Personal safety in Costa Rica

Nov 30, 2020 | 0 comments

By Román Vergara

No country in the world is risk free for travelers or residents. But one Latin-American country seems to be an island of personal safety. Here are useful tips on how to visit or live safely in Costa Rica.

Image courtesy of Marcpo at

Image courtesy of Marcpo By FreeDigitalPhotos

You finally arrived in your host country. Landscapes, customs, people, and gastronomy seduce your senses. Maybe at first, everything dazzles you, and it may seem perfect. However, personal safety risks may lurk around the corner. Personal safety in Latin America varies a lot, not only from country to country but also from city to city. Although many cities, historically considered dangerous, have improved, there are still places where extreme precautions must be taken due to robberies, murders, express kidnappings, etc. Medellín, Colombia is an example of this. It went from being the most dangerous city in the world to a model of security in the region. It’s currently the fourth-safest city in Latin America.

Is Costa Rica a Safe Country?
According to the Global Peace Index 2020 report from the Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), Costa Rica is the safest country in Latin America, ranking 32nd in the world. And that is not just because this institute says it, but it is a phenomenon that is experienced by its population. The “Tico” is a person who likes peace and harmony, and that is the first thing you notice when talking to them. Their education, kindness, and ever-present smile are characteristic of their “Pura Vida” philosophy of life.

What to Be Aware of in Costa Rica?
But there are always threats and risks you want to be aware of.

Public bus transportation is usually very safe. Also taxis. Official government-licensed taxis are red in color and their commercial license number is on their doors in a yellow triangle. There is another type of official taxis: the San José International Airport cabs whose color is orange. These are the only taxis allowed to pick up passengers in the arrivals area at the airport. They have also classified Uber service as safe.

I highly recommend avoiding unofficial or “pirate” taxis, as they do not adhere to regulatory standards,  and they are not guaranteed to be safe.

Electronic Devices
Although the number of thefts and robberies is low, it is always advisable that cameras, camcorders, cell phones, tablets, be used carefully, without exposing them too much, and taking care not to leave them unattended on restaurant tables, on the beach, a bench in a park, or inside your car.

Cash and Jewelry

Photo by Ameen Almayuf on Unsplash

Ameen Almayuf By Unsplash

Avoid being ostentatious. As always, I recommend not to carry a large amount of cash. Always leave only with what you need for the day. Be very careful when taking money out of your pocket or wallet, so as not to tempt opportunists. If you visit tourist sites, leave rings, chains and jewelry at home.

Identify the “Red Zones”
Before traveling, find out about the places called “Red Zones” or “Hot Zones” in that location. Each city has some areas of higher risk, so it is important to be aware of these zones and avoid.

Drug trafficking
Unfortunately, drug trafficking increased in Costa-Rica, and this brings violence. Currently, the region most affected by it is Limón, which is not frequented by expats.

Solo Female Travelers
After some cases of tourist femicide happened in the last two years, the United States, Canada, and some European countries issued a travel advisory for women who wish to come alone to Costa Rica. Although the cases are far and between, it is essential for women to be very extra careful when entering the country.

Be Cautious but Enjoy
Regardless of the risks, you shouldn’t need to cancel your plans for Costa Rica. Remember, this is still the safest country in Latin America. So make your plans, pack your bags and come live your own “Pura Vida” experience.

If you have any concerns or questions about safety in your host country of choice, ask our expert TCI-Alliance team. We know the inside-out from personal experience and up-to-date research.

Editor’s Note:  TCI is a full-service provider of expat education and transition services. Our private platform allows our global expat community and our Expat Alliance of in-country expats and experts to interact so that all can successfully embrace the expat experience. Learn More…


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