio carried my father on his hands, for which I am very grateful. CR is also worth a trip for wheelchair users at any time (with ARA Tours, of course).

    Sabine Schumacher
  • Familie Thieme

    We would like to thank you once again for organizing our trip [...] through the beautiful country of Costa Rica. Our special thanks go to our tour guide Enrique, who with his extensive knowledge of flora and fauna about his country brought it very close to us and made us want to come even a second time. We were very glad and happy to travel with him, as he was also very committed to our problems on site, in addition to his competent function as a tour guide.

    Familie Thieme
  • Familie Stalder

    Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your sensational effort! I do not know such a competent tour guide as with you really from nowhere else... and we have already traveled a lot... 🙏🏻🍀

    Familie Stalder
  • Katja Stadelmann

    I wanted to thank you again for the great Costa Rica trip. We flew back home very happy and with many great impressions. A compliment for the super organisation. Everything worked out perfectly (except for the handover of the rental car, which was force majeure...). So thank you again and I have already recommended you to friends:-)!

    Katja Stadelmann
  • Conny Koch

    You and your team have organized a great trip and wonderful days for the guests in your beautiful country and I thank you very much for that!

    Conny Koch
  • Denise Steiger

    Thank you very much for your email and the tickets. We really appreciate how quickly and efficiently you deal with our requests each time!

    Denise Steiger
  • Philippe

    Hello Christine Thank you very much for this information. The support is super👍 many thanks Gruss

  • Marianne & Stefan Gräub

    Otherwise, the planned trip was a complete success. Everything went well and the visits you organised were all very interesting. The visits you organised were all very interesting and gave us a great insight into the respective topics. The fact that the Ticos are very friendly and always ready to help was fully confirmed.

    Marianne & Stefan Gräub

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