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How dangerous is Costa Rica?

Brisbane, Australia
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How dangerous is Costa Rica?

I recently visited the Galapagos, and had a wonderful time, but only stayed two nights in Quito, which according to the Australian Government travel website, is a very dangerous city. I love the South American birds and wildlife, and am contemplating a birding trip to Costa Rica. However, this also sounds like Chicago in the 40s, with (according to the same website) rampant theft, muggings, riots, carjacking, and so on. I know this is probably exaggerated (I would not venture into parts of the supposedly safe Australian cities at night), so how dangerous really is Costa Rica for the average traveller?

A second question: has anyone dealt with a firm called Costa Rica Gateway, which purports to specialise in these sorts of tours?

Thanks for any advice.

Bushmaster Adventures Costa Rica
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Manakin Travel
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Uvita, Costa Rica
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1. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

Nothing like Chicago in the 40's , it has its problem like everywere else in the world. I have been visiting since 1999 and live here as expat for the last 7 years and take my common sense precautions but had more problems with crime in the UK & US than here.

See the following info posted on the right hand side of the forum, it is a realy good info:

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g291982-c162840/Costa…

Puerto Viejo de...
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2. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

How "dangerous" Costa Rica is depends on what you compare it with and what you do. The link given above is a good one. By what you said about not going to certain parts of cities in Australia, you sound to me as someone who would not have any problems in Costa Rica.

You apparently love nature; come and enjoy!

San Jose, Costa Rica
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3. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

My last visit to Cairns I was advice to be extra carefull with the area...and to be honest I was concern...I went there and I asked locals ...thye were looking at me like if I was from Mars...my time there was lovely...and I learn that some people no matter where in the world you are going they will said that is not a safe place...

Of course we have crime...as bad as any country around the world today...if

you look for...you will find it!

roadadvisor

San Jose, Costa Rica
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4. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

I guess if you weren't a bootlegger or part of the Capone gang, Chicago in the 40s was alright. jejejjee!

Chicago, Illinois
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5. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

I must correct the misinformation previously posted. Chicago was a lovely and safe destination to visit in the 40s. You may have been thinking of Al Capone's glory days up until his arrest in 1931 or the St. Valentine's Day massacre in 1929, but the 40s were a much safer and gentler time in Chicago.

Edited: 01 August 2011, 03:36
Chicago, Illinois
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6. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

Talking about safety in Central America is very subjective. Let me start by saying its all relative. I lived in Chicago for 20 years until last month, crime in the US is everywhere, and so are the police, security and prisons. The USA has the largest percentage of its population in jail in the western hemisphere, as it has a justice system that works well. Keep this in mind when going to developing countries. Chicago also has a terrible murder rate, one of the highest, but its 99% gang/drug related in areas of the city, a tourist, or a average local, would never venture in a lifetime.

Now for Costa Rica, I have been going there since 2001, about 4 times a year, I have ben to just about every national park, every beach, all the fun adventure and activity, and rented cars and went down roads and up in mountains that are not on the map or in the guidebook. I have nevr had a issue, now has anyone I know had a issue, with theft or mugging.

But, lets also look at reality. For one, CA and CR, is poor developing country, where the average wage is $100 week, and tourist are targets the last decade, as they come here without the precautions needed for CA and the region, they leave electronic gizmos in plain sight, wear expensive jewelry and also flaunt wealth. Latin America and petty theft go hand in hand, regardless of country IMO. Though each country has different issues when it comes to both social economic and police/justice.

That all said, CR has a rash of issues concerning crime, both locals and tourist, the last decade. Its the #1 country for stolen passports for the US Embassy, mainly rentals were targeted with luggage driven by tourist, bags left unattended on beaches, and also room thefts as they were left in plain sight or not in safes.

As far as muggings/assaults, its really few and far between. mainly young male tourist late night after bars in desolate areas getting mugged, in party type atmosphere late night. Rape is very rare, and so is being a gunshot victim/knife victim.

But, there has been a rash of foreigners in the last 18 months that have been murdered, many in remote areas that were local land/lodge owners, with some type of foul play involved, from disputes/debts/land grabs/labor issues/land squatters/poachers and who knows what else.

