Coronavirus (COVID-19) and travel: The situation around the world is changing dramatically. Various governments have changed their travel warnings to restrict travel during this time. To understand how this may impact cover under your policy, please go to our FAQs and select your country of residence.
For the latest travel warnings and alerts around the world, read about lockdowns and border restrictions.
Costa Rica's borders have reopened to citizens and residents of specific countries from 1 August. Read the latest travel alerts to find out how COVID-19 restrictions affect travel to Costa Rica.
In the 2020 Global Peace Index, Costa Rica is ranked 32 out of 163 countries when it comes to overall peace. This is up two positions from 2019. In Central America and The Carribean overall, Costa Rica is ranked the number 1 most peaceful country in the region out of 12.
However, the homicide rate increased from 11.9 homicides per 100,000 people to 12.3 in the last year, and crime is still a significant threat to travelers in Costa Rica.
While most visitors do not experience trouble, you should exercise common sense safety tips to avoid becoming a potential target for criminals.
The usual rules apply: Don't be flashy with your belongings or the way you dress, avoid carrying your passport or too much money with you while you're out and about, keep your valuables locked up safely in your accommodation, don't leave anything under your towel while you're out surfing, protect yourself from mosquito bites at dawn and dusk, don't say yes to drugs and keep your wits about you while out at night.
Pay close attention to your surroundings in crowded locations, particularly when using public transport throughout Costa Rica.
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 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.
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.
Slashing tyres is a popular scheme that involves criminals puncturing or slashing the tyres of a 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.
Money scams are common, too. 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.
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. There are a number of things to know about crime, and here are some ways to avoid trouble.
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 a great nightlife scene, but if you do go out at night, enjoy it responsibly. Don't overdo the alcohol, never 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 in Costa Rica. There have been cases where women were alone on the beach or riding in a taxi alone have been targeted and assaulted.
Female travelers are advised to only use authorized taxis that are red with yellow numbered triangles. This indicates the taxi is licensed and therefore typically more safe. And, of course, it's always safest to travel in groups where you can.
There are plenty of beautiful and safe areas to visit in Costa Rica, however, there are some places that are best avoided.
The following areas aren't necessarily "no-go" spots, but they do see higher levels of crime. Be especially careful and aware of your surroundings in these locations:
San Jose, like any big city, can be riskier for travelers, particularly after dark. It is advised that you avoid any of the parks in San Jose 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. Buses that don't have protection are frequently targeted by thieves and other criminals. You should also avoid camping on any of the beaches for safety reasons – best to find secure accommodation at a lodge or hostel nearby the beaches you want to visit.
A good rule of thumb is that anywhere tourists visit frequently is going to be a location that criminals lurk – don't be alarmed, just be alert.
The ports of Puntarenas and Limon are especially vulnerable to criminal activity, as well any other public transportation hubs.
Bars and nightclubs are often havens for trouble, like the Gringo Gulch area of San Jose. Take extra care when visiting any of these night spots.
Before you go, see your travel doctor to make sure you've got recommended vaccinations and all booster shots are up to date.
Measles is required, while most travelers should have Hepatitis A and yphoid. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that some travelers get vaccinations for malaria, Hepatitis B, rabies and Yellow Fever.
Do the best you can to prevent mosquito bites due to the risk of Dengue fever.
Check with your doctor to see what you need based on your situation. Check out our comprehensive guide to vaccinations here.
The Costa Rican authorities do not tolerate rule-breakers. Here are a few local laws to know before you go:
Ask first - take photos later. It is illegal for you to take photographs of any official buildings in Costa Rica. If you are uncertain, check with a local or someone in authority, just in case.
Avoid taking pictures of women or children. Although it's not illegal, doing so is seen as suspicious and may be met with violence. If you really want to take a portrait photo of someone, always get their permission.
Buying, selling or having possession of any type of illegal drug is considered a serious offense in Costa Rica. If you are caught doing any of these things, you will be arrested and could face either a hefty fine or a lengthy prison sentence.
You will likely run into quite a few locals during your stay that will offer to sell you drugs, usually marijuana. If you buy it, do so at your own risk. Just keep in mind that Costa Rican prisons can be a bit rough and accessing legal help to get out can be challenging.
Prostitution is not illegal, however 'sex tourism' is a crime that is still prosecutable by foreign governments. In other words, if it's illegal where you come from, you can still get in trouble for engaging in it in Costa Rica. The areas where prostitution is more prevalent include San Jose and Jaco.
All visitors to Costa Rica are required to carry proper identification and documentation with them at all times. However, there is an increasing problem with passport theft in the country, so it's safest to leave your original passport locked up safely back at your accommodation, and only carry copies. Be sure the copies are clearly readable and contain an image of the entry stamp.
Overall, Costa Rica is a destination where you should exercise a bit of extra caution. Be alert and keep a low profile while you're out and about to avoid theft or unwanted attention.
Whether you're into wild outdoor adventure, trekking or just relaxing after a surf, the natural beauty is unmatched, from beaches to rainforests to magnificent active volcanoes. Make the most out of your trip to Costa Rica by listening to local advice on places to avoid and keeping yourself and your belongings safe.
Have you been to Costa Rica? Share your experience below!
You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.
Travel health tips from our roving medical expert, Dr. Erik McLaughlin MD, plus immunizations you need before traveling to Costa Rica.
With 700 miles of coastline, surfing is an essential experience in Costa Rica. Find out how to surf safely with these tips.