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Crime in Costa Rica

January 6th, 2007

I get a fair number of emails asking about crime in Costa Rica… so maybe it is time to cover this topic once more.

Crime here, it is getting worse and I have no problem saying so. It is certainly different than when I first stepped off the boat. Saying that though, the crime is pretty well confined to two areas: San Jose (the city), and areas where tourists congregate. It is NOT country wide.

This is true for the US as well. A small town in Iowa is NOT the same as life in LA.

Increasing also are the areas where North Americans tend to congregate… “Gringo Enclaves” such as Escazu or Santa Ana are reporting more and more crime.

I find this pretty amusing (the irony, not the crime) that Gringos moved there in the first place to be comfortable living with other Gringos. They perceive safety (in numbers) living behind those gated communities while not actually having to deal with the “natives”. They do not want to learn Spanish and have no desire to integrate into the Latin culture. That is fine and is their right!

This, however, lets the bad guys know where the (real or perceived) wealth is located and the most convenient locations for robbery and home invasions, the two most popular pastimes! They actually moved TO a targeted area!

The irony here is that those North Americans who do NOT live in the enclaves, but rather live in any of thousands of other areas NOT known for a Gringo population almost never report break-ins, robberies or for that matter ANY crime at all! In fact, in ALL the years I have lived here, not once have I heard of a crime committed against a North American family living in… oh say… San Isidro for example. Oh I am SURE there has been of course… I just never heard about it!

However, I know a ton of people who live in areas like San Ramon, Cuidad Colon, Grecia, Zarcero, Athenas and so on who NEVER have problems. Many never even lock their doors and still leave their car keys in the car!! A bonus! Their cost of living is a fraction of what it takes to live in an enclave!

The difference??

These folks came to Costa Rica for the reason they WANTED to integrate. They WANTED to learn the language and they see the far-older Latin culture as what it is… something special. As they can speak a bit of Spanish, they make (Tico) friends and those friends then watch out for each other!

My wife and I just had dinner last week with a couple (Barb and Wally) from Canada who bought a finca in Perez Zeledon. Ask THEM about crime. It does not exist for them except on TV and La Nacion.

So if there is an answer… or a lesson… examine why you are coming here and what are your intentions.

If you want to enjoy the expatriate lifestyle to the max by learning a foreign language… immersing yourself and your family in a wonderful culture, want little (or no) problem with crime, consider NOT hiding out. Rent or buy something in an area inhabited by Ticos. You will not be sorry.

However, if you want to rent or buy a home or condo in one of the enclaves, live in San Jose or in high crime tourist areas like Jaco or Tamarindo, well… you made the choice… now accept what goes with that choice. You will be at a far higher risk of crime.


It is also possible you just LIKE to live in the city! If so… learn to deal with the every day crime and violence exactly as you would if you lived IN Miami or Chicago.

102 Responses to “Crime in Costa Rica”

  1. Tim on January 15, 2008 3:39 pm

    I agree with this. It is good advice.

  2. Cods on January 26, 2008 9:29 pm

    Sounds to me like you not only need a gun but a conceiled handgun law too. A few rounds of 000 buckshot out of a 12 guage will protect you and your home. A .45LC on your person will protect you on the street. Both will make them think twice especially if they know anyone they approach may be carrying. The castle law is a wonderful and just law ! I work in some rough high crime places and have seen and experienced plenty. Not since the right to carry law and the expanded castle laws were past. I carry a big .45 and while it is conceilled it is very obvious it is there and what it is. No one has approached me nor my coworkers. It may be crude but trust me, you won’t be mugged or pick pocketed. I have been to CR before and loved it in 2000 and really thought about a move as I am retiring soon but after what I have seen here the crooks,police or locals wouldn’t like us and our ways of protecting our lives and property and we would protect them !

  3. Brian of Valle Azule on February 11, 2008 11:36 pm

    I read most of the emails. Crime is everywhere. A California legislator Ron Perata was car jacked in broad daylight and over 20 people were killed by gun fire in the bay area last Saturday night.
    The people of Costa Rica that I have met are the honest ones. The crooks have been from Holland or the US.
    If you are stupid and leave yourself exposed, you will be robbed anywhere. New York safe? You are kidding. The cops told my wife she was not holding her purse tight enough and they were surprised we had not been mugged.
    Miami, on our last trip I saw more bars on homes and big dogs in Miami than in Costa Rica.
    We have two properties in CR. In the Tambor area and in Guapiles.
    Have we had problems, sure. but nothing worse than the US. Most US homes have electronic security and hired security guards in gated communities, Laguna Beach CA.
    Crooked cops, some are crooked in every community.
    Costa Rica has to invest in police as we finally did years ago. I have many Tico friends that I trust with my family and my property. I know some Ticos that I would never trust with my trash, just like the US.
    There are people all over the world that are good and bad.
    In CR you need to be wise and careful, just like any where else in the world.
    Ask the 20 churches in England that lost their copper roofs over the last 90 days due to the theft of the copper roofs.
    Be safe.

  4. MiMi on March 15, 2008 12:24 am

    what are the boat harbors like? are they high crime areas also? my husband and two young children are planning trip to check CR our via sailboat. are there still pirates out there? if so, where are they? are the beaches really getting that dirty as i have read? i thought Costa Rica was supposed to be the “proper” of the Latin countries? i am grieved to read about the criminal injustice that sounds to be running rampant. so sad.

    are Christians targets also? I know religious crimes are on the uprise also. I have two young children that I love very much. I would hate to jump out of the American melting pot into the Costa Rican frying pan of fear and crime!

  5. cape cod mike on March 16, 2008 7:19 pm

    I lived in CR for about 6 months in the late 70s….living the surfers dream. Have always wanted to return and thinking seriously of buying a building lot in a gated golf community. Just one question……..why would companies like Ritz Carlton, One and Only, Four Seasons, etc invest so much in an area that is so bad that once a person visits they will never return….just a thought.

