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Crime in San Jose, Costa Rica

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Crime in San Jose, Costa Rica

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1. Posted by arlihad (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y

arlihad has indicated that this thread is about Costa Rica

I used to be a frequent visitor to Costa Rica, in fact I’ve made about 6 trips there. Usually I would spend a day (if not longer) at the start and end of my trips in San Jose to facilitate getting to and from the airport.

However I’m hearing more news about escalating crime in downtown San Jose. In fact I’ve been advised to take a taxi everywhere even if I just need to travel a couple of blocks. One visitor told a story about following a trail of blood along Avenida central to the Hotel Presidente where he was staying. Apparently gringo muggings are a daily event in that area with armed muggers holding up anyone who walks alone or not with a large group.

Does anyone have tips for being safe there? Or should I just head out right away to my preferred destination?

2. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 10y

Check out flights to Liberia Airport in Guanacaste, NW Costa Rica, about 25 km. or 15 miles to Playas del Coco and there are buses for all other points in the city of Liberia (small, safe). I've lived in Central America over 20 years and until just a few years ago one could easily walk a few blocks in downtown SJ late at night back to hotel. Also remember that there are many illegal unemployed non Costa Ricans living in the city (Certain barrios are notorious for crime) and tourists are a soft target.

3. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 10y

This message was posted to: Central America and the Caribbea

"Well! I suggest to spend your First and last day at
Alajuela! It is the city and province where the
Internatinal Airport is located (Everybody thinks the
airport is in San Jose, but it is not!).
Alajuela has the advantage of; you could take buses to
the paciffic cost (cause if you go to San Jose, and
the next day you take transportation to Pacific Cost,
you will pass by the airport). And Alajuela you could
take trips like> Butterfly Farm, Poas Volcano, Snake
Zoo, Brid Zoo.

It is easier, and Nicer." Message from a Costa Rican Lady.

4. Posted by Code (Budding Member 22 posts) 10y


Some sectors at San Jose downtown are dangerous, however the crime as not escalated to the level that you describe. But any person (tourist or not) should avoid some areas for his own safety. The new goverment as increased the number of policemen at the downtown.

About the story of the trail of blood, well it is not true. A few months a person was badly injured in an assault at the city, maybe he saw that... but on a daily basis? no way.. :)

My advice is follow the normal rules that you will have on any city: avoid dark places, know the dangerous areas and you will be fine.

Best regards,

5. Posted by Luucy (Full Member 39 posts) 10y

I agree with deBloom that many people think that the Airport is in San Jose not so, and as many guideboks warn of the dangers of San Jose . I have owned my B&B in Heredia Hills for 15 years and although I am in the countryside only 15 minutes drive from San Jose many of my guests choose to avoid San Jose altogether. ( I was warned 15 years ago to take a taxi in San Jose yes if only 2 blocks. On the other hand Heredia is only 8km from the Airport so not only do you have a SAFE Cosmopolitan town with friendly peoeple but just as in most other areas we B&B owners are happy to book car rentals,all tours including White water rafting, Cafe Britt ( in subeherb of Heredia ) and Rain forest Zip line and Canopy tours . I even send my guests off to Jungles or beaches for a couple of nights .WHY oh Why will tourists persist in reading commisioned Travel agents recommendations ( some of whom have Never even been to Costa Rica ) Tourists are told to spend first and last nights in either San Jose or expensive noisy Airport WRONG! There are many lovely quiet places surrounding the Airport and Concepcion de San Rafael is just one of them. Also they are advised to go dashing off into the wilds before even exploring the beauty of the Central valley and ALL the tours and "Must sees " are here , such as Poas Volcano , Irazu Volcano, Rainforest tramride ( 40 minutes from here) Sarchi (the artisans village and MUCH more are here in Central VAlley just minutes from Airport and closer than San Jose . Many guide books are now telling visitors that San Jose Airport is NOT in San Jose and to skip San Jose completely ..At last they are waking up and smelling the coffee . Speaking of coffee my B&B is perched on 3 acres of coffee and althpough after heling people for years on this forum., I don't use it to get business I like tourists to visit ALL of our country but I will give my place a plug .. "I deserve at least that much" so many of you have told me.
Thank you and cheers and Good Luck .DO see the Central Valley and remember no need to go trecking off to the wilds. We owners can send you there and usually get you discounts .
Debbie King

6. Posted by Luucy (Full Member 39 posts) 10y

oops forgive the typos!! I am rushing this off . I have guests waiting for me to get them can rental I just HAD to answer this first Good Luck any more questions email me


7. Posted by arlihad (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y

Some sectors at San Jose downtown are dangerous, however the crime as not escalated to the level that you describe. But any person (tourist or not) should avoid some areas for his own safety. The new goverment as increased the number of policemen at the downtown.

About the story of the trail of blood, well it is not true. A few months a person was badly injured in an assault at the city, maybe he saw that... but on a daily basis? no way.. :)

Sorry but I am hearing repeated stories of San Jose being dangerous and they are consistent and concentrated within a few blocks of Avenida Central. The trail of blood story is true, the witness asked at reception about it and another guest was stabbed on his way back from the Morazon casino to that hotel. Another story I failed to mention was another victim who was assaulted and broke his hand, in his account he was not alone either, furthermore it occured with 100m of the stabbing.

Others have reported running from these gangs, getting held up at gunpoint or watching this from the safety of a hotel. The news is out now and many more are taking taxis. But other tourists have cancelled their trips, or switched to hotels away from San Jose, I may just change my destination altogether.

Tourists are obviously an easy target, the gangs know that very few of them will report what happened to the police, especially if they like I am only there for a day before moving on in my itinery.

Unless the news gets out, then nothing will happen until someone goes too far and there's a death.

Some of the hotels in the area are getting together to lobby on this. They have talked to the Fuerza Publica as well as the city police. They have made large donations over the years for equipment etc. None of that has done any good as the donations go to wherever there is a need and not to increase the security of that specific area. Nor can they fund the salary of a cop to work in the immediate area, the donations cannot be made for a specific purpose.

And a final question, how am I, a visitor to Costa Rica to know what areas are safe? I read many times a week, even that does not help me to know that certain tourist areas are not safe. I've found it hard to find crime warnings about downtown altough I'd know enough to stay away from certain barrios on the way to the airport.

8. Posted by helsbells1 (Budding Member 70 posts) 10y

You want tips to avoid crime?
I know its my own fault but I got the bus to San Jose fom Montezuma and as we were just arriving into the city I nodded off (it was 5am!)when I woke to get off and find my hotel for my last night of my 5 month trip, my backpack was gone! Cradit cards, journals, email addresses......everything that meant anything to me!
I had no problems the whole time I was travelling Central America and on my last day, by bag gets stolen! Gutted!

9. Posted by arlihad (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y

I received some more information from a witness to another mugging at the same location on Thursday 22nd. It seems that the gang is well dressed like yuppies. They appear to be part of a group waiting for a bus. When their chosen victim walks by they swarm around him, knock him to the ground and take what they can.

10. Posted by Reece Sanford (Travel Guru 1368 posts) 10y

Interesting as im in San Jose right now and off out tonight.
Mind you i was here on the 9th and 10th June as well and had 2 awesome nights out and never had a problem at all.

Ive now been travelling Central America for 6 weeks and have never ever felt unsafe.Even while walking around alone in dodgy looking areas.Yeah i get strange looks but i guess you dont get many white bald headed guys around the areas ive been to.

So far its been awesome.