Before traveling to Costa Rica there are a number of precautions to take both before and during your travels. By making yourself aware of the potential dangers and annoyances that you may encounter on your trip to Costa Rica, you greatly increase your chances of having a safe and hassle-free journey.
United States citizens are required to have a U.S. passport that will not expire within the 30 days following entry as well as an outbound ticket. Visas are not required for most short stays within Costa Rica.
Tourists should be vigilant against petty crime such as muggings, thefts and assaults which are occasionally perpetrated against tourists in Costa Rica. Crime which occurs during the day in urban areas is rare, but tourists should exercise additional caution at night and in more rural settings. If your car experiences a flat tire, drive to a service station or public area; don't accept help from passersby, who may be part of a common scam to puncture tourists' tires, offer to help when the tire goes flat, then rob the tourists of their valuables.
One of the more common crimes committed against tourists in Costa Rica is the theft of documents such as passports, IDs and credit cards. Travelers heading to Costa Rica should carry photocopies of all of their pertinent records as a backup in case their real documents are stolen. While sightseeing, it is recommended that you leave your genuine documents in a secure location (such as a hotel safe) and carry only photocopies on your person. Never leave valuables in your vehicle or out of your line of sight, and be aware of pickpockets at all times.
Caution should be used when swimming at Costa Rica's beaches. The State Department states that every year eight to 12 Americans drown while swimming in Costa Rica. Dangerous rip tides coupled with a lack of lifeguards or signs indicating dangerous conditions make beaches on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts treacherous.
Adventure tours in Costa Rica are monitored and regulated by Costa Rica's authorities. Travelers should check to be sure that the tour outfitter is licensed by the proper authorities.
The health care system in San Jose provides sufficient medical care, but it may be harder to receive adequate medical treatment outside the capitol city. Typically, payment to doctors and medical facilities must be paid in cash. Most pharmaceutical products from prescriptions to over-the-counter medicine can be found in Costa Rica's pharmacies.
Costa Rica is located along an active fault line; as a result, volcanic activity and earthquakes occasionally occur. Serious flooding is also possible within the more rural regions of Costa Rica.