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Costa Rica Health & Safety Advice

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Health care standards, facilities and providers in Costa Rica are among the best in Latin America. Public facilities are usually of a lesser standard than the private ones. Comprehensive medical insurance is recommended for all travelers. Payment in cash is usually expected by doctors and hospitals.

Tap water in cities is considered safe to drink, although it is usually heavily chlorinated and, beside a bad taste, may cause some minor abdominal upsets. It is advised to drink bottled water, at least outside of main cities. Milk, dairy products, meat, poultry, seafood, fruit and vegetables are generally considered safe to eat.

There have been occurrences of hepatitis B and C, dengue fever (particularly in lowland areas on the Caribbean coast) and rabies.


Costa Rica is generally considered a safe country for travelers. Violent crime is rare, but tourists will still be exposed to some dangers and minor crimes, particularly in bigger cities (mostly San Jose) where street mugging and pickpocketing (or chain and watch snatching) can be a problem.

A money belt is highly recommended. Also, try not to wear jewelry or expensive equipment (like cameras) in crowed places (like downtown San Jose, for example), don't show all bills you have when making a payment in a store, and don't drink too much while in public so you can be alert enough of any potential dangers. Keep photocopies of your passport and other important documents (like insurance policy) in a safe place, preferably hotel safety deposit boxes. By law, you have to carry your ID in Costa Rica at all times (can be a photocopy of the passport, but you'll have to be able to show the original if asked).

Car theft also occurs. Don't leave valuable things inside the car, always park your car in designated parking lots in big cities (like San Jose, Puntarenas or Limon), don't stop to take strangers. Avoid driving at night (also because of the unpredictable road conditions).

Other safety tips may include precautions with exploring the natural environment of Costa Rica:

  • Riptides are very common and dangerous; there are many drowning accidents every year in Costa Rica, most of them due to swimming in the riptides, which pull the swimmer out from the shore to the sea;
  • Costa Rica is located on the edge of active tectonic plates and earthquakes occur occasionally;
  • Be aware of the possible presence of crocodiles in fresh waters as well as poisonous snakes;
  • When hiking, stay on trails in parks and take a lot of water, maps, extra food and a compass.

In emergency call 911.

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