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How to Travel Safely in Costa Rica
A few simple precautions and facts that can keep you safe, healthy and happy during your trip to the land of pura vida -- Costa Rica.
By: Alex Baackes, Executive Editor, alexinwanderland.com
Costa Rica has long lured travelers with its friendly people, fascinating culture, beautiful beaches, and exotic wildlife. And those who wish to travel there have little to deter them -- Costa Rica is often referred to as the safest country in Central America. The country boasts a long history of political and social stability, an impressively low crime rate, and good infrastructure for protecting travelers. By using common sense and following a few basic tips, a trip to Costa Rica will leave you feeling nothing but pura vida (the unofficial motto of Costa Rica) – interpreted in many ways such as the pure life, full of life, or the good life.
- Register your travel with (Smart Traveler Enrollment Program), a free service provided by the US government for citizens traveling abroad. The information you provide will allow the Department of State to better assist you in an emergency, and you will receive alerts in the case of any natural disasters or safety concerns.
- Keep important phone numbers on hand – Your important contact information, as well as local numbers. Enter these numbers into your phone: For emergencies, dial 911. To reach the police directly, dial 117. To speak with the U.S. Embassy in San Jose, call (506) 519-2000 or (506) 519-2280 after hours (after 4:30 PM, Monday-Thursday and after 1 PM on Friday. Closed Saturday and Sunday).
- When traveling in San Jose or other urban areas, use the same precautions you would use in any major city -- don’t flash cash or valuables, don’t get excessively drunk, and don’t walk alone in secluded areas.
- Beware of pickpocketing, the most common crime in Costa Rica. Carry money in several locations (undercover money belt or neck wallet, purse, pocket, etc.) so you aren’t stranded if one stash is swiped.
- On the beach, don’t leave valuables unattended while you swim or walk along the sand. And don’t forget about the harsh sun! Wear plenty of SPF and drinks lots of water.
- If renting a car, avoid parking on the streets in major cities and head for well-lit parking lots, preferably with attendants, instead. As with any city, do not leave valuables in the car.
- If taking cabs, avoid unlicensed drivers. Official taxis are red with yellow triangles, except at the airport where they are orange.
- Use caution when traveling on foot – traffic can be unpredictable. Pedestrians do not have the right of way, so look both ways several times before crossing busy streets and if possible, cross only when locals cross.
- Malaria is very rare in Costa Rica, but take precautions. Use bug spray, wear light-colored clothing, and if sleeping in an open-air room, use a mosquito bed net.
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