Common Sense Travel – How Not to Get Robbed in Costa Rica

In this photo taken Wednesday, feb. 21, 2007, Ohio U.S. tourists Clova Adams, receives medical attention because she had a panic attack after one of three masked robbers held a gun against her head during a robbery on a day tour from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship in Limon, Costa Rica. A US veteran who was among the tourists killed one of the robbers. (AP Photo/Roger Amoretty)

In this photo taken Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007, Ohio U.S. tourists Clova Adams, receives medical attention because she had a panic attack after one of three masked robbers held a gun against her head during a robbery on a day tour from the Carnival Liberty cruise ship in Limon, Costa Rica. A US veteran who was among the tourists killed one of the robbers. (AP Photo/Roger Amoretty)

On a recent post in Yahoo Answers, one of the major contributor’s wrote;  He was not even in the country for 30 minutes when he got robbed in the parking lot.

San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, and the hub of all travelers with San Jose Airport, has been having real problems with violent crime these days. You have to remember, it is a major city, and with that said, there are a lot of poor desperate and villainess people on the streets, just as any major city in the US has. If you want to get robbed, don’t do any of the below.

Waking down an alley like this - expect a gun or knife jabbed into your get

Waking down an alley like this - expect a gun or knife jabbed into your gut

Rule #1, use common sense. Tourists are targeted because they are easy marks. And tourists are targeted, just by being idiots and plain stupid! Walking down an alley (because it is a short cut) after you have has too many Imperials, expect the worse. Big deal so you flag a cab even if you are going 2-3 blocks.

Rule #2 – you are on vacation and a visitor in a foreign land with different customs and values. Respect the country, people, customs, and their Faux Pas or manners.    Being the loud mouth, arrogant, disrespectful tourist, and you will have problems. A friend who surfs allot can almost pin point surfers what will have problems. When he sees those that hog waves, cut off locals or others, shouting and acting egotistic, and when they come out of the water, their SUV has flat tires and all their money/passports are gone.  “Gee,” he mumbles, adding, “Screw them! They got what they deserve!”

Always put money, passports,  and plane tickets into your hotel safe. Carry a good color photocopy of your passport with you at all times.

Always tip and tip good! That taxi driver, waitress or doorman can be your best friend when the time comes. If you respect the people, they will bend over to help you! A year ago, a son of a friend got left behind at a local bar by his friends. Drunk, he starts to stagger back to the hotel a few blocks away, the doorman (who he tipped) saw him, flagged a cab and escorted him back to the hotel.

Always when drinking at hot spots like El Pueblo, ALWAYS keep tabs on your drink. If you have to pee or head to the dance floor make sure someone watches your drink. Can not tell you how many times I have heard the stories,  “Jezze Christ …  woke up in some alley, money and passport gone, with a splitting headache.” If you are alone, put a cocktail napkin over the top of your drink, and remember how it was placed. When you come back, if it looks moved, get another drink – the extra few bucks is cheap compared to what could or might have happened.

Always avoid flashy jewelry and take only the money you will need for the day. I know many married couples who leave their wedding rings at home.

Always take what you need in money and never carry bill bills.  Do not flash wads of money like some wise guy where they peel hundreds off a rubber band wad of hundreds. When going out, divide you money into two wads and place each one in different pockets. When you use one up, dig into the other. A girl I know has a cotton flower wrap-around that she has sew in a pocket where she puts the other wad. The 1st wad is in her purse that has a heavy duty strap on it, where she hangs it over her head and shoulder.

Always keep track of your personal, purse, wallet, backpack or fanny pack. You are asking for trouble jumping up from a bus to look at something, and suddenly your purse is gone.

Always pack light, do you really need to take that expensive camera with you?

Always try and keep a low profile and try and somewhat blend in with the people. Wearing black socks, white shorts and Hawaiian shirt with a $400 camera dangling over your shoulder – well I rest my case!

Even if no vacationeer is guarantee a safe travel, Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in the world and the safest in all of Central and South America and especially, Mexico.  For years their police did not even carry guns and Costa Rica has no military.  Every  bad report, there are 1000s of good ones,  common sense traveling and your odds increase to be one of the 1000s.   See related post in Carrying Cash in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Medical
Calypso Cruises

previous post: Feeding and Killing Costa Rica Monkeys
next post: Monkey Population Declines In Costa Rica


  1. Parritaman says:

    Limon is one of the most dangerous areas of Costa Rica, and Tamarindo is running in second place.  I had a nightmare that I lived in Limon (in a home outside a gated community), and these men with heavy Jamaican accents were watching the home from the jungle day and night.  I could not understand what Jamaicans were doing in Costa Rica.  Anyway!  I now live in a gated community on the Pacific side of the country.  We have some petty theft here, we don't dare drive at night, nor do we flaunt anything, plus we drive an old dull looking vehicle.  The most important part of us feeling more secure is that we tell everyone we are Canadians and keep smiling.

  2. After six years of living in Costa Rica, I highly advise against the following:
    1.  Dividing your money into wads and placing one wad in each pocket.  This is crazy!  Don't walk around with wads of money period!  Perhaps carry $60 or whatever you are comfortable with parting with.  Don't carry more than $500 unless you are going bank to bank or need to pay rent with cash.
    2.  When drinking at hot spots, don't leave your drink period.  Take it to the bathroom with you or leave it with a trusted friend.  If you leave it with someone you just met, romantically, you are just asking for problems.
    They eventually got me, and I got them back.  You must read this!

  3. Antney says:

    Just be careful…any where anytime even in your own home town.
    If just dont go because there are thieves……You'll never go anywhere.
    You'll never leave the house.

  4. Sounds like the best advice is don’t go there. Sheesh!

  5. Gringo Mike says:

    You have to remember that the average Tico only makes about 10 bucks a day so stealing from tourists can be a profitable enterprise. You also have the occasional gang of robbers who make their way to heavy tourist areas during the dry season to prey on visitors. I live in CR and I recommend not flashing wads of cash, wearing jewelry or a nice watch and only using ATMs during the day when the bank guards are on duty. I dont carry a big fat wallet either, I only carry enough cash to get me through the day. The drink thing is simple to avoid: Take it with you to the washroom or have your friends hold it for you. The tipping thing is not a guarantee but it doesn’t hurt to tip a couple extra bucks especially if you plan on returning to that bar. Also use caution when visiting secluded spots, beaches etc. park your car where you can see it and if possible go in a group to the more remote spots. Other than that a little common sense and being aware of your surroundings can make your visit to CR a pleasant and safe experience.

  6. Jose Perez says:

    What other websites offer free travel tips in South America?”~;

  7. Some of your comments are ridiculous. I mean you say that if I go to a bar, when I leave to go to the bathroom and someone drugs my drink, then it’s my fault because I didn’t put a napkin on top of the glass and when I come back carefully check to see if it was moved!

    You need to get real. If this happens consistently at various places it means that the bartender and/or bar owner is part of the criminal scheme, looking the other way when it happens, and getting paid for it..

    The police should be investigating these bar druggings and robberies for patterns and arrest those in the conspiracies to drug and rob people.

    Also, you keep saying that I must tip everyone generously, well that in itself makes me a mark for thieves. Of all the people I tip generously, yes, some of them may help me later, but some of them will also tell their friends who may be career criminals, “See that gringo there, he must have a lot of money, he always tips everyone so much” and then I can become targeted for robbery.

    • admin says:

      I have been going to CR since early 1970, CR is like any country, including America, when one fails to take precaution, one will get stung, sooner or later.

      “The man with the most common sense, is the man with the most sense” … Benjamin Franklin

Speak Your Mind