  6. jaik on March 20, 2008 5:56 am

    im from russia but born and raised in middle east amman jordan. after living here i n amman for 37 years(all my life) here is some of the latest crimes i read in local news papers offcourse the ones not known by the public are much more horrible, new born babys thrown in plastic bags in or near garbige containers, old man dies in hospital doctors and head of hospital arrested invistigation for cause still going, 5 yrs old boy missing for 3 weeks now last seen playing in the street infront of his house. half million$ stollin from money exchange shop in zarqa city 20 k.m from amman . actually lot of bad things happen that are much worse. i have a little girl almost 5 yrs her mother cuban im divorced, i,ve been doing some research on costa rica and with all its ups and downs i feel its a nice place i will give it a try this coming june, in few months time but i like to find a place with locals if i can rent a room or little place. every where you go theres good and bad you have to deal with it and find a place for some peace of mind , some thing i truely need these days.

  7. jaik on March 20, 2008 6:01 am

    my girl is coming with me for this trial trip. is that a good idea?

  8. Karen on March 27, 2008 9:11 am

    Back in 2005 my husband and I (with our 5 year old daughter) decided that we would try a move to Costa Rica. We did all the research that we could humanly possibly do. We even spoke with a C.R. friend in the US for advice as to where to go, etc. We had visited C.R. once before in ’96, never San Jose, only the northern coast and the area around Tabacon and we loved it. However, the moment we arrived in C.R. the second time, we could tell how things really have changed for the worse. We were warned at the car rental agency ooutsie of the ariport about crime and that the latest trend was about thieves following you while driving and the moment you stopped at a light or sign, they would slash the tires of your car, wait for you to stop to change the tire. Once you stop to change the tire, they move in on their crime and rob you of all of your belongings. Well, we read the warning and did not think it could happen to us, but it did on the second day we were there. The crime did not conclude itself because we stopped to change our slashed tire in front of the entrance to a business with armed guards in the front. We knew we were being followed so we drove until we found a spot we felt safe to change our tire (we didn’t care if we broke the rim or anything else)! That same day, we drove back to the airport, called our travel agent in the US, cancelled our tickets (had to pay a fine for doing that) and flew back to the US. I will not recommed C.R. to anyone. I think the dream is gone, humans have ruined it, just like they have ruined everything else. I rather deal with all the uncertainty in the US than to live in a lawless country. Paradise is only in our heads (we learned this the hard way). There are many other problems in C.R. besides crime; poor infrastructure, kidnappings, etc. etc. It is not worth it. Just to think of what could have happened to my family for making such a crazy “adventurous decision”. And no, C.R. is not any better than Honduras, Salvador, Nicaragua or Colombia. I have many friends from all these countries and the reality is that all these countries are plagued with the same identical problems. The title of C.R. being the Switzerland of Central America is deceiving and not a reality at all. Lastly, it is not cheap, the prices are comparable to the high prices in Miami. Good luck to you all.

  9. MiMi on March 31, 2008 1:16 pm

    sounds like it doesn’t matter whether you are Christian or pagan-crime see’s opportunity and not faces, huh? does anyone know about the harbors though, for sailors? i have heard that Tambor is nice, is that true? or is the whole country corrupt?

  10. Brooke on April 10, 2008 11:09 am

    I have yet to go to Costa Rica but I am planning on going to Tamarindo Beach to learn to speak spanish. After reading some of the comments from above I would get my hopes up about that “yes..this won’t be bad at all!” Then there were some comments where it is making me think twice about going. I am from North America and even a few members of my family who married into the Spanish culture tell me not to go to Costa Rica because it’s as if I would be a moving target. After reading that Tamarindo Beach was a big crime spot because of tourism I’m not sure if I would go. I have already traveled to Europe and Costa Rica is yet another stop on my traveling list but I just need some pointers on what to do so if I do go I emerse myself in the culture without getting lost,robbed, or scared.

  11. Tim on April 11, 2008 6:31 am

    Not sure why you would pay the slightest attention to anyone’s opinion who doe not even live here… but

    Just use common sense when traveling and there will be no problems.

  12. soflodoug on April 11, 2008 8:38 pm

    All of the stories are believable and most likely true. I lived in cr for 9 months. I spent the first 3 getting my house robbed and the other 6 collecting from ins insurance,however i was lucky I sold my house in 2 weeks!
    Dont worry about buying property in cr you can always sell it,there is always another sucker coming off the plane.
    However for the more cosmopolitan person who doesent want to live with the “poor people” too close check out panama,great prices,no realestate taxes for 20 years and prices of televisions and much much more 1/3 to 1/2 the prices of costa rica.
    In Costa rica use your common sense to the utmost and trust your gut at all times,sure some people are friendly but costa ricans are not used to americans as panamanians are,and the cultural differences can drive some people crazy,like me,but I like the more relaxed feeling of the culture as I am single and love the beautiful women.
    But again I think the big issue is not to live too close to the poor people,or you will get robbed.
    Tint the windows of your car dark as possible and just go about your business like you know what you are doing. If you have questions about panama let me know I am a licensed realestate professional and own property in pamama and I may even invest again in costa rica soon.

  13. sean on April 12, 2008 8:12 am

    I recently returned from CR on a two week trip. We spent time in San Jose and Jaco. Common sense and street savy is a must if you are going to visit there. At first I reserved a car for my trip, but then was advised against it. There are taxis everywhere and they are very cheap, most times under 2.00 including 4 passengers. Rental cars are a bullseye for thieves.
    There aren’t very many good maps of Costa Rica so if you’re not sure where you are going I would hire transport. I hired a taxi for a 100.00 to take me to Jaco from San Jose and it was well worth it. Once in Jaco we walked everywhere, or hired a taxi for about 1.40. I probably wouldn’t take my wife and daughter next time I go unless we stayed in nice hotels which are expensive. There is 24 hour armed security at the nicer hotels.
    I wouldn’t advise walking around at night alone, but it isn’t necessary. Remember this is a third world nation! The police aren’t going to get your handbag back if it’s stolen. So don’t take your handbag outside! I’ve been told that in Jaco the police won’t even write a report if the theft isn’t over 1000.00. Don’t wear jewelry or expensive watches. Costa Ricans are simple people. Try to blend in a little. Don’t be flamboyant and bring attention to yourself. And don’t look like you are lost.
    I would apply all the same rules to visiting New York City. Actually I percieved a much higher threat of danger whenever I visit New York.

