Is Costa Rica Safe To Travel: Helpful Travel Advice For Everyone

Travel is supposed to be thrilling and adventurous, but too much thrill can be terrifying. Is Costa Rica safe to travel is a significant concern when people travel to this Central American country.

Costa Rica is one of the safest Latin American countries in the world. It’s also home to some of the world's most beautiful and secure tourist destinations. 

Reasons that make Costa Rica one of the most visited Latin American countries are the pleasant weather, the natives’ friendliness, and the fauna and flora. 

Is It Safe To Travel To Costa Rica Right Now?

Is it safe to travel to Costa Rica? The answers are all here.  Photo by Filip Mroz on Unsplash.

As with any international travel, it's a good idea to use your best judgement and common sense to avoid unpleasant circumstances. How safe is Costa Rica for tourists actually?

As of writing, the U.S. Travel Advisory ranks Costa Rica as “Level 2: Exercise Increased Caution”. U.S. Citizens and British nationals don’t need a visa to enter Costa Rica.

However, be assured that Costa Rica's reputation as one of the safest Central American countries is well-earned. Some 1.9 million people visit this destination every year.

In fact, Costa Rica has been ranked as Latin America's most peaceful country for its level of peacefulness by the Global Peace Index for the past few years.

Violent crimes, although on the rise recently, pose no serious threat to tourists and ex-pats. It’s the petty crimes that you have to watch out for. Just like in any United States or Europe city, be alert to your surroundings.

Safest places to visit in Costa Rica Mexico

As a rule of thumb, touristy places are safer than rural areas. However, even these famous places are mostly safe during light hours. Please don’t leave the trusted sanctuary like your hotel when it's night.

1. Drake Bay

First up on the list is Drake Bay, which is located on the coast in the southwest, a highly remote part of Costa Rica.

With the most biologically varied stretch of lowland rainforest, this place is ideal for spotting wildlife and enjoying the natural side of Costa Rica.

Also, there is hardly any violent crime in the area, so rest assured that this is hands down the safest and most family-friendly option. If you are looking for less of a crazy tourist hub, this is it.

The main attraction of Drake Bay is the Playa Colorada, also known as one of the town’s main beaches.

A strip of tiny restaurants, good-value beach resorts, and some other town facilities may be found at Playa Colorada. All you need is just a trek through the bush or perhaps a speedy boat trip to get to these places.

2. Tamarindo

Tamarindo makes for a great spot to take a breath before embarking on exploring the Nicoya peninsula. Photo by Zachary Shea on Unsplash

Located in the Guâncáte Provine, Tamarindo has many sites and activities to offer, promising a safe and all-encompassing beach experience for any solo travellers.

With luxuriant beaches, stunning topography, and exotic nightlife, this incredible beach town lies far from the workaday clamour but is close to nature's comforts.

The beaches in Tamarindo come in an array of colours, and much of the shoreline is covered with soft white sand and pebbles formed from volcanic rock that has been worn away by gentle waves.

3. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca

Whether it’s for a warm, tropical vacation or a winter retreat, Puerto Viejo is the safe place to keep things upbeat for couples who’re looking to spend some special moments together.

Puerto Viejo de Talamanca is situated in the southeast of Costa Rica. It is famous for its dark sand beaches and the rainforests and mangroves in the area.

Playa Cocles, Playa Chiquita, Playa Blanca, and Playa Vargas are just a few of the white sand beaches inside Cahuita National Park, about 30 kilometres from Puerto Viejo.

Slivers of gleaming white-sand beaches fringed with rustling palms, teeming with an impressive diversity of tropical fish under the water, Puerto Viejo offers some of the best destinations in Costa Rica for a beach vacation.

4. San Jose

Don’t confuse this one with a city of the same name in California. To be honest, San Jose is not on top regarding the question of whether Costa Rica is safe to travel to.

Mostly, the city is safe to wander during the day. But at night, there are neighbourhoods you should stay away from. These include Los Guido, Desamparados, Pavas, La Carpio, etc.

It's a great place to take the kids because there's almost no violent crime or severe theft. Plus, there is a wide variety of hotels, restaurants, and museums.

From the edge of San Jose’s downtown, head down to the lovely Los Gatos Creek trail, stretching from downtown San José to the hills above Los Gatos Creek.

The paved trail winds through parks, ponds, and downtown Los Gatos on its way to many more attractions.

5. Puntarenas

With a low crime rate, Puntarenas can be a safe destination for a memorable trip. Photo by Mauricio Leon on Unsplash

Although there is a lot of hustle and bustle, it is also a safe place and a popular destination for solo and solo female travellers.

Given the nickname “the pearl of the Pacific”, this tourism destination par excellence offers a variety of sun and beach attractions teeming with protected areas, islands and mountains.

There are all sorts of activities that Puntarenas has to offer, from clamping sites around the beach and zip lining in Montezuma to water-based activities such as snorkelling and diving.

The accommodations on offer here include traditional seaside hotels and cabins, as well as all-inclusive options.

