Last week, someone emailed me with an important question. He was thinking about moving down to Costa Rica, along with his family and young children, and asked me something that may be in the back of all of our minds:
"Is Costa Rica safe?"
Like everything, there's a simple answer and a much more complex, detailed answer.
(For instance, I emailed him back asking if he considered life in the U.S. these days safe?)
In the Moving to Costa Rica Handbook, I went to great lengths to explore all aspects of staying safe while living or even just vacationing in Costa Rica. Of course, if you're moving your family and children down to Costa Rica, this is of the utmost importance.
In fact, I've written extensively for publications like the Huffington Post and others about safety while traveling and living abroad.
Here are a few notes, thoughts and highlights from that guide for you today:
Costa Rica can be considered a safe country, but it’s important to use common sense and act responsibly at all times, just like you would in your home country.
The reality is that you have to be careful no matter where you are in the world, but with some common sense, you can stay super safe in Costa Rica.
Every country (including the U.S.!) suffers from street crime. But you want to avoid countries where there’s political upheaval or religious extremist groups — and Costa Rica definitely doesn’t have those problems.
But whether people want to face the facts or not, Costa Rica is a major transit point for drug trafficking (especially cocaine that comes from Colombia and South America, is dropped off the shores of Costa Rica, and then makes its way up the Pan American highway and into the U.S.)
So, it goes without saying that NEVER buy drugs or go into places, neighborhoods, remote coastal areas, etc. you shouldn't be in.
Travelers who run into problems are usually doing something illegal, wandering around drunk at night, in a place they shouldn’t be, or not keeping their wits about them.
I've found that the local guys can get really feisty at the bars or when drinking, and often becoming aggressive and territorial towards foreigners. The easiest way to counter this is just to make friends with some local guys, who will then watch out for you! But be careful where you go, who you talk to, always pay respect, and don't get too drunk.
Petty theft is also a big problem in Costa Rica, although it's usually just break-ins to homes and cars, not violent muggings. In the handbook, I cover plenty of methods to protect yourself from theft.
Here is just one of those many safety tips:
Use official taxis.
It’s usually best to arrange taxis and car service through your hotel or legit tourist agency because then you know they are accountable and official. But if you do need to hail a cab on the streets of Jacó or late at night out by the beach, it’s a good idea to ask for the river’s ID and then snap a photo of it.
Also, if you need to get out for any reason, snap a photo of the car’s license plate number. Show them you’re doing this so they understand that you’re on guard, and also you can pretend to talk on your cell phone while driving, too. But usually just making small talk and asking about their family, their hometown, and their favorite futbol (soccer) team will do the trick as well!
Moving to Costa Rica tip: Enroll in the U.S. embassy's STEP program:
The United States State Department also has a program called STEP you may want to log on and register with. https://step.state.gov/step/
The Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) is a free service to allow U.S. citizens and nationals traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Benefits of Enrolling in STEP:
• Receive important information from the Embassy about safety conditions in your destination country, helping you make informed decisions about your travel plans.
• Help the U.S. Embassy contact you in an emergency, whether natural disaster, civil unrest, or family emergency.
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