    I can’t wait to return to this very beautiful, magnificant, wonderful and exciting country!

  14. Tim on April 12, 2008 8:52 am

    Finally… someone who “gets it!”

    Everything he mentions falls under the “common sense” category… though I disagree CR is third world… more like second world. Bangladesh is third world 🙂

    Nice comment.

  15. jaik on April 21, 2008 12:28 am

    can any one give a comparison between venezuela and costa rica regarding cost of living safety and the locals.

  16. m j on April 23, 2008 6:46 am

    My college age son and a friend are coming to CR to work on a charter fishing boat . Im not for it but you cant stop them. Any thoughts?

  17. Tim on April 23, 2008 7:15 am

    Well… all depends on how mature is your son and of course how bright he is. I know a fair number of college age kids who act very mature and act intelligently and use caution and common sense. On the other hand I know of a ton of 50 years old men who behave like teenagers.

    I presume he knows that he absolutely can NOT work here legally which places him in the position of being arrested at any time. If he is deported he will be barred from re-entering CR.

    Beach areas in general are higher crime areas which usually does not affect adult travelers as they are not stupid enough to be walking on the beaches at night or on the streets at 2 AM after closing a bar.

    A 20 year old though may think he is bullet proof (figuratively!) and sadly, many have the common sense of a artichoke.


  18. Andie on May 3, 2008 3:25 pm

    Wow! There’s a lot of differing opinions here.

    I spent 9 days in CR this last February and loved it. My boyfriend spent a month and a half and loved it so much he decided to buy a small condo in a gated community for vacations. We spent the bulk of our time in Jaco (we also travelled north & south of there) and although it most definitely is a party town, it was still lovely and fun and we had no problems whatsoever. We even had a rental vehicle with no troubles. Taxis were cheap if we went out drinking. We spent the late late evenings back at the condo – not wandering around town to get mugged :o) This gated community, though small, is half part-time gringo and half full-time local Costa Ricans. Almost all are friends of ours and it was a wonderful place to stay and spend time in CR. I felt very safe, and our friends watch the place as they are full-time residents!

    There are still a ton of places that do not have barred windows, as opposed to Cruiser’s post in December 2007:
    (“In every town in Costa Rica, on just about every house you will see bars. The bars are for one reason: If you don’t have them you’re getting robbed, period.” ).
    My boyfriend’s cousin has lived in CR since he was a child & currently lives in Guanacaste in a small town with his CR girlfriend and child and doesn’t see many problems there. Most of the houses in that town do not have bars. The people are friendly and neighborly, and he knows many of them well. He rents a home and it is very inexpensive. His life is not overly lavish but he has all the necessities and most of the simple luxuries that we all have – he’s not poor, by any means!

    I’m not saying that there’s not crime. But for crying out loud be intelligent about travelling.

    I wouldn’t necessarily recommend renting a car, although we did. It is quite expensive, the maps aren’t very good, and GPS isn’t always helpful. The driving is about the only fast thing in CR, and if you don’t really really pay attention, you could get in an accident as people don’t often follow what we consider to be basic traffic rules (ie: they pass on curves and stop for no apparent reason) ;o) Buses and taxis are so cheap anyways.

    I don’t know…just don’t let other people’s few bad experiences scare you away from visiting CR, if that’s what you want to do. I loved it and will be coming back every year!

  19. Cy Bolinger on May 4, 2008 3:23 pm

    Having occasionally submitted comments for The Real Costa Rica blog, here I go again. Just returned from San Jose, Wednesday (the 30th) and, while ever so slowly, braving customs at the Houston airport, I mused about “thoughts Costa Rican” to my lovely wife. They need addressing (those thoughts, that is)! We were returning from our final trip to find a house and make the all important decision on where to permanently live in tiny little Costa Rica with a big heart and “Pura Vida”. Well, it was not an easy task (finding a place to live) after all, there are so many truly beautiful parts of this country, the choice is very difficult, but one thing we were certain of: –no gated American communities, or enclaves, or too many other newly built places around San Jose and bunches of fried chicken franchises, Burger King and Mcdonald’s, playing to the all time fat-ness of Americana. Aha! I finally discovered the foibles of what’s growing like a cancer in Costa Rica. Simple. It’s us Americans. If you don’t believe me, check out the hordes of Americans filling up the hotels, restaurants, all the touristy places and then deciding maybe it would be a good idea to just move down there where things are cheaper! It’s becoming scam artists’ delight, hawking wares of everything from American builders and developers, blog-site list hustles (not “The Real Costa Rica”), tours, residency services, services for nefarious junkets to gambling places and even “oldest profession in the world” brothels. It’s all about the DNA or life’s blood of scam artists all over the world. Greed and suckers, by golly! Real suckers! and, who’s a better sucker than another American? We have many friends all over Costa Rica who complain about too many ugly Americans in the land of “Pura Vida”. I hate to say it, but many of those friends are either jealous about not being innovative enough to get into the “hustling” acts, or, too naive to realize they/we are victims of our own undoing, and sitting ducks –just waiting for the slight of hand of our own kind, better still, Ticos who are at the top of the learning curve of having Americans figured out. How can we blame this rapidly growing discord in a country of refinement, beauty and all of the good things? We really need to look in the mirror.
    Cy Bolinger

  20. Walter on May 18, 2008 9:56 am

    To the owner of this blog!
    Sir, I find the following comment very offensive and I think you’re absolutely delirious.

