FAQs Risks & Precautions
Do l need a Visa to go to Costa Rica?
Not all people who wish to travel to Costa Rica need a tourist visa; it depends on your nationality, purpose of visit, country of residence and duration of stay.
Consider the following Information:
- North Americans do not need a visa to enter Costa Rica. However, they must have a current valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica. (Either to return to your country or to go to another country).
- Citizens of other nationalities do not need a tourist visa to enter Costa Rica if they have a United States of America, Canada, Japon, South Korea, Schengen Visa.
- Europeans do not need a Visa to go to Costa Rica just a current valid passport and a return ticket to exit Costa Rica. (Either to return to your country or to go to another country).
Costa Rica is one of the safest countries in Central America. Wealth is distributed more evenly than in North American or European countries. Simple living is common, but education, health and welfare systems are very good and freely available, making abject poverty rate, reducing crime.
Costa Rica does not have a military and has not suffered civil wars and violence in the history, which is so common among its neighbors. Combined with the above Observation, that Ticos rarely live in severe poverty, it’s not surprising that political battles are fought in the media rather than by subversives and “terrorists” in the streets.
Petty theft, especially from tourists, is relatively common. The most likely places for things disappear from are cars (locked or not), beaches, bus luggage compartments, and hotel rooms. Violent crime is very rare.
- Earthquakes: Earthquakes occur commonly in Costa Rica causing minimum damages.
- Tsunamis: The shape of the seabed off the shores of Costa Rica is not particularly suited to the formation of tsunami waves.
- Volcanoes: The same geology that puts Costa Rica in an earthquake zone creates the volcanoes that are simultaneously a major attraction and low danger level.
- Hurricanes: Hurricanes are not a major concern in Costa Rica. The shape of the Gulf of Mexico dictates that the storms turn north soon after entering and out of the pass. Only Hurricane Cesár has made landfall in Costa Rica in 1996.
- Tropical storms and long rainy periods are common in the rainy season (july to november).
Accidents happen, and not surprisingly they happen more often when you’re trying out new wild adventures for the first time. Canopy zip-lines, waterfall rappels, scuba diving, parachuting, ATV trail riding, and bungee jumping are just a few of the inherently risky activities you might indulge in while on vacation in Costa Rica.
The tourism industry in Costa Rica is well aware that dropping travelers out of the treetops during a canopy tour is bad for business, and make serious efforts to ensure safe adventures. Do your part by choosing operators with the appropriate certifications, good records, and professional guides. Don’t exceed your physical limitations, pay attention during the precautionary lectures, and use common sense.
You may think we’re joking, but sunburn ruins more trips than any other danger you’re likely to face in Costa Rica. The location near the equator, and lofty elevations of many of the attractions add up to extremely intense UV radiation. Combine this with water everywhere, washing sunscreen off and the fact that many visitors are bleached white and sun starved by northern winters, it can add up to a sunburn that requires hospitalization. Be especially vigilant with your children.
Heat exhaustion and dehydration can catch you by surprise as well. Many of the adventures offered on tours in Costa Rica are strenuous combined with the warm humid climate you can loose moisture from your body very quickly.
Driving and Car Wrecks
As in North America or Europe, driving or riding in a car is one of the most dangerous things you’ll do in Costa Rica. Car wrecks are the single most common cause of hospitalization for foreign travelers.
Don’t drive after dark.
Potholes (huecos) are ubiquitous—even in roads that appear to have been freshly paved—and some are large enough to snap an axle or cause you to lose control if you hit them going too fast.
Often there are no guardrails on sheer precipices.
Gutters so large they would qualify as canals frequently border mountain roads. They can swallow your entire vehicle and the warning about guardrails applies.
Riptides and Currents
If you are reading this then riptides won’t be a problem for you, because they are really only dangerous to the unaware. Take a few minutes to look at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration excellent description of Rip Tides how they form, how to recognize them, and how to avoid them.
If a riptide is carrying you out to sea, do not attempt to swim directly to shore. Instead, swim parallel to the beach. Most of these currents are less than 100 feet wide and you will soon reach calm water, and waves that are actually pushing you shoreward.
Snake and other bites
Snakes, and leopards, and croc’s can bite, but this happens very rarely. Wildlife is one of the main attractions in Costa Rica, and some of that wildlife has sharp, pointy teeth.
About 90% of the questions we get about jungle safety are how to avoid snakes. Fortunately the answer is easy; let them avoid you. In general the vibrations caused by walking will alert them and they’ll be long gone before you reach their resting-place. Don’t put your hands and feet anywhere you can’t see and you won’t have any problems with snakes.
Don’t swim in shark and crocodile populated estuaries, which aren’t terribly appealing places to swim anyway, and you won’t have any problem from them.