6. Guanacaste (Liberia)

Guanacaste province may hold another clue to your question of “how safe is Costa Rica for tourists”. This area has a comparatively low crime rate and is considered a safe destination for solo travelling.

Guanacaste's national parks are a fantastic spot to see the region's enchanted and majestic terrain.

These parks are home to stunning natural beauty, abundant wildlife, valuable ecosystems, and a wide variety of exciting and rewarding experiences.

Beaches Safety In Costa Rica

 Be aware of the rip currents if you don’t want to have any incidents. Photo by KikoStock - stock.adobe.com

Beaches are the biggest draw of this Latin American country. However, watch out for the riptides and the currents, as they can be strong enough to pull you out to the deep sea. They are one factor you must consider when pondering is Costa Rica dangerous or not.

Some are safe for families and swimming, and others for snorkelling. However, very few have lifeguards. So be very careful when you are in an unfamiliar body of water.

It is best to check with the locals for water and weather conditions. Swim close to others. If a beach is too void of people, maybe there’s a reason. Don’t underestimate rip currents, and learn how to read them.

Beware of alligators and crocodiles if you swim in rivers, particularly on the Pacific coast. Before jumping in, be sure to ask a knowledgeable person. If you encounter one, just leave them alone.

Boasting more than 300 beaches on its Caribbean coast mile, Costa Rica is a paradise for beach lovers. To ensure a harm-free trip, you may want to 

Here are the safest beaches to have fun with the sun and the crystal-clear blue sea:

  • Manuel Antonio beach
  • Playa Samara
  • Playa Hermosa
  • Playa Conchal

While you are enjoying the sun and beaches, remember to cover yourself. Some headwears are a must, and remember to put on sunscreen. Expect the sun to be strong, as Costa Rica is a tropical country near the equator.

Staying hydrated is another often overlooked aspect. The heat and sun in Costa Rica can sap the life out of you. Abundant fresh water is what you need to stay healthy and happy in the beach paradise.

Taking a stroll or camping on the beaches at night is also not recommended. Most of them are not well-lit at nighttime, thus providing the perfect opportunity for crime and accidents.

What To Know About Driving And Transportation In Costa Rica

 Most would agree that there’s nothing like discovering Costa Rica by driving. Photo by Tarrazu on Wikimedia Commons

While it’s true that everything can be more chaotic and aggressive than you are used to, all means of transportation are generally safe. 

Public transportation is excellent and affordable. The public bus is one of the cheapest methods of getting around. San Joe is the major transportation hub of the nation. Most, if not all, bus services operate in this city.

Still, they can be inconvenient and crowded at times. Costa Rica is small, yet travelling in this nation can be slow due to winding roads. Tourist Minibuses are another great option as they tend to be faster.

One of the best ways to explore the country is by renting a private vehicle. You are paying more for flexibility and convenience. However, the cost can be justified with a group of three or four people. 

However, do note that Costa Rica gets dark around 6:00 pm. Driving after this time is not recommended, as the outside will be pitch black. Plus, fog and rain can reduce road visibility even more.

Car crimes such as break-ins are a common occurrence in Costa Rica. Therefore, leaving valuables in the car out of sight is wise. Remember to keep your car doors and windows shut tight.

Health Concerns For Costa Rica Tourists

The wildlife of Costa Rica is amazing, but there are certain risks you need to know about beforehand. Photo by unai - stock.adobe.com

Whenever you go, it’s always a good idea to check out your destination's health safety and guide. Here is everything one must know when travelling to the land of Pura Vida.

Be Careful Of Mosquito-Borne Diseases

Is it safe to travel to Costa Rica right now if you are worried about insect bites and related conditions?

Costa Rica is a tropical destination, so some travellers naturally worry about catching tropical diseases like chikungunya or zika. However, the chances of suffering from such conditions are rare and slim.

You'll likely be fine if you stick to the beaches and tourist destinations. That said, preventing mosquito bites is also important. Currently, there are no disease outbreaks, but you must be careful.

Fortunately, avoiding mosquitoes is easy. You should consider packing protective clothing, insect repellents, a first aid kit and bed/cot nets. Most accommodations also provide mosquito nets.

Tap Water Is Safe To Drink

You can find drinkable tap water almost everywhere, from hotels to tourist attractions. However, you may think twice if you want to do the same in rural areas. In that case, stick with bottled water.

As the water has a higher concentration of minerals and chlorine, you may want to use filters. You can also buy anti-diarrheal pills at grocery stores and pulperias.

Availability of Healthcare

Costa Rica has good quality overall medical care for a developing country. In fact, their healthcare system is one of the best in Central America. It’s another aspect you can rest assured about how safe is Costa Rica for tourists.

You can ask the hotel’s front desk or locals about the nearby doctors, especially those who speak English. 

In case of an emergency, dial 911 for an ambulance. If you want to contact tourist police, call 2286-1473. For firefighters, it’s 1118. Generally, 911 is the main emergency number.