    The owner of this blog wrote: “I find this pretty amusing (the irony, not the crime) that Gringos moved there in the first place to be comfortable living with other Gringos. They perceive safety (in numbers) living behind those gated communities while not actually having to deal with the “natives”. They do not want to learn Spanish and have no desire to integrate into the Latin culture. That is fine and is their right”

    First of all you’re wrong. You and any other American who thinks they can come to Costa Rica, not assimilate the culture, not learning the language which is Spanish and spewing the “right” to not integrate? Pal, I have every right to retaliate against comments like this because I’ve lived in the States for 13 years straight.
    Every year that lived here I heard how if we, the immigrants, wanted to be Americans or American Like, we had to abide, assimilate, learn and integrate to the American lifestyle. Not doing so would render us, undesirables.

    Well, I’d like to slap the concept in your face now. I’m going back home and after being a proud American Like immigrant, I’m proud to say I paid my taxes, obeyed the laws, assimilated the culture, improved on my English, and socialized with the locals. It wasn’t out of options, I had no choice.

    As I type, I can’t stop thinking of how I will make sure the same nonsense I endured here doesn’t spread in my beautiful Costa Rica.

    If you, or any other American wants to go to Costa Rica, you will have to abide by our laws, learn our language, assimilate our lifestyle and not doing so doesn’t constitute your right!

    What makes you better than us Costa Ricans who come to your country to do as you say and have you not do as we say? What are you out of your mind?

    I will absolutely dissagree with any gringo or any other NON COSTA RICAN CITIZEN wanting to come to my beautiful Costa Rica to do as they please. Costa Rica is not your ground to do as you please sir nor it is your playground.

    As immigrants you will be treated as such, exactly as we immigrants were treated here. You gave us, we will give you, you granted, we will grant, you provided we will provide.

    Don’t forget, that there are immigrants here in the United States who are going back home filled with knowledge, wealth, skills and with a taste of the American lifestyle and we will make sure, the same way we were treated here in the states is the same was we will treat you there, in Costa Rica.

    God bless everyone! Not just america!

  21. Estefan on May 20, 2008 4:11 pm

    Walter, it would appear you just never bothered to read anything written by this blog owner or, like so many people these days, you simply chose to take words out of context. Your comment is not only 100% wrong, but if you really are Costa Rican, you have lived far too long in the USA.

    Did you not get it that he was telling people how dumb they were to live with a bunch of other “Gringos” as opposed to living in a Tico neighborhood where they could lean the language and adapt?

    To wit:

    “First of all you’re wrong. You and any other American who thinks they can come to Costa Rica, not assimilate the culture, not learning the language which is Spanish and spewing the “right” to not integrate? Pal, I have every right to retaliate against comments like this because I’ve lived in the States for 13 years straight.
    Every year that lived here I heard how if we, the immigrants, wanted to be Americans or American Like, we had to abide, assimilate, learn and integrate to the American lifestyle. Not doing so would render us, undesirables.”

    What are you talking about?

    First, this blogger has written at least twenty times that foreignors living in Costa Rica absolutely must learn the language in order to enjoy life here and to fit in to the culture. They must respect the laws and if they do not like them, they should return to the own country. How you possibly could get anything other than that indicates that you surely have trouible undertanding plain English!

    “Well, I’d like to slap the concept in your face now. I’m going back home and after being a proud American Like immigrant, I’m proud to say I paid my taxes, obeyed the laws, assimilated the culture, improved on my English, and socialized with the locals. It wasn’t out of options, I had no choice.”

    Good for you! That is exactly what this blogger has said ANY foreigner must do to live here and enjoy it. How you got anything else from his posts is beyond me.

    “If you, or any other American wants to go to Costa Rica, you will have to abide by our laws, learn our language, assimilate our lifestyle and not doing so doesn’t constitute your right!

    What makes you better than us Costa Ricans who come to your country to do as you say and have you not do as we say? What are you out of your mind?”

    If someone is out of their mind buddy, it is YOU.

    1. American does NOT mean Gringo. ANYONE from north America, south America or Central America is AMERICAN. Maybe YOU meant North American? In any case, I have never seen this blogger say anyone did not have to obey laws in Costa Rica. What nonsense!

    2. There is no law here that says anyone has to learn Spanish much less assimilate the culture. Costa Rica is a free and democratic country and makes no such demands on foreigners. Some people do, some don’t, but there is no law that says it is required. Why speaking Spanish is not even required if a foreigner applies for Costa Rica citizenship. Did you know that?

    The guy who writes this blog and the main web site state clearly that learning Spanish and appreciating the culture is something that should be done if ANY foreighner want to truly enjoy life here. He constantly tells people how their lives will be more enjoyable if they do learn Spanish, but make no mistake, it is not required by anyone much less the Costa Rica government.

    He stated:

    “They do not want to learn Spanish and have no desire to integrate into the Latin culture. That is fine and is their right”

    He is correct! That is their right. If they want to live with a bunch of other people from their country and never do anything to to join in, that is their right. There is again no law that says different. Go to New York, Chicago, LA or any big US city and you will find whole neighborhoods where there is no English spoken, they have their own newspapers, TV and radio stations. That is their right just as it is here. I am glad you learned and tried to adapt, but as you well know, you did not have to. You chose to in order to fit and perhaps make a better living.

    “I will absolutely dissagree with any gringo or any other NON COSTA RICAN CITIZEN wanting to come to my beautiful Costa Rica to do as they please. Costa Rica is not your ground to do as you please sir nor it is your playground.”

    Where did he say that??

    It is unbelievable that you read his words yet understood not one thing he was trying to say. In case you have not kept up with the enormous increase in violent crime here, let me send you a message. It is not the North Americans that are the problem. It is foreigners the large majority of whom DO speak Spanish and have no respect for Costa Rica.

    A larger number of criminal every day are Ticos and are gang members.

    The foreign criminals do not care. Many brag that if caught, and they are all the time, and are deported, they just come back the following week. WHy? Because Costa Rica seldom jails them. The just deport them and back they come a few days later because Costa Rica is easy on criminals, especially foreign criminals.

    I have lived here for almost 20 years and I have never once read about US citizens hijacking cars, murdering people, robbing tourists or anything else like that.

    Also, I visit my home near LA and travel frequently to the US. There are no laws there that say anyone need learn English. In fact there are areas where nobody speaks one word of English. California schools are faced with this all the time.

