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Safety in Costa Rica

costa-rica_flag“Is it safe?”

This is the number one thing that folks ask me when I tell them that we vacation in Latin America: safety.  It’s because we live in the mid-western US and a many people around here have heard stories about the drug lords, kidnappings and police corruption. So, they are afraid.

Or maybe, they’ve watched too much TV?

At any rate, I can tell you (from first hand experience) that Costa Rica is very safe for us Gringos (foreigners). There aren’t any random kidnappings off the street for ransom and you’re not going to get beaten up just by being out at night.

Now that doesn’t mean that there’s no crime and you can leave your good sense at home.  It’s never a good idea to leave money sitting on the table or an expensive camera just lying unattended in a car – especially in plain view.  You still have to take your common sense on vacation with you and if you follow these simple rules you’ll be fine:

  • Secure your valuables: Lock up your flashy video cameras when you’re not using them.  Don’t leave your laptop on the table while you go to the bathroom.  Keep your wallet/purse secure and not in your back pocket.
  • Don’t flash your money: Don’t pull out your wallet with all of your money and sift through it all just to pay for a coke.  Leave what you don’t need for the day in your room’s safe.
  • Don’t go looking for trouble: Don’t walk around dark alleys in the middle of the night.  Don’t go looking for drugs. Don’t think that just because you’re in a foreign country you no longer have to obey laws.
  • Don’t be a jerk: Don’t be rude to people around you. Don’t start fights. Don’t swear or mumble mean things. Believe it or not, there are many locals that can understand English and even if they don’t, they all certainly understand body language.
  • Don’t carry your passport: Leave your passport in your room’s safe but always have a copy of the front page with you.

It’s really that simple. In fact, most of these rules apply anywhere you travel (including the US),  not just in Costa Rica.

We also found that, unlike in some other countries, the police are very helpful and friendly with very little corruption.  So, if you forget your common sense, you don’t have to worry about getting robbed and then shaken down by the police when you seek help.

It’s not to say that there isn’t any danger in Costa Rica. In fact, there is one recurring hazard that could sertiously injure you into if you’re not careful….

Ditches of Death  (♬dum♬dum♬dum♬)

Imagine that it’s getting late, the sun just went down and you’ve had more than a few delicious tropical drinks with some friends. You come stumbling out of the bar and step into this?

Ditches of Death 1

That is actually one of the safer ones as it (mostly) has a protective grate on it. But, what about this one?

Ditches of Death 2

Or these?

Ditches of Death 3Ditches of Death 4

Some of them are quite deep and sometimes filled with water.

Ditches of Death 5

If you’re lucky, you might only break your ankle by stepping into one and not catch some exotic disease (kidding). Don’t make the mistake of thinking these things exist only where we took these pictures (Quepos). They exist along just about every road, street and highway in Costa Rica.

In fact, they exist for a very important reason.

Costa Rica is a tropical paradise so, as you might expect, they get a lot of rain – check out this very cool rainfall map. Without these ditches to carry away the water as quickly as possible, there would be massive flash floods down the streets and mudslides wiping out homes with nearly every rainfall. So, while they exist out of necessity, they are still dangerous.

However, with this warning and some nimble footwork you won’t fall victim the single biggest safety hazard in the country of Costa Rica…..

DitchesofDeath (♬dum♬dum♬dum♬)

You may also be interested in our posts on: Costa Rica Information and Costa Rica Trip Report

About Tim

is a professional geek. He is a founding partner of JTR Tech and enjoys all things technology. He and his wife Joanna started AbroadDreams.com to help them plan and solidify their dream of moving abroad. After two years in Puerto Rico and Europe, Tim and Joanna are now back in the USA and exploring the American Southwest.

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