Safety tips for Costa Rica Tourists

 Here’s the know-how on enjoying Costa Rica to the fullest. Photo by Christina Victoria Craft on Unsplash

You must know certain tips to enjoy a worry-free journey in Costa Rica. Below are some useful tips recommended by many expert travellers

Tip 1: Get Travel Insurance

Purchasing travel insurance for your trip is a must. The cost of living in Costa Rica is quite high. Healthcare bills may mount up rapidly in the event of an accident or illness.

In addition, insurance can help you deal with stolen goods easier. For example, rental car break-ins are one of the most common crimes.

But if you already obtained locally valid theft insurance, you'll be covered for any loss of the vehicle and any valuables left inside.

Tip 2: Keep Your Belongings In A Safe Place

Don’t leave personal items unattended, and consider leaving important items locked up in a safe at your hotel or vacation rental.

Pick-pocketing and petty theft are the main things you’ll run into, so when getting sound, remember to keep bags nearby on public transportation and at all times.

As we mentioned earlier, car break-ins are among the common crimes in Costa Rica, so it’s advisable that you lock vehicles when unattended and don’t leave any valuables in them. Be aware, and take care!

Tip 3: Don’t Go Alone At Night

Some places in Costa Rica are safe during the day, but the same can’t be said about the same at night. Photo by Frander Rosales V on Unsplash

People wouldn’t recommend going anywhere at night, especially walking through San Joe. Don’t travel isolated at night to avoid the most prevalent unsafe circumstance.

Nothing is certain. Therefore it's wise to prepare for the worse. If you're travelling without a companion, keeping in touch with loved ones is extremely important.

If you want to go for a stroll, it's a good idea to stick to populated, well-lit parts of big cities. Some regions still have problems with catcalling, harassment, and fraud.

Using common sense and the advice above, you should have a safe and healthy trip to Costa Rica.

Tip 4: Be Aware Of The Common Scams

Is Costa Rica dangerous? Not so much in the serious sense, like violent occurrences or mugging. But you should be aware that tourist frauds exist in Costa Rica, as in other popular tourist destinations.

Some common ones include broken taxicab metres, undervaluing currency exchange, low-cost rental cars, and “cheap” tours off the street.

Exercise caution and research before travelling to avoid these common travel frauds. Knowing what to expect can be a lifesaver in those situations.

Tip 5: Places To Avoid In Costa Rica

Although Costa Rica is incredibly safe for tourists, there are a few areas where it is appropriate to use a bit more caution.

They are often bigger and have higher crime rates than some of the smaller tourist hubs around the country. These include Los Guido, Desamparados, Pavas, La Carpio, Leon XIII, “El Infiernillo”, etc.

FAQ

Unless you do something outrageous, you don’t have to worry much about safety when visiting Costa Rica.

Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden on Unsplash

What Is The Safest Parts Of Costa Rica?

The whole country is generally safe, but some parts are safer than others. Generally, you will be fine travelling to the following destinations: Tamarindo, Drake Bay, Puntarenas and Puerto Viejo de Talamanca.

However, just like anywhere else, no place is crime-free. Exercise caution and common sense, and you can explore this great Central American country worry-free. 

Is Mexico Or Costa Rica A Safer Country?

Costa Rica is a better place than Mexico in terms of safety. The crime rates, robbery and assault in Costa Rica are lower than in its neighbours. However, Cancun, another place in Mexico with a bad rep, is considered to have a superior beach experience.

Is Costa Rica Safe For Solo Female Travellers?

If you use a bit more caution when touring around,  travelling solo in Costa Rica is as safe as anywhere else. If you get lost and don’t know any Spanish, rest assured that you will find some help, as most tourists and residents speak at least some English.

In fact, Costa Rica ranks among the safest options for solo female travellers among places to visit in Central America. During their stay, solo female travellers can choose from various activities and excursions specifically designed for them.

What Should I Avoid In Costa Rica?

Now you know what you should do. But there are things you should steer clear of if you want to avoid trouble. Is Costa Rica safe to travel to? That depends on you:

  • Avoid higher risks areas or the beaches at night
  • Don’t leave valuables unattended
  • Remember not to seek and buy drugs
  • Avoid swimming on surfing beaches
  • Don’t interfere with the wildlife
  • You shouldn’t speed on the road
  • Don’t use unofficial taxis.

Excise the right caution, and you can explore Costa Rica’s stunning biodiversity to the fullest. Photo by boivinnicolas - stock.adobe.com

Like the common misconception that Israel is a dangerous country due to its endless military conflicts. The myth did not accurately portray the small Central American nation of Costa Rica.

Is Costa Rica safe to travel to? Yes, especially compared to other Latin American countries. In the Global Index 2022 ranking, this country ranks 35th among 163 countries.

Like anywhere in the world, you can have a safe trip with basic safety measures and common sense. Be careful, research carefully, and don’t do anything that’s way out of line; you will be fine. Safe travel, wanderlust!

Bao Tieu


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