    I read your comment twice and for sure, you have no idea what you are talking about. Maybe if you really are Costa Rican, you are referring to a Costa Rica from many years ago. Belive me, that Costa Rica is gone.

    I will not say I agree with every single word this guy writes, but of all the web sites and blogs on Costa Rica, this is only one that never disrespects the Costa Rica people and never tries to sell out Costa Rica. He speaks bluntly and tells the truth, and over the past several years, I know of only once where I did not think he hit the nail squarely on the head. He tells people what they need to know if they plan to live here.

    You sir, just have no clue about what you are writing about and if you have one ounce of class, you would post a retraction comment so you do not look so foolish.

  22. Tim on May 21, 2008 7:46 am

    Well I guess since I have such a strong defender that there is no need to reply to Walter directly 🙂

    But I will suggest that Walter read my numerous posts here and in the http://www.therealcostarica.com web site on this topic.

    While Estefan is correct about there being no laws making it a requirement to learn Spanish or far that matter to learn anything about Latin culture, to live in a foreign country and make no attempt to learn the native language and the culture is, in my mind, just rude and demonstrates a lack of respect for the host country. I know when I lived in Chicago, a place known for its ethnic neighborhoods, it really irritated me that so many people could not speak one word of English. They did not even try but they sure enjoyed the benefits of living there.

    In any case, you pretty much did miss my whole point Walter, but no apology is necessary. I did notice though that you do seem to carry a LOT of emotional problems about Gringos in general and your experiences in particular. Probably learned behavior while in the US. You need to get back here. The US is fouling up your life. Tim (Blog Owner)

  23. Judi on June 1, 2008 9:49 pm

    I’m not an expert, but have been to CR twice in the last two months. Once alone and once with my 20 year old daughter. I rented a car both times and drove extensively (but, I am from West Virginia originally and the roads in the mountains there are similar). The GPS from Budget was tons better than the one from Avanti. I managed to get everywhere I wanted – even all the way to Montezuma and back.

    As a woman traveling alone once and with my daughter once, I felt safe enough – maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. But, I’ve lived all over the US and traveled plenty. I can say that I felt alot safer in Costa Rica than the last few times I went to NY City or when I’ve had to go through a lockdown because of ‘gang activity’ where I work.

    At the same time, it didn’t seem as safe as my ‘high end’ neighborhood in the Denver suburbs – but I didn’t expect that. People were pretty friendly, encouraged me to try out my little bit of Spanish, spoke slowly so I could understand them, and even the policeman that stopped me for speeding just gave me a warning ticket. All in all, I had good experiences and loved the country because of the people, weather, and beauty of the landscape.

  24. brian on June 6, 2008 6:11 pm

    resaerching CR / looking at a opp to train these overwhelming gun ownerships down there in proper use and handling with personal protection activities.
    um` my first seruios look at the CR to get away from the u.s. effect and am finding why the ownership issue is up.
    i have always thought and wondered about S.A. argentina, CR , but am not retired or really have that type of steady income . so working part time to live free was the goal . now, with my experience with instruction i found a possible money avenue , but lost the other . peace – leave me alone – forget about it all . let ca. sink ? exile and intergrate with simpler peoples with out stress, image or ego – be eco , ect….
    now, what`s goin down there sounds to be a change that can be nipped in the ass!(crime) should and has too. if any one would like to properly fill me in or is already connected down there , knowing some people or travel companions is good if this opp works out. i also could work something out for those already down there that may have some security concerns-

  25. Cy Bolinger on June 7, 2008 9:55 am

    I have read and re-read the disgust of Walter’s post (May 18), taking pot-shots at you and, I guess, since his post is right below mine (May 4) even me! When I first read the Walter message, I blew it off thinking he was reading too fast, drinking too much and got his reply mixed between other posts. Not! I read it again this morning (including Estefan’s great reply) and I wonder if Walter’s post is representative of people misunderstanding people? While this character deserves a bunch of descriptive adjectives for making bumbling and untrue remarks about you and “The Real Costa”, I believe he just might be a finely tuned and misguided fellow who represents a coterie of intellectual pygmy-type blog-readers. I refer to “The Real Costa” web-site on a weekly basis and even more often. I simply can’t trust other Costa Rica blogs and sources and I absolutely know the truth is in “The Real Costa Rica”.
    Cy Bolinger

  26. Tim on June 8, 2008 2:39 pm


    NOW what do I say?? Thanks!

    To put it in perspective, the RCR web site gets over 30,000 visitors monthly from nearly every country in the world that has Internet availability.

    This Blog gets about 10,000 visitors monthly. Between the two, I get 200-300 emails weekly.

    This year, Walter was only the second person to say anything negative.

    If only two folks are unhappy out of that many visitors, I am not going to get too worked up over it.

    BTW, the other negative emails were from:

    1. a real estate guy who did not like me telling people to wait and check out CR before buying and telling people only to buy from an agent who is actually a Permanent Resident i.e. legally here. Many, many are not!

    2. Some other people who did not like my Post on satellite Internet and telling people how it is illegal here (unless purchased from ICE/RACSA. Odd! They were in the satellite sales/installation biz! 🙂

  27. Holly on June 19, 2008 12:12 pm

    Encontre mucha informacion util en este blog. Voy a Costa Rica en Septiembre por tres meses. Voy a estudiar en el region de San Jose- Universidad Veritas. I’ve been studying Spanish for 5 years now, so I am really excited to actually be going to a place where I can fully immerse myself into the language and culture! If anybody has any stories etc. about studying in San Jose or just any tips, it would really please me! I’m super excited but also un poquito scared.

  28. amanda on July 7, 2008 12:47 pm

    Question: I am moving to CR soon and I can’t seem to find out if renter’s insurance exists. I don’t have very much stuff, but it would be a burden to have to replace my computer and such without insurance.

    Does anyone know if renter’s insurance (particularly against theft) exists in CR? or does anyone have any experiences with it?


