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U.S. Issues New Travel Advisory For Costa Rica

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Costa Rica is a popular getaway given its close proximity to the U.S., with stunning beaches, lush rainforests, and welcoming locals.

These are just a few of the highlights of this Central American paradise.

volcano in costa rica

What is normally considered to be a safe destination for travelers, Costa Rica has had an uptick in violent crime recently. As has been the landscape of world events over the past few years, what seems to be normal can change quickly. 

U.S. Embassy Issues Warning

Some would say Rule #1 of traveling to a foreign country is to always be aware of your surroundings. Bad things can happen anywhere at any time, whether it’s petty pickpockets or more dangerous situations. So it’s important to heed caution at all times. Getting too comfortable in an unfamiliar place can be a big mistake.

United States embassy with American flag

The U.S. government has a 4-level system to determine the outlook on safety for each country:

  • Level 1 – U.S. citizens should exercise normal precautions
  • Level 2 – U.S. citizens should exercise increased caution
  • Level 3 – U.S. citizens should reconsider travel plans
  • Level 4 – U.S. citizens should not travel

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plane at airport in Costa Rica

Earlier this week, the U.S. issued a Level 2 alert for Costa Rica, advising Americans to take extra precautions due to an increase in violent crime. There were no specific examples given as to what they have insider information on, but an alert like this should be taken seriously.

It was noted that most of the recent criminal activity has been taking place in the capital city of San Jose, which is home to the country’s biggest airport. San Jose is the main hub where most visitors begin their Costa Rica adventures. A recent report showed American tourists flocked to Costa Rica in droves, with more than 1.2 million visitors arriving by plane.

san jose costa rica skyline

These are the guidelines provided by the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica:

  • Be watchful when in a public area, specifically when exiting a store or venue.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and immediately leave any area that does not feel safe.
  • Do your best not to stand out in a crowd, and it is always best not to be alone.
  • Do not be flashy – keep valuables such as electronic, jewelry, and money hidden from public view.
  • It is best to walk around at night within a group on well-lit streets. Do not walk alone at night.
  • Provide someone you trust with your contact information and let them know of your whereabouts, such as when and where you will be going.
  • When leaving your home, hotel, or vacation rental, it is advised to always keep doors and windows locked. Turn on the security system (if applicable).
  • When driving, it is advised to keep doors locked at all times. Even when doors are locked, do not keep valuables in sight, such as phones or jewelry.
police on beach in costa rica

The embassy always recommends its citizens enroll in STEP, a government program to inform travelers of the latest security alerts. If someone is in immediate danger, the Costa Rica emergency phone line is 911, just like the U.S.

Pushback From Costa Rica

Costa Rica relies heavily on tourism as there is so much to do for travelers to enjoy the Pura Vida lifestyle! When safety comes into question, this can damage their reputation and severely hurt their economy.

tourist at waterfall in costa rica

The Minister of Public Security, Jorge Torres, questions how the U.S. came to this conclusion of issuing a travel advisory. Seemingly caught in the middle of his own “irresponsible” government and his opinion of the embassy’s unjust travel advisory, he did admit there truly is an increase in violent crime. While the U.S. did not provide specifics, Mr. Torres believes drug wars between gangs are mostly to blame.

costa rica flag with historic building

At present time, there is no update on what the plan is to alleviate this problem. Costa Rica has acknowledged the surge in violence but may be in the damage control stage until a better strategy is formed. Step one might be to start tapping into the hefty funds the U.S. donated just last month to assist in keeping people safe.

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Thursday 16th of March 2023

I’m a United flight attendant and was assaulted on Tuesday. The police took a”report” but they don’t do anything.

john Sheridan

Wednesday 8th of March 2023

We are just back from an attempted vacation in CR. Getting Covid put us in quarantine for a week which was expensive. The roads in CR are in terrible shape and crowded and noisy. The $ex tourism seems to be a major blight on the capital and Jaco and other places. The country is expensive. I don't see how the 25% of the country that is poor can survive. Why are there not limitations of foreign purchases of real estate? The agriculture, coffee, pineapples and bananas, seems to rely heavily on pesticides. More than elsewhere.


Saturday 11th of March 2023

@Robert, HI Robert. American Expat in México. We don't want him either, plus we have level 4 advisories on some areas so it's not safe for dum dums. PURA VIDA HERMANO!



Friday 10th of March 2023

@john Sheridan, I call BS on your biased review which sounds hateful and it's purely grasping at straws. I've lived here for a long time and feel safer than the USA by far, no school shootings, mall killers, idiots with guns. They have the same petty crime as any developed nation and the roads are wonderful compared with a few years ago. If you want cheap go to Mexico. Pura Vida

Christopher Lane

Wednesday 8th of March 2023

Went to CR 3 decades ago as a teenager on a 3 month surf trip, ended up buying a cheap piece of property and slowly building my house. A small coastal pueblito turned into a drug riden hell hole where houses and cars were broken into consistently and majority of local alcoholics or on drugs. Paved roads changed everything and prices skyrocketed, crime increased to the point where I said its not worth it on many levels. Very long story short, it's a beautiful place to travel, with lots of beautiful ppl and Pura Vida is still alive in the hearts of many. However once you move there, the buerocracy, banking system,crime, and being a foreigner or gringo, many see you as a rich person to be taken advantage of and they will. I left for good several years ago and will never return. If you're planning to move there be sure to have a reputable lawyer and know your neighbors. Nighttime break ins even if you or guests are there is not uncommon. Watch your bags especially leaving the airport, and have awareness wherever you go. Pura Vida!!

Robert Eggett

Tuesday 7th of March 2023

I just finished 30 days in Costa Rica. I spent 3 days in Arenal doing volcano/hanging bridge hike and kayaking. I had no problem with crime. A person on my day tour did leave his cell phone at a restaurant. He tracked it there with his laptop back at hotel. Restaurant denied having it. This can happen anywhere.

However I felt safer in Tamarindo then I do back in the USA with all the right-wing radicals packing guns and AR-15's here.

J Dracup

Monday 6th of March 2023

I have been traveling to Costa Rica since 2015 and built my own home in the mountains near Dominical since 2017 whenit was not expensive. We are residents. The last three years has gone crazy here, and property values in heavy tourist southern areas like Uvita and Dominical have tripled or more in price. Guanacaste has been hit hard too. Investor vacation rentals. Getting very crowded here especially during Envision which ended today. It has become too expensive for most retirees. I own a Hilux. Hotels and car rentals with the full insurance is very high. If you get in a serious car accident without the full coverage the police will take your passport and you cannot exit Costa Rica until the case is fully settled in court. Always buy the full car rental coverage in Costa Rica.