Is Costa Rica Safe for Solo Female Travellers?
Costa Rica was my first destination as a solo female traveller and I couldn’t have chosen any better. With its mature tourism infrastructure, abundant nature, and being relatively easy to get to from Canada and the US it was the perfect vacation for a solo travel newbie.
I was nervous for my first international solo trip so I did a ton of research beforehand. I booked hotel to hotel shuttles and group tours so that I wouldn’t get lost and booked highly reviewed, reputable hotels so that I would feel safe and secure. It was an amazing vacation and kicked off over a decade of solo travel so far.
I still recommend Costa Rica as a great travel destination for any solo female travellers and have been back myself since that first trip.
Costa Rica’s Overall Safety
Costa Rica has long been regarded as one of the safer countries in Central America, drawing travellers from around the world due to its stunning natural beauty and eco-tourism opportunities. While it is generally considered safe, it’s essential for solo female travellers to be well-informed and exercise caution, just as they would in any other destination.
In terms of safety statistics, the country has maintained a relatively low crime rate compared to its neighbours. Costa Rica’s homicide rate is considerably lower than that of other Central American nations, and violent crimes against tourists, including solo female travellers, are relatively rare. However, petty crimes such as theft and pickpocketing can still occur, especially in crowded tourist areas.
The Costa Rican government has made efforts to enhance safety for both locals and tourists in recent years. Law enforcement agencies have been working on improving security measures, particularly in popular tourist destinations. Police presence has been increased in areas frequented by travellers, and efforts have been made to combat drug-related crimes, which can indirectly impact safety.
Moreover, the government has been promoting sustainable tourism practices and responsible travel, emphasizing the importance of preserving the country’s natural beauty. This focus on eco-tourism aligns with a broader effort to create a safer and more sustainable environment for visitors.
While Costa Rica’s safety reputation is generally positive, it’s crucial for solo female travellers to stay vigilant, follow safety tips, and exercise common-sense precautions. Staying informed about the local culture, customs, and any recent developments can go a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable trip to this beautiful country.
Personal Safety Tips for Costa Rica
Although Costa Rica is generally a very safe country to travel in, it’s best to take a few personal safety precautions to ensure you have a great vacation.
Researching and Choosing Safe Accommodations:
- Start your trip planning by researching accommodations thoroughly. Look for places with positive reviews from solo female travellers.
- Opt for well-established hotels, hostels, or reputable Airbnb listings in safe neighbourhoods.
- Read recent reviews to gauge the security of the property, including the presence of 24/7 reception, secure locks, and well-lit areas.
- I also travel with a rubber doorstop that I use on the hotel room door for my own peace of mind.
Using Reliable Transportation Options
Use official and licensed transportation services, such as hotel to hotel shuttle services like Interbus, Uber, or official taxis. Unless you have no other choice, avoid unlicensed pirate taxis.
Taxis in Costa Rica
- All official taxis in Costa Rica will be red with a yellow triangle sign on their door. Taxis cannot operate across province lines so if you need to go longer distances, consider a shuttle van.
- As a solo female traveller, choose to sit in the backseat rather than in the front next to the driver.
- Carry small bills in local currency to avoid overpaying in USD.
Uber in Costa Rica
Uber launched in Costa Rica in 2015 and though not 100% legal, has become a routine transportation option in San Jose for locals and tourists alike.
- You can easily get an Uber in the metro San Jose area but may have a tougher time in popular tourist destinations like La Fortuna, Tamarindo, Playas del Coco, or Jaco.
- While you can grab an Uber from San Jose International Airport, avoid them at Liberia International Airport since the police in that town are vigilant in trying to track down Ubers to ticket the drivers.
- Confirm the driver’s identity and the vehicle’s details before getting in.
- Be aware that wait times can be inaccurate due to San Jose traffic so plan for a 10 minute buffer.
Public Transportation in Costa Rica
Public transit can be a very affordable and safe option when travelling in Costa Rica but it does require a bit of research and planning.
- When using public transportation, like buses, choose routes that are well-travelled and avoid late-night journeys whenever possible.
- Do not put any belongings in the overhead bin or rack on the bus – it’s too easy for someone to go through your things.
- If you put a bag under the seat in front of you, keep a foot on it and have the zippers face you.
- Be alert when getting off the bus. Some thieves will try to take advantage of sleepy travellers.
- Bus companies in Costa Rica are all privately owned and use their own bus terminals and stations. So research the route you want, find the company who operates it, and then look up where their terminals are located.
- For shorter routes you’ll pay with cash. You don’t need exact change but you should have small bills and coins in local currency. For longer routes you can use a credit card at the bus station.
- For most routes you can purchase your ticket the day before at the bus station. La Terminal Costa Rica is a 3rd party platform where you can buy tickets for several routes and companies.
Dressing Appropriately and Blending In:
- Dress modestly and respectfully to conform to the local culture. Costa Rica is relatively conservative in rural areas. Feel free to wear your bikinis at the beach but take a cue from locals in other settings.
- Avoid wearing flashy jewellery or displaying expensive electronics that may attract unwanted attention.
- Adapt to the climate with comfortable, layered clothing and practical footwear suitable for various activities.
Keeping Personal Belongings Secure:
- Use anti-theft bags or backpacks with lockable zippers and slash-resistant straps.
- While in transit between towns you may want to consider putting some important documents and extra cash into a concealed pocket or pouch under your clothes. I personally find them to be impractical for day-to-day use while travelling.