  29. Jaime on July 11, 2008 9:00 am


    I first visited Costa Rica as a 19-year old student in 1991 with a study-abroad group. I returned to study again in 1993, a trip which solidified my fluency, giving me near-native proficiency.

    In 1998, I begain bringing my own students to Costa Rica and have done so ever since. This year, 2008, was an eye-opening experience.

    Petty Theft in Costa Rica is not just a problem. IT’S AN EPIDEMIC! Petty theft is a profession because it is not punishable by law under $500.00. Criminals have nothing to lose and at least your camera, purse, or back-pack to gain. San José is not safe at night. Anything goes. It’s almost a lawless society without consequences. Almost everyone has a story about being asaltado o robado. Avoid Downtown San José completely. Go no further than the Museo Nacional and the vendors immediately in front of the museum.

    Yo amo Costa Rica porque es parte de quien soy, pero: if you go, you better be alert, never let your guard down, and pretend that you belong there, radiating confidence. If you are fair-complected, blonde, red-headed, or obviously “American,” you are a walking target so do everything in your power to make others think differently. If you are a student, I wouold not carry a back-pack. Even if you only have books, los ladrones are going to thing you have something else. Just carry your books.

    Speak Spanish, adopt Tico customs, be polite, but internally be vigilant and thinking about the “what-ifs.” Avoid “crazy-looking” people, and always be on the look-out for suspicious types. Develop a plan as you go. Look for stores to enter for safety if needed or just until a supicious person is out of sight.

    Sadly, this is now the reality of life in San José for everyone. I am only referring to life in San José. TRAVEL BY TAXI AT NIGHT! NEVER WALK AT NIGHT! DON’T GET DRUNK OR STONED! You will only diminish your control and make yourself an easier target. Stay in control!

    Costa Rica holds some of the most beautiful places on earth so it is worth experiencing. If you can avoid spending time in San José, do so. If not, be smart.

    Fuera de la capital, Costa Rica lives up to the praise of the past.


  30. Paul on July 26, 2008 8:27 pm

    I’ve been to Costa Rica and it is VERY beautiful. Not to mention the pretty women. Or course you have to be careful, as in any place on Earth. I did witness a theft at a busy market in San Jose. Some guy pulled an earring right off a woman’s ear and ran away! But that was the ONLY bad thing I saw on that 3 week trip. And I went by car from San Jose to Jaco to Tamarindo. IE – almost south to north on the west coast. Yes, the roads are bad in parts, but I expected that. If I intended to drive much in Costa Rica I’d own a jeep. But HERE is the real problem. I was looking for a place to buy. Maybe a place overlooking the ocean. Two MAJOR problems came up, and maybe Tim can elaborate. 1) I found oceanfront/view real estate to be almost as expensive as in the U.S.. Half a million dollars just for a view lot. 2) Costa Rica, as far a I know, changed the laws recently. NOW, a foreigner cannot own property in Costa Rica freehold. They own a LEASE!!! This is a huge and terrible development for foreign buyers and current expatriates in Costa Rica. Mexico pulled the same stunt not too long ago. I don’t want to buy a lease… I want to own my property outright. The other thing I heard is, again like Mexico, they have banned development within a certain distance of the shoreline. Meaning all these folks who own lots on, or overlooking, the ocean in Costa Rica can no longer build on them! This is what concerns me most about places like Costa Rica, Mexico, Brazil, etc.. They can change the rules AT ANY TIME. It is their country, not yours. You will always be just a foreigner. In Mexico they took coastal land from foreign owners and did not even pay them. Tim, any thoughts on all this?

  31. Tim on July 27, 2008 9:24 am

    Sure! Hell, I have thoughts on everything 🙂

    1. Oceanfront property in Costa Rica has gotten very expensive and for one simple reason. Like oil, there is a limited quantity and more and more buyers. Just that easy. People are paying ridiculous prices because they believe it will be gone next year. Silly really. It is also why I suggest over and over DO NOT BUY LAND IN COSTA RICA UNTIL YOU HAVE LIVED HERE AT LEAST NINE MONTHS TO A YEAR. If you do, then I can almost promise you that you will overpay by about twice because you just do not know anything and are therefore at the mercy of those pushing real estate.

    2. There have been no changes in these laws nor are any expected. Nobody, not even a Costa Rican, can buy beach front property in Costa Rica and that law has been around for decades. I suggest you read this:

    Costa Rica protects oceanfront property so it can never be closed and sealed off to the public, Costa Rican or tourist. I think it is a great idea, and as no one has EVER owned it, there has never been anyone who “lost” their property rights. Far different from all the countries you mentioned.

    Go over the stated distance from the ocean (200 meters) and you can own ANY property in Costa Rica with one exception; No one but a Costa Rica citizen may own land that touches any Costa Rican international border eg land that lies against the frontiers of Panama or Nicaragua.

    Hope this clarifies!

  32. Paul on July 27, 2008 12:25 pm

    Good information Tim. Thank you for the reply and sorry for posting all these questions under the wrong blog area. I thought this area was a general forum. I agree that protecting the oceanfront makes sense. I also agree that there is no substitute for actually living in a country. I saw a lot in my 3 weeks there, but left with as many questions as answers. So 3 weeks can really only give you the pespective of a tourist. Thanks again, and as the drama continues to unfold here in the U.S… too many depressing things to list… places like Costa Rica are looking better all the time!

  33. Paul on July 27, 2008 1:01 pm

    Since this section is a blog on crime, let me add one thing on that subject. I have lived in 7 countries – China, Canada, Australia, Singapore, U.S., etc. – and many cities too. Crime has been a reality in all of them. I guess Singapore had the lowest crime rate only because the penalties are so severe. They will cane you for even low level crimes – leaving permanent scars. It seems to work. That aside, you just have to be aware of your surroundings. Also, DO NOT show off. Try to blend in. When I lived in Hong Kong, a woman had her hand chopped off just to get her gold bracelets. So show off at your own risk. Understand that in any country comprised of rich and poor, you drive a Ferrari and wear a Rolex at your own risk. Personally, I believe in having a very nice, upscale, house. However, when I walk out the door, I blend right in. That’s how I like it. I’ll spend all day in jeans, a t-shirt, and flip flops. I never did enjoy wearing suits anyway! So that would be my tip to everyone who travels… wherever you go, try to blend in.

