If it's a helping of tropical beaches you seek, then Costa Rica is the destination for you.
There's more than just sandy coastline to discover, from fascinating culture to breathtaking outdoor adventures, and relaxing spa treatments. But, before you go, find out about various crimes in this distant paradise.
Pay close attention to your surroundings in crowded locations, particularly when using public transport.
When traveling by bus, avoid placing luggage in the overhead bins, as theft from them is on the rise. Never leave anything of value out in the open, even if it's inside your hotel room.
Snatch and grabs are quite common, with thieves grabbing just about anything they can get their hands on. A favorite target of late has been pulling the watches from unsuspecting visitors as they casually hang an arm out a car window, or snatching sunglasses that are resting on top of someones head.
A good rule of thumb is not to leave anything exposed that you aren't comfortable losing.
Theft from parked and unattended vehicles is also on the rise. Try to park in well-lit or guarded areas, always keep the doors locked and windows rolled up, and never leave anything of value in plain sight of passersby.
These thieves tend to strike in more touristy areas like beaches, national parks and in and around downtown San Jose – so be aware.
One popular scheme involves criminals puncturing or slashing the tyres of a tourist's rental vehicle. As soon as the tyre goes flat, a "good Samaritan" conveniently appears offering to help change it. Then, while you're out of the car trying to change the tyre, the thief's accomplice sneaks in and steals anything of value from the vehicle.
If you do get a flat while driving, it's recommended that you continue to drive until you reach a safe, well-lit area where you can change it yourself safely. Some car rental agencies in Costa Rica will not hold you accountable for a damaged rim if they believe your safety was in question.
Avoid changing money anywhere other than a reputable bank. Scammers on the street are always offering to give you a good rate and a fast, easy transaction. What you'll end up with is counterfeit cash while the crooks make away with your good money.
Another popular scam on the streets involves a person dropping change in a busy or crowded area. When the victim bends down to help pick up the coins his wallet is lifted.
Finally, passport theft is a growing problem in Costa Rica.
It's recommended that you make photocopies to carry on you while making your way around, but keep the real thing locked safely in your hotel safe.
Unfortunately, violent crime against foreigners remains a significant problem in Costa Rica, with incidents of armed carjacking and muggings at gun or knifepoint on the rise.
One of the most dangerous crimes involves what's known as "express kidnapping", a tourist is abducted and held captive for only a few hours, while the criminals take the victim from ATM to ATM and force them to withdraw cash.
Always be aware of your surroundings and never let down your guard. Avoid areas that are secluded and try to travel in groups rather than walking around alone, particularly after dark.
Armed robbery is not uncommon, with victims being violently attacked and held up at gun or knifepoint. Incidents of carjackings have also been reported.
One increasingly popular ploy involves a thug purposely causing a minor accident, often bumping into a vehicle from behind. When the driver pulls over, the thief approaches with a weapon and either forces the victim to exit the vehicle so they can steal it, or takes the driver hostage.
If you are involved in any type of accident, continue to drive to some place safe before pulling over to exchange information.
Reports of drink spiking have increased, with victims being assaulted and robbed while unconscious.
Costa Rica has an awesome nightlife scene, and it's a great way to experience the local culture and have fun, but if you decide to partake do so responsibly.
Don't overdo it on drinks, don't accept drinks from strangers and keep your cocktail in sight (or better yet, in your hand) at all times.
Sexual harassment can be a problem for female travelers who are out and about by themselves.
Women alone on the beach, or riding in a taxi, are frequently targeted and assaulted, or raped.
Taxi drivers are often the culprits, so female tourists are advised to only use taxis that are red with yellow numbered triangles, as this indicates that they are licensed and therefore typically safer. And, of course, it's always safer to travel in groups.
There are plenty of beautiful and safe areas to visit in Costa Rica, however, as in any country there are some places that are best avoided.
The areas of Manuel Antonio, Quepos, Tamarindo, Jaco and Puerto Viejo all boast a higher crime rate. They aren't necessarily "no-go" spots, but if you do travel there be especially careful and aware of your surroundings.
San Jose, like any big city, can be riskier particularly after dark. It is advised that you avoid any of the parks there at night as they are considered very dangerous.
If you plan on visiting some of the banana plantations in Limon, be certain that there is a security guard on your tour bus. Those that lack proper protection are frequently targeted by thieves and other criminals. You should also avoid camping on any of the beaches for safety reasons.
A good rule of thumb is that anyplace that tourists frequent is going to be a location that criminals lurk.
The ports of Puntarenas and Limon are especially vulnerable to criminal activity, as are any other public transportation hubs.
Bars and nightclubs are often havens for thugs, like the Gringo Gulch area of San Jose. Take extra care when visiting any of these night spots.
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