Safety and Security

On both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts currents are swift and dangerous, and there are few lifeguards or signs warning of dangerous beaches. Every year a number of U.S. citizens drown in Costa Rica due to riptides or sudden drop-offs while in shallow water. Extreme caution is advised.

Adventure tourism is popular in Costa Rica, and many companies offer white-water rafting, bungee jumping, jungle canopy tours, SCUBA diving, and other outdoor attractions. U.S. citizens are urged to use caution in selecting adventure tourism companies. The Government of Costa Rica regulates and monitors the safety of these companies, and registered tourism companies with operating permits must meet safety standards and have insurance coverage. Nonetheless, be advised that safety regulations enforced in Costa Rica are not as stringent as safety regulations in the United States.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to take proactive steps to avoid becoming crime victims.  Visitors should not walk, hike or exercise alone, and should bear in mind that crowded tourist attractions and resort areas popular with foreign tourists are common venues for criminal activity. Travelers should ignore any verbal harassment, and avoid carrying original passports, large amounts of cash, jewelry or expensive photographic equipment.

Tourists are encouraged to carry photocopies of the passport data page and Costa Rican entry stamp on their persons, and leave the original passport in a hotel safe or other secure place. Costa Rican immigration authorities conduct routine immigration checks at locations, such as bars in downtown San Jose and beach communities. U.S. citizens detained during one of these checks who have only a copy of the passport may be required to provide the original passport with appropriate stamps.

The Tourist Police are present in many popular tourist destinations and can assist with the reporting of a crime, which can be frustrating for victims due to language barriers and the local regulation that only allows the investigative police (“OIJ”) to take crime reports.  Hotel staff frequently assist visitors in reporting crime to the proper authorities.  Alternatively, Costa Rica’s 911 system has English speaking operators who can also provide assistance.

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