  34. John Bundles on July 27, 2008 3:27 pm

    Jaime, if you think petty theft is bad, have you heard of the $1.5 billion that vanished. The Taiwan government gave that as a donation for the Costa Rican government to build housing for the poor. A few weeks later the President and his crew (Alababah and the 40, well you know) betrayed the Taiwanese government who for many years had always been loyal to helping Costa Rica. Costa Rica shut the door on all future relations with Taiwan and welcomed China. The prostitute jumped in the sack with whoever offered the most money. Recently, it has been discovered that the Taiwanese $1.5 billion has mysteriously disappeared. So what else is new here? The petty thief is nothing compared to what goes on behind closed doors. Stick around and and I’ll have a lots more to tell. Digest this first. If you need documentation, I can provide it.

  35. Tim on July 29, 2008 8:48 am

    Ummm… to be accurate here, let’s make that 1.5 MILLION, not billion.

    And just a side note really not to diminish from your comment… all that money from Taiwan was not a freebie. Because of those “gifts” prior administrations did not enforce the fishing laws and allowed Taiwanese fisherman free reign to fish Costa Rica waters. This has caused a HUGE decrease in the sport fishing industry, raised the price of seafood, etc. Doubt this? Ask any sport or commercial fishing company who has operated here for more than ten tears. Used to be that Costa Rica was THE place for the world’s sport fishermen!

    No more.

    When it comes to Costa Rica, it is always important to look for the side NOT so obvious to the public.

  36. John Bundles on August 7, 2008 9:05 pm

    I wrote on July 27, 2008,”Stick around and and I’ll have a lots more to tell.” Well, I didn’t think I would be back so quick and much less did I expect to be reporting something that just happened to me. I just went to Panama on Tracopa bus. When we got to the border crossing and everyone got of the bus, everyone left their backpacks and small bags on the bus. It is a common practice at all border crossings. Usually the only baggage that is checked by customs is the baggage under the bus. Well, it wasn’t until I got to Panama and into my rented room that I opened my backpack and my camera was gone. I presume everyone else (all the passengers) that left their bags on the bus got something stolen also. I’m so mad right now that I could kill. I’m leaving this 3rd world toilet and never coming back. It’s just not worth it. You can have all the beautiful beaches, nature, etc. I prefer going where people aren’t so low life.

  37. Tim on August 9, 2008 9:00 am

    I am sorry this happened, BUT there are MANY travel advisories including mine the The REAL Costa Rica web site to NEVER leave valuables unattended. NEVER… even for 1 minutes!

    Truly, this is Foreign Travel 101.

  38. Robert on September 27, 2008 6:52 am

    How dare you to write this kind of blogs? I don’t go around saying “America is a conutry full of whores, mean people, and white boys which like havin s*x before marriage…”. If you think Costa Rica is a piece of crap that’s your thought, you don’t need to insult someone’s country. And for your information, most people of your FAT country think Costa Rica is quite a perfect place to travel. If you don’t lke the streets, you shouldn’t concentrate in the bad things, but in the GOOD u should. Please don’t continue writing in this blog, visit places like Limon or Conchal or even Fossil Land which is a beatiful and exciting place to travel. There is this tour which you do hiking, you go trough rivers and waterfalls, and at te tend of the tour you slide on a 500 m slide. ENJOY COSTA RICA!

  39. Evan Patey on October 17, 2008 9:55 am

    Well, I find it interesting to hear about opinions of crime in CR by people who have never actually experienced it. I have lived in Costa Rica for over 2 years. I don’t wear bling and I speak spanish and pretty much try to blend-in…. except… I have blond hair. Anyway, I was mugged a group of street kids in San Antonio de Escazu. I live in Escazu and always considered it very safe to walk around, as opposed, to my former digs in Chicago. Well, it finally happened to me. I know of gringos that have been mugged just like me. Once it happens to you, it will certainly change your opinion of the state of crime in Costa Rica.

  40. Jim Bundle on October 28, 2008 8:19 pm

    Looks like one of the leading magazines doesn’t seem to care much about Costa Rica. I guess that just confirms all the negative news I’ve been been reading and also personally witnessing. Of course, a sweet talking realtor will never tell you about this article or the millions of other commentaries in the letters section (click search this site) of http://www.amcostarica.com


  41. Eric on January 7, 2009 8:29 pm

    Tim (et al),

    Thanks for putting together such an informative site. I run an internet site myself with thousands of members and can appreciate the ongoing effort. Everything I read from you here seems thoughtful and concise, a veritable “voice of reason” as it were.
    My wife and I and 4 other couples are renting a villa in the vicinity of Quepos for a couple weeks later this year. We are more than aware of the “Ugly American” issue everywhere and take great pains to be as unobtrusive, gracious and grateful as we can be wherever we go.
    I have read a lot here regarding petty theft and crime. I do agree with you about common sense and not turning yourself into a walking opportunity but how does one not let that impact the vacation?
    For instance, I am an ex-professional photographer and do enjoy taking photos with a digital SLR. Normally when traveling I keep it in a backpack and pull it out just to shoot photos, but when I read here about just wearing an expensive watch can “mark” you, won’t my pulling out my camera just to take a picture “mark” me as well? everyone in the group has at least point & shoot cameras and I wonder if using them will make us targets?
    Our “group” has been going to the Riviera Maya the past few years and this year decided to try something different in coming to CR. Realistically can you or anyone else tell me if my walking the streets of Playa Del Carmen (also something we wouldn’t do at night) is any different than walking the streets of Quepos? I have done the research on crime statistics, but as you well know statistics are either lies or damn lies at times and it’s tough to ferret out the truth. Thoughts?
    Thanks for your time! 🙂
    Eric (and the gang)

  42. Tim on January 10, 2009 11:54 am

    You are marked simply because you are a tourist. The camera means nothing.

