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Is Costa Rica Safe for Tourists?

Costa Rica is a well-loved destination for people looking to enjoy stunning landscapes, diverse wildlife, vibrant culture, and thrilling adventures. But, Central America has gained a reputation for being unsafe, so, most of us wonder: is Costa Rica a safe place to visit? What kind of risks and challenges can travelers expect to encounter in this Central American country? What can you do to get ready and prevent any issues?

In this article, I will answer these questions and more, based on the latest data, reports, and tips from the experience I gained living in Costa Rica for several years.

costa rica national monument in san jose, is costa rica safe?
Costa Rica is one of the most visited countries in Central America and for good reasons, it’s a paradise for adventure and relax seekers!

Is Costa Rica Safe?

Costa Rica is generally considered a safe country to visit, especially compared to some of its neighbors in the region.

According to the Global Peace Index 2023, Costa Rica ranks 39nd out of 163 countries in terms of peace and security, two positions up compared to previous years, making it the highest-ranked country in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the Travel Risk Map, which assesses the risk level of 197 countries based on factors like security, medical, and others, Costa Rica has a low-risk rating for security and medical.

Costa Rica has a stable democracy, a low crime rate, a friendly population, and a good health care system. It also has no army, and it is known for its environmental conservation, social progress, laidback atmosphere, and “pura vida” motto.

Most travelers and I personally felt secure traveling around in Costa Rica, even families, solo travelers, and more.

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What kind of Risks and Challenges can Travelers Expect to Encounter in Costa Rica?

Crime

While their tragic and alarming cases happen, they are rare and isolated. Most tourists who come to Costa Rica have a pretty chill time and don’t have to worry about any sketchy stuff happening.

But that doesn’t mean you can let your guard down or be careless. There are still some risks and precautions they need to keep in mind.

Tourists as well as locals often encounter petty theft, pickpocketing, bag snatching, and car break-ins as the most common crimes, but that doesn’t mean they are happening regularly.

These tend to happen in busy places like bus stations, markets, beaches, and tourist spots, or more secluded areas like parking lots, trails, and country roads.

Natural Disasters

Another thing to keep in mind while planning your trip to Costa Rica is the chance of encountering natural disasters and potential health concerns.

Costa Rica is situated in an area that experiences frequent seismic activity, making it susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, and floods.

These things can mess things up, like causing damage to infrastructure, injuries, or even deaths. Plus, they can mess with your travel plans and make it hard to get the services you need.

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the local news and weather reports and make sure to follow any instructions given by the authorities in case of an emergency.

city park costa rica
City parks in Costa Rica are stunning, they offer a great way to immerse in the local culture, but you should avoid them at night.

Health Risks

It’s good to keep in mind that there are some health risks to consider when traveling to Costa Rica, like mosquito-borne diseases, water-borne diseases, food poisoning, animal bites, and sunburn. If you’re planning to travel, it’s a good idea to take some precautions.

Make sure to get vaccinated, use insect repellent, drink bottled water, eat cooked food, stay away from animals, and don’t forget to wear sunscreen!

It’s also a good practice to bring along a first-aid kit, travel insurance, and a list of emergency contacts.

If you start feeling unwell or get injured, make sure to seek medical attention.

Road Safety

Another thing you should be aware of is road safety, as it can have serious consequences like accidents, injuries, or even fatalities. This is all about the conditions and factors that affect how safe people are on the road, it includes drivers, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists.

A lot of road traffic deaths in Costa Rica happen because of things like speeding, drunk driving, not paying attention, or not wearing seat belts or helmets.

There are a few other things that can cause road safety issues, like bad infrastructure, lack of enforcement, tricky weather conditions, and wildlife.

Most of the road traffic accidents in Costa Rica occur on highways and rural roads, where the speed limits are higher and the traffic is heavier.

These cases are sad and unfortunate, but they are also avoidable and preventable. Most travelers who visit and drive in Costa Rica do not experience any road traffic accidents, and they have a safe and smooth journey.

rental car office in costa rica
When it comes to road safety your best bet is renting a car and driving yourself, but keep in mind that road conditions in Costa Rica vary a lot.

Public Transportation

Costa Rica offers a range of public transportation options, each with its level of quality, efficiency, and safety.

The public transportation options in Costa Rica are pretty decent, although they do have their imperfections. Using public transportation can sometimes be a concern for travelers because it impacts factors like convenience, comfort, or reliability.

It’s good to keep in mind and be ready for any issues or obstacles that might come up, for example, chicken buses are a super affordable transport option but they are crowded, cramped, and uncomfortable.

