Rip-offs are a fact of life when travelling anywhere
Local and frequent visitors have noted an increase in tourist-oriented crime in recent years - likely precipitated by the increase in tourism. Although rip-offs are a fact of life when travelling anywhere, you'll find Costa Rica is still less prone to theft than many countries. You should, nevertheless take some simple precautions to avoid being robbed.
Armed robbery is rare, but sneak theft is more common, and you should remember that crowded places are the haunts of pick-pockets - places such as badly lit bus stations or bustling streets around market areas.
Occasionally, a couple of women may try to physically harass a man - one tries lasciviously to gain your attention while the other tries to pull your wallet. Other scams include being squirted with mustard or some other noxious substance; 'Samaritans' offering to wipe you off are lifting your wallet at the same time. Alertness helps- don't allow yourself to be distracted. If you are used to deal with big-city hassles, you should have no great problem.
Thieves look for easy targets. Tourists carrying a wallet or passport in a hip pocket are asking for trouble. Leave your wallet at home; it's an easy mark for a pickpocket. Carrying a small roll of bills loosely wadded under a handkerchief in your front pocket is as safe a way as any of carrying your daily spending money. The rest should be hidden. always use at least an inside pocket or preferably a body pouch to protect your money and passport. Separate your money into different places.
Carry some of your money as traveller's checks or credit cards. The former can be refunded if lost or stolen; the latter can be cancelled and reissued. Carry an emergency packet somewhere separate from all your other valuables. It should contain a photocopy of your pagers. Also keep one high-denomination bill in with this emergency stash. You will probably never have to use it, but it is a good idea not to put all your eggs in one basket.
Take out travellers' luggage insurance if you're carrying valuable gear such as a good camera. But don't get paranoid: Costa Rica is still a reasonably safe country.
If you are robbed, make a police report as soon as possible. this is a requirement for any insurance claims, although it is unlikely that the police will be able to recover the property. Police reports should be filed with the Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ) in the Corte Suprema de Justicia (Supreme Court Tel. 222-1365 complex at Avenida 6, Calles 17 & 19, in San José. If you don't speak Spanish, bring a translator.
Outside of San José call 911 to report a robbery and find out where the nearest OIJ is. In addition, travellers who have suffered crimes or price-gouging can write to the Costa Rican Tourist Board, Apartado 777-1000 San José. By Costa Rican law, the tourist board is obliged to represent foreign tourists who are victims of tourist-related crimes in court cases if necessary, thus allowing the tourist to go elsewhere (like home).
Costa Rica has a long history of business-related crimes - real estate and investment scams have occurred frequently over the years. If you want to sink money into any kind of Costa Rican business, make sure you both know what you are doing and check it out thoroughly.
Pictures by Jörn Malek. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink and Costa-Rica-Information-Mobile wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.
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