- Be cautious when using your phone or camera in public places; keep them secure when not in use.
- Consider photocopying or digitally storing important documents in case they are lost or stolen.
In addition to these tips, it’s essential to stay aware of your surroundings, trust your instincts, and be cautious when interacting with strangers. Engaging with local solo female traveller communities or online travel forums can also provide valuable insights and real-time updates on safety in specific areas. Remember that while precautions are necessary, Costa Rica offers incredible experiences and natural beauty that make it a rewarding destination for solo female travellers.
Safe and Recommended Destinations in Costa Rica
San Jose: The capital city is generally safe, especially in well-visited areas like downtown and the historic district. Explore cultural attractions, visit markets, and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere.
Manuel Antonio: Known for its stunning national park and beautiful beaches, Manuel Antonio is a safe and popular destination for solo travellers. Wildlife encounters and outdoor adventures are a highlight.
Monteverde: This cloud forest reserve offers eco-tourism at its finest. The well-established tourist infrastructure ensures a safe and memorable experience.
Arenal: Home to the Arenal Volcano, this region boasts hot springs and rainforest activities, making it a top choice for travellers.
Puerto Viejo: Located on the Caribbean coast, this laid-back town offers a unique blend of Afro-Caribbean and indigenous cultures. It’s a safe place to experience reggae music, lush jungles, and beautiful beaches.
Tortuguero: This remote area on the Caribbean coast is known for its turtle nesting grounds. While it’s off the beaten path, guided tours and eco-lodges provide a secure environment.
La Fortuna de San Carlos: Near Arenal, La Fortuna offers quieter surroundings but with easy access to the volcano, hot springs, and adventure activities.
Areas or Neighbourhoods That Should Be Approached with Caution
San Jose Downtown at night: While the central areas of San Jose are generally safe during the day, exercise caution at night. Be aware of your surroundings, avoid poorly lit streets, and use reliable transportation.
Limón: The province of Limón, especially in remote or less-touristy areas, may have higher crime rates compared to other parts of Costa Rica. Exercise vigilance and consider guided tours for safety.
Guanacaste: Some areas in Guanacaste, such as secluded beaches, may have occasional issues with petty crime. Travellers are advised to secure their belongings and not leave valuables unattended.
Border Regions: Be cautious in border regions, as they can be less secure. For example, the border area with Nicaragua may have occasional security concerns.
Always stay updated on the latest safety information from local authorities and fellow travellers, as the situation in specific areas may change over time. By following these recommendations, solo female travellers can enjoy the diverse and beautiful landscapes of Costa Rica while ensuring their safety.
Solo Female Traveler Communities
Connecting with other solo female travellers can be a great way to share experiences, gain insights, and find companions for parts of your journey. Here are some online and offline resources to help you make those connections:
- Travel Forums and Communities: Websites like TripAdvisor and Reddit’s r/solotravel are excellent places to seek advice, share experiences, and potentially find travel buddies.
- Facebook Groups: There are numerous Facebook groups dedicated to solo female travellers, such as “The Solo Female Traveler Network” and “Girls LOVE Travel.” These groups allow you to connect with like-minded women, ask questions, and even find travel companions.
- Meetup: Check Meetup.com for solo female traveller groups in your local area. Some groups may organise meetups or trips, providing an opportunity to meet potential travel buddies face to face.
- Couchsurfing: While known for its hosting services, Couchsurfing also has a “Hangouts” feature where you can connect with locals and other travelers in your destination. It’s a great way to meet people for activities or even future travel plans.
- Hostels: Staying in hostels, especially those with communal areas, is a fantastic way to meet other solo travellers. Engage in conversations in common spaces, join organized hostel events, and you may find companions for day trips or future travels.
- Language Classes and Workshops: If you plan to stay in a destination for an extended period, consider taking a language class or participating in local workshops. You’ll not only learn something new but also meet other travellers and expats.
- Guided Tours and Group Activities: Joining guided tours or group activities, such as nature tours, cooking classes, or yoga retreats, can be an excellent way to connect with other travellers who share similar interests. This is often my go-to for meeting other travellers.
- Cafes and Co-Working Spaces: Many cafes and co-working spaces are frequented by digital nomads and solo travellers. Striking up a conversation with a fellow coffee enthusiast or remote worker can lead to valuable connections.
- Local Events and Festivals: Check local event listings for festivals, concerts, and cultural events. These gatherings can be a fun and natural way to meet people, both locals and fellow travellers.
Always exercise caution when meeting new people, whether online or offline, and follow safety guidelines when connecting with others during your travels. Building a network of fellow solo female travellers can enhance your journey, providing support, companionship, and memorable experiences along the way.
Costa Rica is a favourite destination for solo female travellers, partly because of its favourable reputation for safety within Central America. While violent crimes are relatively rare, petty crimes like theft can still occur, particularly in tourist areas.
By taking some personal safety measures such as choosing secure accommodations, using reliable transportation, dressing appropriately, and safeguarding personal belongings, you can have a great vacation. Whether you stay in a popular spot like Arenal, Manuel Antonio, or Monteverde or get off-the-beaten-path to places like Puerto Viejo or Tortuguero you can find a number of guided tours and reputable lodges where you can connect with other solo female travellers.
Costa Rica offers a relatively safe and captivating destination for solo female travellers. By staying informed, exercising caution, and respecting local customs, you can explore the country’s natural beauty and vibrant culture with confidence and security as a solo female traveller.