Crime and Security

Most crimes can be avoided if one keeps on ones toes. Here are some Safety tips that can literally save your life or at least safe you from an unwanted situation:

  • Be alert and aware of your surroundings, especially while driving.
  • Aviod bad areas of town that are known for high rates of crime and appear on the news frequently. Try not to live in these areas.
  • Always tell someone where you are going and what time you expect to be back. If you are not going to be back in time make a call to that person explaining why. If you do not call the other person will know something is wrong.
  • Even after extended periods of living in Costa Rica do not let your guard down, or think that a crime cannot happen to you. Once you start feeling too comfortable is when something really bad can happen to you.
  • It is sad to say, but don't trust anyone you do not know.
  • Never leave anything of value in a visible location, even just for a moment.
  • Do not flash all of your belongings if you have ipods, cameras, laptops, and fancy cell phones try to be cautious of who is around you when you take them out to use them.
  • Keep valuables in the trunk, locked glove compartment, or out of sight.
  • Costa Rica is not a violent country, but at all times be on the lookout for pickpockets or crowds of young people.
  • Be careful if you see someone who appears to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol these people can be the most dangerous because they are not thinking clearly.
  • Do not drink and drive, not only is it against the law but you could seriously injure or kill someone else or yourself.
  • If someone suspicious approaches your vehicle while you are stopped at a traffic light or sign, honk the horn in a way that draws attention.
  • Never carry your actual passport with you.  However, you must make a copy of the front page and the page that contains your entry stamp from immigration in case you are stopped by any officials. Passports can be sold on the black market for up to $10,000 USD so they are very valuable and the Embassy of your home country will interrogate you for hours about who you sold it to.
  • Do not pull over for flashing headlights. A police vehicle and an authorized emergency vehicle are the only ones authorized the display of flashing, rotating red or blue lights.
  • Just because a person speaks your native language does not mean you should trust them. In fact, beware of overly friendly people.
  • If you become lost, try to find a public place, like a service station, in order to read your map or ask for directions. Stay calm.
  • If you are told that something is wrong with your vehicle, do not stop immediately. Drive to the nearest service station or to another well lighted public area.
  • If you get a flat tire immediately after picking up your rented car, be on the lookout for friendly people who wish to help you. This is a common scam to rob people.
  • Keep doors locked and windows shut when driving, and always when the vehicle is parked.
  • Always park in well-lit areas and try to park around other cars.
  • Check the interior of your vehicle and surrounding areas before getting into your vehicle to be sure there is no one else along for the ride.
  • Do not pick up hitchhikers under any circumstances. Even women with children hitchhikers can be an unsafe move. There are plenty of buses and taxis that are affordable.
  • Be extremely cautious when using an ATM. Try to not be alone, stay in areas that are well lit, do not flaunt your money around, do not take out excessive amounts of cash, and try not to use ATMs at night.
  • If you are not going to the ATM do not carry around your ATM card. Also, it is a good idea to do inline transfers from two seperate accounts so that all of your money is not in just one. Have one that controls your ATM card and a savings account. This way if you are going to the ATM you only have small amounts on this card and you would not mind if it was stolen.
  • If you have a credit card make sure you have a theft policy on it.
  • Never take out large quantities of money at the bank in cash, make up a cashiers check or do online transfers to avoid being mugged.
  • Be careful of bank personnel if you are taking out a large sum of cash, there have been scams where they advise people on the outside of possible big targets.
  • If you weekly must take out money from a bank to pay other people or for your job try and change up banks so that the teller does not know that you take out $2000 every other Friday, this way you avoid becoming a target.
  • If you can take some basic personal defense classes, it certainly can't hurt to be prepared for the worst.
  • Never travel alone at night, especially women. Do not be the last one to be dropped off in a group of you are a female in a taxi.
  • Do not leave the keys in your vehicle or your car engine running when you are not in your car.
  • If you suspect that you are being followed, head immediately to the nearest well lit public area and call the police.
  • When you go out to a restaurant or bar, do not leave your purse, bags, cell phone or ANY valuable on the table or hanging on your chair, keep a close eye on your belongings.
  • Keep a close eye on your drink and do not receive any closed beverage that has been opened already, especially for women.
  • Try not to drink too much you could be taken advantage of in an intoxicated state.
  • When at a bar be aware of who is watching you. Many people will invite you to dance leaving your friend to watch your stuff, then they send another person to invite them to dance leaving all your personal belongings alone.
  • Also take your belongings with you if you head to the restroom.
  • If you must carry a purse or bag, hold it in front of you close to your body and make sure that it is shut. Try not to carry around too many valuables.
  • Don't wear flashy jewelry or clothes, real or not especially in San Jose.
  • When at home keep your doors locked. Be very aware of who is hanging around when you open and close your doors as people try to sneak into closing garage doors etc.
  • If someone is armed then take the threat seriously. If you feel your life is at risk try and make the person see you more as a person and less of a target. Tell them as many personal things you can, tell them about your family and ask them about theirs.
  • When encountering a threatening or hostile individual, do NOT resist. If that person wants is your belongings so give them to them;  NOTHING you carry is worth your life or serious injury. In case of emergency call 911 from any telephone. 911 operators may not know English so try and know some basic emergency Spanish.
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