Your best bet is to rent a car or use taxis and shuttles, that way it’s faster and more comfortable and you can travel at your own pace.

Political Unrest

While these cases are not very common or predictable, they can still happen unexpectedly. Most people who travel to Costa Rica usually have a smooth and hassle-free experience without any political disturbances.

But it is another safety issue that can affect you, it can involve protests, strikes, or violence.

Most of the political unrest events in the country are pretty chill and laid-back. They usually involve people coming together for demonstrations, rallies, or marches, and things tend to stay peaceful and non-violent.

These events typically happen in public spaces like streets, squares, or buildings, and they usually go on for a few hours or days.

National Theater of Costa Rica
While they are uncommon, scams do happen in Costa Rica and you should keep an eye open in public and crowded areas.

Scams

Scams are another safety issue that can affect travelers, not only in Costa Rica they are present in most countries where there’s a high number of tourists.

Scams are schemes or tricks that are designed to deceive or cheat someone, usually for money or personal gain.

According to the U.S. Department of State, Costa Rica has a fair share of scams, so travelers need to be aware of the common types and methods they may come across in the country.

Some of the most common scams:

  • Fake travel tour scams
  • Fake Taxi Scam
  • Currency Exchange Scams
  • Taxi Meter Scams

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Safety Tips by Region

Costa Rica is split into seven provinces: San José, Alajuela, Cartago, Heredia, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, and Limón. Every province has its unique features, attractions, and safety considerations.

Here are some safety tips for travelers to keep in mind, organized by region:

San José

San José is the capital and the biggest city of Costa Rica, It’s like, the main hub for transportation, culture, business, etc. The city is packed with museums, theaters, parks, and historical buildings for you to explore. Plus, the city has a lively nightlife and a fantastic food scene.

On the flip side, San José does have some of the highest crime rates in the country, so you need to exercise caution or avoid certain areas and follow travel tips.

Areas to avoid or be careful:

  • Downtown
  • La Sabana Park (at night mostly)
  • Pavas
  • Hatillo
  • Desamparados
  • Leon XIII
  • La Carpio

It’s a good idea for you to be cautious when walking alone at night, not to show off valuable items, and to avoid carrying large sums of money.

Also, it’s a good idea to stick to official taxis or public buses and steer clear of unofficial or unmarked vehicles.

central market san jose city costa rica
San Jose is generally safe but you need to be aware in crowded places, pickpockets are uncommon but they

Alajuela

Alajuela is the second-largest province and is known for being the home of the Juan Santamaría International Airport, which is the main gateway to Costa Rica.

It is packed with awesome natural attractions like the Poás Volcano, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens, and the Arenal Volcano.

Alajuela is usually a pretty safe province, but it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on your stuff and be aware of your surroundings, especially in busy or remote areas.

You should be ready for potential volcanic activity, ash fall, or road closures, and should follow the advice of the authorities.

people at Poas Volcano viewing deck in costa rica

Cartago

Cartago, the oldest province and former capital of Costa Rica, is famous for its rich history and religious importance. It is filled with colonial buildings, churches, and monuments.

You’ll find the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels, the Ruins of Cartago, and the Orosi Valley among its many attractions. It is also a great starting point to explore the Irazú Volcano, which happens to be the highest active volcano in Costa Rica.

Cartago is a pretty safe province, but it’s always a good idea to be cautious and show respect for the local customs and traditions, especially during religious festivals or events.

You need to keep in mind the possible volcanic hazards, like eruptions, ash falls, or landslides, and make sure to follow the instructions given by the authorities.

old ruins in cartago costa rica

Heredia

Heredia is a small province, and it’s super close to San José. It’s got a reputation for being all about coffee, education, and culture. It is home to a variety of coffee plantations, universities, and museums. Some notable attractions include the Coffee Tour, the National University, and the INBioparque.

This province is a great starting point for those looking to explore the incredible Braulio Carrillo National Park. This park is known for its vast size and incredible biodiversity, making it a must-visit destination in Costa Rica.

Heredia is generally a safe province, but it’s always a good idea for travelers to be mindful of their belongings and surroundings, particularly in urban areas or near the park.

It’s a good idea to be prepared for potential rain, fog, or landslides during your travels. Make sure to wear suitable clothing and footwear.

heredia fort in heredia costa rica

Guanacaste

Guanacaste is a pretty big province in Costa Rica, located up in the northwest. It’s famous for its beautiful beaches, awesome surfing spots, and the chance to explore nature through ecotourism.

