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Travel Safety in Costa Rica


Costa Rica has long been considered the safest nation in Central America. The country doesn’t even have a military, and has a long history of staying out of its neighbors’ wars and scuffles. But because so many travelers head to Costa Rica every year (over a million!), pickpocketing and petty theft is very common, and is specifically directed towards tourists.

If you’re planning on renting a car, know that Costa Rica has one of the highest vehicle accident rates in the world. This has to do with road conditions, but more to do with blatant disregard for traffic laws. Be careful!

Areas to Avoid:

When in urban areas like San Jose, Puntarenas, Jaco and Limon, the U.S. Consulate recommends avoiding areas with high concentrations of bars and nightclubs, especially at night. Be extra careful in the Zona Roja region of San Jose, in and around the Coca Cola Bus Terminal.

Safety and the Police:

While police coverage in Costa Rica is better and more modern than that of other Central American countries, it’s still not up to American standards. Crimes should still be reported to the police.

Tips on Staying Safe:

  • Don’t leave anything of value in a vehicle, even if the car is locked.
  • InfoCostaRica recommends you never park your car in the street in urban areas. Instead, use a pay parking lot.
  • Use only official taxi cabs—red with yellow triangles. At the airport, the cabs are orange.
  • The U.S. Consulate recommends travelers leave their passports and tickets home in a hotel safe, and carry a photocopy instead.
  • Never hand over luggage, unless it’s to an official airport porter.
  • Pickpocketing scams are common. If someone spills food on you and tries to help, bumps you, falls on top of you, etcetera—beware!
  • Important Contacts:

    For police emergencies, dial 911
    To call the police directly, dial 117
    To contact the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, call (506) 519-2000, or (506) 519-2280 after hours
    For more about safety in Costa Rica, read the Costa Rica Consular Information Sheet.
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