Tips for Preventing Theft in Costa Rica
Every person who visits Costa Rica wants to hear that we have the lowest crime rate in Central America, but it would be irresponsible from us not to point out that this a dubious distinction at best.
Costa Rica has always been safe compared to other countries in Central America. Unfortunately, in the first decade of the 21st century, the crime associated with illegal drugs exploded in the Americas, making the idyllic paradise of Costa Rica less perfect.
It’s hard to tell travelers who are excited about holidays that there are criminals around every corner and they hide in every place, but that’s one of the reasons they end up being easy targets. The vast majority of crimes against tourists in Costa Rica are non-violent thefts of parked cars, belongings left on the beach, luggage in buses and rental houses or hotel rooms while the guests are outside.
Everything seems so calm that people lower their guard and neglect to take precautions. Hikers don’t think about the fact that someone could be just around the corner when they put their camera on a rock to take a dip in the perfect waterfall. Honeymooners are surprised that it is not a safe to leave their bungalow windows open when they go for a walk on the beach.
Fortunately you are reading this so you don’t become the next victim. Use common sense, use the locks on your doors, use the safe in your room, don’t flash wads of cash, do not leave valuables in the car, do not hang up your unattended bag on the back of a chair in a restaurant, do not leave your luggage alone on the beaches and do not give personal information to strangers.
Glass Breaker vehicles stop in traffic, break a window and grab any small valuable item within reach of the passenger or the rear seats. So far no tourist has been victimized. To date, all incidents have occurred in the metropolitan area of San José and 100% of the victims have been Costa Rican women driving alone with their wallets in the passenger seat. To avoid quiebra vidrios, do not drive with valuables such as phones, wallets, backpacks in plain sight.
Recently a traveler reported that they were robbed while sitting in their car in a fenced guarded parking lot of a supermarket near the airport. A passerby knocked on the rear driver’s side window and started pointing animatedly under the car. The driver opens his door, leaned out and down to look while the passerby jabbered incoherently. The driver sat back up just in time to see his small backpack disappearing across the parking lot through the open rear passenger side door. The banging and yelling were just enough of a distraction so the passerby’s partner could snatch whatever was on the seat.
Keep your windows up and doors locked at all times
There is one attack that first became common in 2006 and, despite warnings about it in every rental car agency, is still relatively prevalent today. If you pull out of the airport, hotel, rental agency, or a gas station and get a flat tire in the next mile or so, the guy that magically appears to help out is really distracting you while the other person empties your trunk or back seat. Change it yourself, or drive on the rim to a service station, or back to the airport, rental agency or hotel.
Around San José women started throwing themselves in front of moving vehicles and faking injuries. When drivers stop and open the door to help “victim” they are assaulted by multiple accomplices and robbed.
While violent crime is rare, thefts, especially towards tourists, are common. The most likely places for things to disappear from are cars (locked or not), beaches, bus luggage compartments, and hotel rooms.
– Don’t leave anything of value inside your car.
– In the bus keep an eye on the luggage compartment at stops to make sure it isn’t “accidentally” unloaded.
– Keep your windows up and doors locked at all times.
– Leave the original passport in the hotel safe and carry only a photocopy with you.