Costa Rica is one of Latin America’s safest destinations, but do be careful with belongings on beaches, and avoid leaving anything on show in vehicles.
Exercise the usual precautions in San José: don’t walk alone at night, leave valuables in your hotel safe and use licensed cabs only. These are red, with plastic boxes on the roof displaying the taxi company’s name and telephone number.
One of the biggest safety issues is riptides, which cause dozens of deaths each year. Few beaches have life guards, but a little knowledge is lifesaving when it comes to these currents. Firstly, you should never go into the water in areas where there are known to be riptides – and never with kids. If you do find yourself being carried rapidly away from the shore, don’t swim against the current; you won’t beat it. Instead, swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the rip, or float until the current subsides – then you can swim back onto the beach. Drowning occurs when swimmers exhaust themselves by struggling against the current.
Safety records are generally excellent for adventure activities such as rafting and zip lining. For anything water based, do ask about safety procedures and check if child-sized life jackets are available; they should be securely fastened to avoid little ones slipping out.
There are several active volcanoes in Costa Rica, including Arenal (which is currently dormant) and Poás, which erupted in February 2014. If there is a risk of eruption the parks around them will be closed, so do keep an eye on local news and websites.
Hurricane season falls from May-November in the Caribbean. Although Costa Rica is too far south to get hit by the worst of the weather, rain is heavy – particularly along the southern Caribbean coast –during this time, so keep up to date with weather and new reports to avoid travelling through floods or landslides.
911 can be used to call the emergency police, ambulance or fire service.
Roads tend to be in good condition, but watch out for potholes and be aware that even on two-way roads, bridges may only be one-way.
Check the FCO website for safety information and entry requirements.