A question often asked is, "Is Costa Rica safe?" The answer, to a great extent, is yes.
The crime rate in Costa Rica is the lowest in Latin America, and Costa Rica is, without a doubt, the safest country in Central America. Over one and a half million tourists, most of them americans, visit costa rica every year, and they feel as safe as ever exploring the country. The Ticos on the whole are very friendly and warm people by nature, and they live a simple life devoid of all its excesses. There are no acts of terrorism in Costa Rica, and recreational drugs, other than tobacco and alcohol, are illegal. And Costa Rica has no standing army, and unlike all other countries in Latin America, the country has not experienced any political strife since 1949.
With the single exception of robbery, the crime rate in Costa Rica is very low compared to other countries. For the purpose of comparison, according to the United Nations' Seventh Annual Survey on Crime, crimes recorded in police statistics show that the crime rate for all index crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft) in Costa Rica was 1208.2 per 100,000 inhabitants in 1999, comparing very well with 1529.75 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 4184.24 for the US (country with a high crime rate).
The crime in Costa Rica is generally much lower and less violent than that in the States, and the crime here tends to be opportunistic as opposed to violent. In other words, rapes and murders in Costa Rica are very few, almost unheard of, compared to those in the States, but petty theft, car theft, and pick-pocketing are not uncommon here, especially in downtown San Jose and on the beach . In smaller towns, the crime rate is much lower.
It's always best to exercise caution at all times, not only when visiting Costa Rica, but also when visiting any other foreign country. Traveling to any country is not without some risk. The good news is that you can very much enjoy a safe and wonderful stay in Costa Rica by following the simple common-sense safety tips outlined below, which also apply to any other foreign country you may want to visit.
* Be careful when stepping into the wild, going off a beaten path, or roaming national parks. Pay attention to warning signs, and always check with your guide if there's any danger ahead.
* Be very wary of dangerous trails, volcanic areas, riptides, and waves.
* Do not swim into the ocean. There are few lifeguards, so always stay near other bathers.
* Do not walk alone in secluded areas or go into public parks late at night.
* Steer clear of deserted side streets, properties, or undeveloped land.
* Watch your luggage, never leave it unattended, and write your name on it.
* Do not hand your luggage to any stranger except the airport porters who carry an official identification.
* Lock your doors and your luggage when staying at a hotel.
* Do not carry a lot of money or flash big wads of money, and remember to keep your wallet in a safe place. It is also recommended to wear a money belt.
* Make sure that your personal belongings (keys, laptop, cell phone, credit card (s), etc.) are within reach, in a secure place, and never out in the open.
* As a foreigner, your passport is your ID. Keep your passport in a secure place, and always keep several photocopies of your passport as well as your Costa Rica airline ticket and insurance policy.
* Do not make yourself a target for thieves and pickpockets – do not wear flashy jewelry or expensive watches.
* Do not hold expensive equipment, such as cameras, all the time while walking.
* Guard yourself against car theft – always lock your car, and do not leave your keys or anything of value in your car even if you run into a store or supermarket for a few seconds to buy something.
* Do not park your car on the street – use secured private parking lots whenever possible.
* Use your common sense, do not trust anyone who approaches you and wants to act like your tour guide, and do not get separated from your tour group.
If you fall victim to any crime, please report the incident to the local police and contact the nearest US Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
Be not afraid! Remember that traveling to any country in the world is not without some risk, and you should follow these safety precautions anywhere you go. With some common sense, no crime will ever happen to you and you will find Costa Rica a safe and wonderful country to visit or stay. Most of this advice is well taken in the States.
We have not suffered any crime that we are aware of in the last two years (knock on wood), but that can happen in just about any community in the world. Remember, the crime rate in the US is about 4 times as high as it is here in Grecia. And in Dallas, TX, I had my Chevy Blazer stolen twice (only to steal the radio) and had the house burglarized once, so things like these can happen here, in the US, or anywhere else.