Vaccines and Medicines
Learn actions you can take to stay healthy and safe on your trip. Vaccines cannot protect you from many diseases in Costa Rica, so your behaviors are important. Check the vaccines and medicines list and visit your doctor (ideally, 4-6 weeks) before your trip to get vaccines or medicines you may need.
Make sure you are up-to-date on routine vaccines before every trip. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, and your yearly flu shot.
Although the risk of malaria is low in Costa Rica, you should avoid mosquito bites to prevent malaria. Some travelers to certain areas who are at higher risk for complications from malaria (such as pregnant women) may need to take extra precautions, like antimalarial medicine. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent malaria while traveling.
Although rabies can be found in bats and other mammals in Costa Rica, it is not found in dogs and is not a major risk to most travelers
There is no risk of yellow fever in Costa Rica. The government of Costa Rica requires proof of yellow fever vaccination onlyif you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. This does not include the US & Europe. If you are traveling from a country other than the US or Europe, check the list to see if you may be required to get the yellow fever vaccine.
Eat and drink safety recommendations:
Unclean food and water can cause travelers’ diarrhea and other diseases. Reduce your risk by sticking to safe food and water habits.
- Food that is cooked and served hot
- Hard-cooked eggs
- Fruits and vegetables you have washed in clean water or peeled yourself
- Pasteurized dairy products
- Food served at room temperature
- Food from street vendors
- Raw or soft-cooked (runny) eggs
- Raw or undercooked (rare) meat or fish
- Unwashed or unpeeled raw fruits and vegetables
- Unpasteurized dairy products
- ”Bushmeat” (wild animals)
- Bottled water that is sealed
- Water that has been disinfected
- Ice cubes made with bottled or disinfected water
- Carbonated drinks
- Hot coffee or tea
- Pasteurized milk
- Tap or well water
- Ice cubes made with tap or well water
- Drinks made with tap or well water (such as reconstituted juice)
- Unpasteurized milk
- Do not take medicine i not recomended by a Dr.
- Talk with your doctor about taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs with you on your trip in case you get sick.
Prevent bug bites
- Bugs (like mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas) can spread a number of diseases. Many of these diseases cannot be prevented with a vaccine or medicine. You can reduce your risk by taking steps to prevent bug bites.
What can I do to prevent bug bites?
- Cover exposed skin by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and hats.
- Use an appropriate insect repellent (see below).
- Stay and sleep in air-conditioned or screened rooms.
- Use a bed net if the area where you are sleeping is exposed to the outdoors.
What type of insect repellent should I use?
- FOR PROTECTION AGAINST TICKS AND MOSQUITOES: Use a repellent that contains 20% or more DEET for protection that lasts up to several hours.
- FOR PROTECTION AGAINST MOSQUITOES ONLY: Products with one of the following active ingredients can also help prevent mosquito bites. Higher percentages of active ingredient provide longer protection.
- DEET, Picaridin (also known as KBR 3023, Bayrepel, and icaridin), Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD, IR3535,Always use insect repellent as directed.
What should I do if I am bitten by bugs?
- Avoid scratching bug bites, and apply hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to reduce the itching.
- Check your entire body for ticks after outdoor activity. Be sure to remove ticks properly.
Stay safe outdoors
If your travel plans in Costa Rica include outdoor activities, take these steps to stay safe and healthy during your trip.
- Stay alert to changing weather conditions and adjust your plans if conditions become unsafe.
- Prepare for activities by wearing the right clothes and packing protective items, such as bug spray, sunscreen, and a basic first aid kit.
- Consider learning basic first aid and CPR before travel. Bring a travel health kit with items appropriate for your activities.
- Heat-related illness, such as heat stroke, can be deadly. Eat and drink regularly, wear loose and lightweight clothing, and limit physical activity during high temperatures.
- If you are outside for many hours in heat, eat salty snacks and drink water to stay hydrated and replace salt lost through sweating.
- Protect yourself from UV radiation: use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, wear protective clothing, and seek shade during the hottest time of day (10 a.m.–4 p.m.).
- Be especially careful during summer months and at high elevation. Because sunlight reflects off snow, sand, and water, sun exposure may be increased during activities like skiing, swimming, and sailing.
- Very cold temperatures can be dangerous. Dress in layers and cover heads, hands, and feet properly if you are visiting a cold location.
- Stay safe around water
- Swim only in designated swimming areas. Obey lifeguards and warning flags on beaches.
- Practice safe boating—follow all boating safety laws, do not drink alcohol if driving a boat, and always wear a life jacket.
- Do not dive into shallow water.
- Do not swim in freshwater in developing areas or where sanitation is poor.
- Avoid swallowing water when swimming. Untreated water can carry germs that make you sick.
- To prevent infections, wear shoes on beaches where there may be animal waste.