So with 2.4 million tourist a year visiting CR in the last decade alone, its very popular, and crime has risen accordingly with this new influx of tourist, 50% are from USA alone.

The other issue to understand, like all of CA, is the police are basically figures to keep the peace, they really dont have the tools/management or training, or incentive, to investigate most crimes. Add to this the fact the courts/justice system hardly functions, and nor does the jails, especially for career criminals of theft/mugging/break ins. More remote beach areas, the police are understaffed and hardly effective. The bad guys have big guns and will kill for anything, these thugs are ruthless, and has the country up in arms, a recent woman was shot cold for her laptop in Samara at a cafe, another man was shot in head on beach on caribe side last year, two women have been tied/bound and murdered in the Osa, no arrest, but the locals are just as upset as you would be if this happened in your hometown.

You only hear the bad news, and crime is all relative, Guatemala has a notorious reputation for murders, but my wife and I had a great 3 weeks there at Xmas and cant wait to get back. I was in Honduras in May, considered more dangerous than Iraq or Afganistan, but when I was there, its was just like every other country in the region.

And with that, you need to be very careful where you go in major cities, as thats where the gangs are, so no need to be there anyway unless catching a bus or flying. Be careful at night, always taxi, and dont go out door with more than you need for the day. Carry a copy of Passport, and leave all valuables in hotel room safe.

Costa Rica is no more dangerous for a tourist than anywhere else in CA, it does require some safety precautions like all of Latin America.

99% of the locals in all the countries are like you and me, its the 1% screwing it up!

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Puerto Viejo de...
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7. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

Great piece solohobo, thanks!

Jaco, Costa Rica
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8. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

Where ever you go it is all about keeping your awareness about you. Same as street smarts in the US as everywhere. I think many people want that spot where they don't have to pay attention and those places are becoming fewer and far between. I've been walking all over the streets of SJ for the last three days. Lot's of walking I wouldn't recommend to a tourist but I have not felt unsafe at once. However, I am always aware of my surroundings, usually keep to where there is a crowd, and when in a sketchy area I walk briskly and with purpose. Bottom line, CR is a pretty safe place if you just pay attention.

guanacaste
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9. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

Not dangerous if you stay safe.

Stay away from trouble. The same happens to me when I visit Miami or Chicago. I fallow advice as to where to go and where not to go. I work in tourism and I recommend the same simple rules that people recommend to me in other countries.

There are safe places to travel at night and places that are not.

Do not leave your things unattended on the beach, and ladies should not do exercise late in the dark alone on the beach.

News papers have to put bad news to sell.

Costa Rica
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10. Re: How dangerous is Costa Rica?

Agree with jako and jbatalla. There is a fair amount of petty theft in Costa Rica but with a few precautions, you will be fine.

When you park your car, don't leave anything valuable in the car. Bring money, passport with you. It is convenient to have a small daypack (or similar) for this kind of thing. If you leave luggage in your car, cover it up with something like a blanket.

If you are stopping at a restaurant, try to pick one that doesn't have a parking lot that is easily accessible. A restaurant with some kind of fence where there is just one entrance with a security guard is the best. A good example of this is Las Tres Hermanas in Limonal.

Otherwise, park your car as close as possible to your table or park it up against a tree or other obstacle.

Cars and their contents are not in jeopardy in all parts of the country. Sadly, the most touristic spots tend to be the ones with the most thefts - because that's where the money is!

Having an awareness of your surroundings and giving some thought to keeping yourself and your possessions safe are really the best precautions. And whatever you do - if someone tries to rob you, just give them your stuff! It is only stuff and can be replaced.

My son and I were in Florida over Christmas holidays. We stopped at a suburban mall - kind of upscale - for lunch. Most of the people there looked like people who lived in the suburban neighborhood nearby so when we were getting in our car, we both kind of froze when a guy who was poorly dressed, wearing a hoodie, slouched across the parking lot to us. We kind of both immediately sensed the possibility that he might take that as an opportunity to get some cash and turned to face him - but he passed on by. It could have been nothing..... it could have been something. But my son and I both have a kind of "radar" that says - "Hey, something doesn't look right here." This kind of radar works anywhere in the world.

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