Costa Rica Safety Information for Foreigners – Retiring in Costa Rica, Part 5

police officers patrolling downtown San Jose
Police officers patrolling downtown San Jose

Drawn to the tropical country by the pleasant all year round weather, the lower cost of living and better healthcare, the number of foreigners opting to retire in Costa Rica is rising. In deciding whether to follow the same path, one aspect you should consider is the level of safety in the country.

Though Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in Latin America, the situation is still different from what you might be used to in the US, Canada or UK. For one, it is a developing country, which often translates into a higher rate of crime.

It is also situated in an area with a heavy illegal traffic flow of drugs between Colombia and the United States. On the good side, you can easily find places where crime prevalence is quite low. These are ideal places to settle in.

Crime and Safety Statistics

The most reported crime by foreigners visiting and living in Costa Rica is petty theft. This includes mugging, pick pocketing, passport theft and purse snatching. In 2012, 1,040 US passport thefts were reported. Encouragingly, this figure dropped to 871 in 2013.

Credit card fraud is also pretty common with 916 victims reported in 2012. Sexual crimes against foreigners are low with 11 Americans reporting sexual assaults in 2013 (source: OSAC Costa Rica Safety & Crime Report 2014).

In 2014, the country saw an increase in violent crime. Homicide increased from 411 in 2013 to 471 in 2014; a 14.6% rise. Crimes involving breaking and entering also rose by 6.9% across Costa Rica (source:

Costa Rica Crime Prevalence

An important fact to take away from Costa Rica safety information is that crime, especially violent one, is on the rise. But violent crimes are limited to specific areas such as Limon, San Carlos, Alajuela and San Jose. These areas attract a high number of tourists and settlers. For safety reasons therefore, you should consider retiring in the countryside where crimes are much less prevalent.

When travelling, be on the lookout for petty crimes such as pick pocketing and mugging. There have also been cases of criminals puncturing a car’s tires and then following it until it pulls over. Under the guise of helping you, your belongings are stolen.

When it comes to civil unrest, protests are few and mostly peaceful. You should still try to avoid all protests, big and small.

Costa Rica Safety Tips

  • If possible, do not carry your original passport outside, only a copy of it. Leave your original somewhere secure such as a safe.
  • Avoid spending too much time in high traffic areas such as shopping malls, nightclubs and crowded tourist areas. This is especially if you have valuables with you.
  • When travelling to tourist attractions or entertainment spots, it is best to be in a group of people you know.
  • Do not walk around after dark especially in urban areas like San Jose.
  • When driving, keep all doors and windows locked. Any valuables should be on the floor where someone passing by will not see them.
  • Do not stop in isolated areas when driving.
  • Always carry with you or memorize emergency contact information for the police, ambulance or a friend in case you get into trouble.

Crime in Costa Rica has changed, and not for the better. But this is not to mean that retiring in Costa Rica is a dangerous affair. You just have to observe the right safety tips.