    Don’t overreact… just use standard caution as you would if walking around any major city in any country.

    Use brains and you will have no issues.

  43. Kyle on February 1, 2009 7:26 am

    I’ve been travelling around Costa Rica for 3 weeks with almost no problems until I arrived in Jaco. Once there I drove our rental vehicle up to a couple cabinas in the north end, parked on the street and left my friend in the car to watch it with all windows down while I ran to check the prices, my friend got out to stretch whilst watching the car still from 10 feet away, then a local came up from behind him and asked him how much the cabinas cost…in the 5 seconds my friend looked away from the car to talk to this guy someone had gone on the other side of the car and pulled my backpack out of the window! While I was extremely angry at first…mostly at my friend for falling for such a stupid scam and for not rolling the windows up before he got out I gotta say Costa Rica has been good for the most part…even though my stolen backpack was worth over $1500 cdn to me along with my passport and all that jazz. The police were not very helpful at all, which was expected and the embassy was a whole other hassle. It’s all just material items I will have to work hard to get back…it does make a vacation seem not so worth while though.

    Anyhow, if anyone ever sees a dark green “Dakine” brand name backpack floating around feel free to send me an email…or just laugh. I try to think that the contents of my bag will feed a poor family for a couple months…or get them the drugs they want to ignore poverty.

  44. Esther on April 19, 2009 12:58 pm

    I’m thinking about San Ramon for retirement – my questions are mainly about utilities – electricity, water and sewer system…..also garbage disposal just came to mind. Please tell me if there is sufficient hot water for showering, etc. Can you use an instant hot water heater….or are there gas and electric options?

  45. JVana on April 26, 2009 10:59 am

    I dont really have an option and soon our family will be relocating to San Jose. I had an impression of quite low crime country and when I read the posts I feel terrified. Mostly because of my young child. I guess it will be quite difficult to blend in the sense that I am tall & fair skin & green eyes & blonde hair woman from Eastern Europe.
    As I understood just my looks will be the mark for dangerous encounters.
    I do worry a lot where to rent a place so my child is safe as safe he can be. Please advise on locations around San Jose.
    I would love to blend with local culture, learn their ways but now I cant really understand how it can be done if walking is already the danger..
    On the other hand I really dont want be living “in the golden cage”.
    I am really concerned. Please advise.

  46. Tim on April 28, 2009 9:10 am

    So don’t live in San Jose. Read this: http://www.therealcostarica.com/moving_to_costa_rica/where_to_live_costa_rica.html

    and the rest of that web site.

  47. JVana on May 1, 2009 12:38 pm

    As I said I dont have an option therefore there was no need to tell me not to move 🙂
    Thank you for the link. I read it couple of times. I was asking for more information on specific locations around San Jose, maybe type of rentals (condo, apartments, house..)

  48. Meghan on May 22, 2009 3:06 pm

    First of all, great site Tim. I have been reading it since before I moved here to Costa Rica, and since I have lived here.

    Reading all of the thoughts and opinions of so many people, it just goes to show you that EVERYONE has their own ones. I am living in Cajon, near Grecia, and have been since April 8th of this year, so not long.
    I have felt very safe walking in town, and made some friends there….the people are amazing. If you ask someone where something is they usually don’t just point, they actually WALK you there!

    So I was extremely dissapointed when my purse was snatched right off my shoulder last Saturday in the park. Granted I was there at night, but I was with a local Tico friend, so I thought I was safe. But heck, even he didn’t see it coming, and was so concerned (and probably embarassed about one of his own stealing from me) that he took me right to the police station. They weren’t any help, even knew who the woman was that took it…apparently some homeless woman who does it ALL the time. But my friend was very helpful and stayed with me right up until I could go home.

    Another plus is that my passport was found in a garbage can by another Tico, along with my notebook with important information and telephone numbers. He called every number in the book looking for me, the Canadian Embassy, and even my parents. He did everything he could to get my passport back to me, and that alone is something to almost counter-act the theft itself.

    My point is that there is crime everywhere you go, no matter what country or culture. There is no way I would feel safe living in ANY big city in the States, heck even Vancouver is going downhill fast, with gangs spreading their violence everywhere. Vancouver is (or WAS) one of the safest, cleanest cities in the world.
    And as far as the comment about the home invasions and gang rapes….THAT happens everywhere too, unfortunately.

    One last thing, about the police “enforcement” in the U.S…well wake up and smell the coffee people, the police in the States are becoming so “enforced” that they are “enforcing” their way into peoples homes without a warrant or anything, and tearing peoples homes apart looking for “things”. One story comes to mind about a poor 82 year old woman that got her house broken into by the POLICE!!

    So unfortunately I have to say it again, no matter where you go, crime and corruption are everywhere.
    So just like anywhere else, the importance of using common sense is unmeasurable.
    And if I have the choice of being robbed in a beautiful country like Costa Rica, or some slimy nasty street in a polluted and stinky city….I’ll take Costa Rica, thank you.
    Know what I mean?

  49. Tim on June 13, 2009 12:14 pm

    Sorry you got robbed… Parks at night are never safe, with or without a companion.

  50. Bodhi on June 16, 2009 12:27 pm


    If you actually live here you know that you can be killed for your shoes in broad daylight almost anywhere that isn’t very crowded.

    Costa Rica is a worthless %^^^hole of a country that only gets worse day by day…..unfortunatley I have two Costa Rican sons who are 10 & 11 years old…..If I didn’t feel obligated to stick around and protect them from the worthles tico culture and try and help them to be in the minority of Ticos who do not smoke crack everyday I would get the %%^&&* out of this worthless terrible godawfull country.

    P.S. Illiteracy here is 65% at least government proaganda about 90% literacy notwithstanding…..65% of Costa Ricans are not literate enough to read the daily newspaper………..

    Sad, Sad situation….25 years ago this was one of the most advanced and literate, and all around sane countries in the western hemisphere………but no longer and probably never again.

    Now…….Well come on down and see for yourself.

    Bodhi Marshall
    Quepos/Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

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