This advice has been reviewed and reissued with amendments to the Summary, Crime, Local Travel, and Natural Disasters sections. The overall level of the advice has not changed.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
The threat from terrorism is low but you should be aware of the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks, which could be against civilian targets, including places frequented by foreigners. Please read "Security and General Tips
" and "Risk of Terrorism when Travelling Overseas
There are increasing incidents of violent crime in Costa Rica, some targeted at tourists. Gang muggings can occur even in daylight on busy streets. Be particularly vigilant in popular tourist locations/destinations. Belongings should be watched carefully at all times and in all places. Theft of, and from, cars is common. There have also been incidents where slashed tyres have given thieves the opportunity to "assist" in changing tyres, while an accomplice steals from the car.
Do not wear jewellery or carry large amounts of cash. Avoid street moneychangers.
You should take great care against theft at all bus stations. Theft of bags from the overhead compartments inside buses is common and efficiently carried out. Thieves have simple but effective ways of distracting a target - be watchful.
Avoid leaving unattended drinks in bars and places of entertainment as reports have been received of "spiked" drinks resulting in assault and theft.
Loss of passports and travel documents through theft is a serious problem, which appears to be on the increase. Ensure you take photocopies of your passport and, more importantly, airline tickets and travellers cheques, as these can be difficult to replace if stolen. It is permissible to present photocopies of your passport for identification purposes and, wherever possible, documents should be locked in a safe place (eg hotel safe). If this is not possible, carry your documents on your person rather than in bags which are likely to be targetted by thieves.
If you are visiting jungle areas you should be accompanied by experienced local guides.
Road conditions are generally good on main routes, although potholes caused by heavy rains in the wet season are common. Landslides in the wet season, which block the road between San José and Guapiles on the way to Limón are frequent and can cause delays. However, they are cleared away quickly and there are albeit longer alternative routes. Accidents in Costa Rica are usually caused by overspeeding. The standard of driving is lower than in the UK. You should adhere to speed limits as traffic police are strict.
Sea and River Safety
You should take special care when swimming from all beaches in Costa Rica but especially on the Atlantic coast. Rip tides are very common. You should seek reliable local advice.
Safety features on small boats are not always of a good standard. If you plan white water rafting, you should arrange this with an established company.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
You should not get involved with drugs of any kind in any way as drug trafficking is dealt with severely. Despite what people may say, the authorities are well trained and perceptive. The minimum sentence is eight years imprisonment.
British nationals do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica and can stay as visitors for three months. If a longer stay is required or for employment, the Costa Rican Embassy, Costa Rican Representation in the UK
, should be contacted for advice. The immigration authorities are detaining foreigners who are undocumented or tourists who have overstayed.
Under Costa Rican law, children under the age of 18 born in Costa Rica are automatically considered to be Costa Rican citizens, even if travelling on a British passport. Notarised written consent from both parents, or Costa Rican passport, is required in order to leave Costa Rica. The nearest Costa Rican Embassy or Consulate should be contacted for further information on laws regarding the international travel of Costa Rican children.
Prospective residents should make applications in their country of residence as it is no longer possible to apply in Costa Rica although, having applied, you may enter the country and stay for three month periods until the procedure is finalised.
We strongly recommend that you obtain comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling.
There have been many confirmed cases of Dengue Fever in the areas of Puntarenas and Guanacaste on the Pacific Coast, and Limón on the Atlantic Coast. There are now cases being reported in the Central Valley around the capital, San José. Deaths from second infections have occurred. Malaria is also endemic to some regions of Costa Rica. You should take strict prevention measures against mosquito bites; i.e. the use of repellents and by wearing long sleeved shirts and long trousers. Seek medical advice about the use of malarial prophylaxis.
For further information on health, check the Department of Health’s website at: www.dh.gov.uk
Only emergency medical treatment is available without charge for visitors.
There is the possibility in Costa Rica of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Flooding can occur in the rainy season (May to November), and heavy rains or hurricanes can cause landslides (though roads are normally cleared quickly). Information explaining safety measures is broadcast and printed in newspapers. Local advice can also be sought.
Since many trips to Costa Rica are made via the United States, it is important to note that with effect from 26 October 2004, all passport holders who wish to enter the US under the Visa Waiver Programme (See Entry Requirements in the Travel Advice for the United States USA
) must present an individual machine-readable passport. Travellers without a machine-readable passport must obtain a non-immigrant visa from the nearest US Embassy prior to travel. Should you need to replace your passport in Costa Rica, you should apply to the British Embassy. For further details, in particular concerning children travelling on a parent's passport, please contact the US Embassy.