It is home to a variety of beaches and coastal towns, resorts, and national parks. Some popular spots include Tamarindo, Playa del Coco, and Santa Rosa. The province also has a few impressive volcanoes, including Rincon de la Vieja, Miravalles, and Tenorio.

Guanacaste is a province that many people love to visit because it’s both popular and safe. However, it’s always a good idea for travelers to be aware of their belongings and surroundings, especially in remote or touristy areas.

It’s important to be mindful of the sun, heat, waves, and rip currents. Don’t forget to stay hydrated and protect your skin with sunscreen. Also, you should stay aware of potential volcanic activity, earthquakes, or wildfires, and stick to the guidance of the authorities.

people surfing tamarindo beach costa rica
Costa Rica is a paradise for adventure and extreme sports lovers, who can enjoy zip-lining, or rafting but you should also be careful and follow

Puntarenas

Puntarenas is the biggest and most southwestern province of Costa Rica, famous for its islands, diverse marine life, and thrilling adventures. Puntarenas has a bunch of islands like Isla del Coco, Isla Tortuga, and Isla Chira.

You can have a blast snorkeling, diving, and fishing there, it is home to a variety of national parks, including the Corcovado National Park, Manuel Antonio National Park, and Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve.

These parks offer opportunities for wildlife sightings, hiking, and thrilling zip-lining adventures. Puntarenas is a pretty chill province, where you can find a mix of different things to do.

Just a heads up though, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye on your stuff and be aware of your surroundings, especially in busy or remote areas.

It’s important for you to show respect for nature and wildlife, and to follow the rules and regulations of the parks and islands. It’s a good idea for travelers to be ready for potential rain, floods, or storms.

Make sure to check the weather and sea conditions before you head out.

Limón

Limón is a province that has a real Caribbean vibe, it’s famous for its vibrant culture, lively music, and delicious cuisine.

The province is home to a variety of towns, beaches, and festivals. Some popular spots include Puerto Viejo, Cahuita, and the Carnaval.

It is also home to several national parks, including the Tortuguero National Park, Cahuita National Park, and Gandoca-Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge.

These parks offer the chance to spot turtles, sloths, and monkeys, among other wildlife.

Limón is a safe province, with no issues but it’s always a good idea for travelers to stay alert and keep an eye on their stuff and surroundings, particularly in urban or coastal areas.

You should make sure to show respect for the local culture and Afro-Caribbean heritage, while also taking the time to savor the music, food, and dance.

Don’t forget to prepare for the chance of rain, humidity, and mosquitoes. Make sure to wear the right clothing and use repellent.

tortuguero beach costa rica
Costa Rica has over 1,200 kilometers of coastline and some of the most beautiful and diverse beaches in the world, but you should be careful of rip currents, sunburn, and animals like sharks and jellyfish.

FAQ

Is Costa Rica safe for solo travelers?

Yes, Costa Rica is safe for solo travelers, as long as they’re smart and responsible. If you’re traveling solo, it’s best to steer clear of going alone or venturing out at night, particularly in areas that are unfamiliar or off the beaten path.

It’s a good idea to stay connected with loved ones and let them know your plans and whereabouts.

Is Costa Rica safe for female travelers?

Yes, Costa Rica is safe for female travelers, as long as they keep an eye out and stay cautious. It’s a good idea for female travelers to steer clear of wearing flashy or inappropriate clothing, and to be mindful of not attracting any unwanted attention or offending others.

It’s probably best to stay away from accepting rides, drinks, or invitations from people you don’t know. And, of course, it’s a good idea to stay away from any illegal or risky activities.

Is Costa Rica safe for LGBTQ+ travelers?

Definitely! Costa Rica is safe for LGBTQ+ travelers. It’s one of the most progressive and accepting countries in Central America.

Costa Rica made same-sex marriage and adoption legal in 2020, and it has a cool LGBTQ+ community and culture.

When traveling, LGBTQ+ individuals need to be mindful of their surroundings and considerate of local customs. It’s best to avoid public displays of affection or engaging in confrontations, especially in more conservative or rural areas.

Looking for More Inspiration?

I have been traveling and living in Costa Rica for over 25 years
Check out these Hand-Tested GUIDES

Tips

If you want to travel without the hassle and confusion – check out a complete guide for traveling to Costa Rica.

Places

For more travel ideas to add to your bucket list, check out a complete guide to all the best places to visit in Costa Rica.

Food

Costa Rica has a huge variety of food, check out the guide to the top 13 Costa Rican food and dishes.

Disclosure: This blog post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may receive a commission for any purchases made through the links. Your trust is important to us, and we ensure that all products or services we recommend meet or exceed our editorial standards.

Last Updated on February 15, 2024

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