First in a series of safety tips for traveling in Costa Rica by Doris Gallan.
Any world city has an element of crime and Costa Rica’s capital, San Jose, is no exception. The difference for travelers here is that they are lulled by a sense of security and they shut down their internal alarms, often with terrible results. Here are some safe tips for your vacations in this Central American country that offers activities like day tours, active volcano views, wildlife spotting in the rain forest and so much more.
The country has done an excellent job in marketing Costa Rica as a tourism destination. What you don’t hear or read about is the fact that the crime rate has been climbing steadily for many decades and that police resources to combat it have not matched this growth.
Baby Boomers traveling here should protect themselves in the same way that they would in any American city. Here are my top ten tips for anyone spending any time in Costa Rica – and not just in San Jose – as crime occurs wherever tourists congregate:
1. Avoid wearing jewelry, carrying an expensive camera or flashing your money around. Instead, keep your camera out of sight and be discreet when taking out your cash.
2. Don’t keep your wallet in your back pocket or lower side pockets on cargo pants/shorts nor wear a fanny pack or a daypack on your back. These are all easy pick pocketing targets.
3. Keep whatever you are carrying on your body – avoid setting down daypacks and, certainly, don’t turn your back on them.
4. Keep your valuables (extra cash, credit cards and passport) in the hotel/hostel safe if possible.
5. Always know where you are going by checking your maps before you set off. If you must look at your travel guide or map, step into a shop where you can do so inconspicuously.
6. Make sure your rental car comes with an alarm and a lockable trunk. Do not park on the street, even during the day time, but rather in secured lots.
7. If you are unsure about the security of using a credit card but don’t have any other option, keep an eye on the waiter processing your transaction so he can’t make a double charge.
8. Learn the currency and understand the value as you are much less likely to be short-changed and you can question honest mistakes and get your change back.
10. Do not accept a taxi unless the car is the color red, has a taxi license, a taxi light and a taxi meter. Private drivers offer to take you for a set fee that is often a lot more than with a regular taxi meter. Also, kidnappings – where the driver takes you to an ATM to empty your account – occur in unmarked taxis.
Finally, be aware of your surroundings and don’t think that just because you are on vacation in Costa Rica that you are immune to crime.
- Boomer Traveler: Be Aware & Stay Safe I
- Boomer Traveler: Be Aware & Stay Safe II
- Boomer Traveler: Be Aware & Stay Safe III
- Boomers Traveler: Be Aware & Stay Safe IV
Doris is a Baby Boomer living in Costa Rica. She and her husband traveled around the world for 26 months visiting 40 countries on six continents (including Antarctica). You can read more about their travels and get travel tips at www.dorisgallan.com. Follow Doris on twitter @dorisgallan.