Official advice:
High degree of caution

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Costa Rica overall, exercise a high degree of caution ↓

Pay close attention to your personal security at all times and monitor the media about possible new safety or security risks.

Conditions can change suddenly

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Latest advice, 06 Feb 2016

Costa Rica is experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. All travellers should protect themselves from mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, pregnant women should consider postponing travel to Costa Rica or talk to their doctor about implications (see Health). The level of this advice has not changed. We continue to advise Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica.


  • We advise you to exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica because of the high risk of serious crime. You should pay close attention to your personal security at all times. Monitor the media and other sources about possible new security risks.
  • Costa Rica has recently experienced an outbreak of the Zika virus, a daytime mosquito-borne disease. Pregnant women should exercise particular vigilance as infection may cause cognitive impairment in new born babies. There is no vaccine available to prevent the Zika virus. See Health.
  • You should avoid demonstrations and protests as they may turn violent.
  • Petty crime, including pickpocketing and bag snatching, is common.
  • The Australian Consulate in San Jose provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Costa Rica. The Australian Embassy in Mexico is able to provide full consular assistance to Australians in Costa Rica.
  • See Travel Smart for general advice for all travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
    • organise comprehensive travel insurance and check what circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy
    • register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency
    • subscribe to this travel advice to receive email updates each time it's reissued.
    • follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Costa Rica for the most up to date information.

All medication must be transported in its original container and have a clear label. Prescription and controlled medication must be accompanied by a prescription from the prescribing physician on letterhead stationery and include the medication’s generic name. Contact the nearest embassy or consulate of Costa Rica for a list of restricted medication.

Minors travelling without both parents/legal guardians must present a notarised letter of consent to enter Costa Rica. Minors with dual Australian and Costa Rican nationalities require notarised written consent from both parents in order to leave Costa Rica. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Costa Rica for further information.

If you are travelling to Costa Rica through the United States of America (USA), or if you are transiting Honolulu or another US point of entry, you are required to meet US entry/transit requirements. Make sure you check your visa requirements with the nearest US Embassy or Consulate well in advance of travel. You should also read our travel advice for the United States of America.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia.

Costa Rican authorities require a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate for visitors who within the last ten days have travelled to Sub-Saharan Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru and Venezuela.

A departure tax is payable in $US cash or by credit card.

Safety and security


The incidence of violent crime including armed robberies, carjackings, home invasions and gang muggings in Costa Rica is significant. 'Express kidnappings', where individuals are abducted and forced to withdraw funds from ATM machines to secure their release, have also occurred.

Foreigners have been the target of armed robberies and drug-related crime. Areas in the vicinity of tourist attractions, resorts, airports, bus stations, harbour facilities (particularly the ports of Limon and Puntarenas) and public transport are a particular target of criminals. Visitors to Tamarindo, Jaco, Quepos, Manuel Antonio and Tarcoles River on the Pacific Coast and Puerto Viejo and Cahuita on the Atlantic Coast should pay particular attention to their surroundings.

Security risks are heightened in the capital city of San Jose. High-risk areas for theft in San Jose include the Coca-Cola bus station, inner downtown areas and public parks. There is some risk after dark of criminal activities on roads from San Jose airport – we advise travellers to consider this risk when planning their arrival time at the airport.

Travellers using unofficial taxis have been robbed and assaulted. Travellers should only use official red taxis, which have a yellow triangle on their side panels. Prepaid vouchers for official airport taxis, which are orange, can be purchased in front of the San Jose airport terminal. We recommend you do not ride in the front seat of a taxi.

Petty crime, including pickpocketing and bag snatching, is common. You should pay careful attention to your luggage and personal possessions, especially passports, at all times. Be careful when travelling on local buses as theft from overhead compartments occurs regularly. Thefts from unattended vehicles can occur in the downtown area of San Jose, near beaches, in national parks and in other tourist areas. Valuables should never be left unattended.

A common ploy used by thieves is to slash car tyres and then assist in repairs, while an accomplice steals from the vehicle. Criminals have also staged deliberate traffic accidents with the intention of robbing the occupants once they have stopped their car.

Travellers should avoid leaving drinks unattended in bars and places of entertainment. There have been reports of drink spiking resulting in theft and assault.

Incidents of sexual harassment and assault of women have occurred. The risk of sexual assault or harassment increases when alone on beaches or travelling alone in taxis. We recommend that you do not camp on beaches in Costa Rica.

Tourist police operate in many tourist areas and can provide assistance in the event of a robbery or other incident. Tourist police can be contacted by dialling 911.

Civil unrest/political tension

Civil disturbances, including work stoppages and strikes, may cause disruption to local public services.


Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin.

Money and valuables

Australian dollars cannot be exchanged in Costa Rica, though US dollars and travellers’ cheques are easily converted. Credit cards are widely accepted, however the incidence of credit card fraud continues to increase in Costa Rica. You should keep your card in view while conducting transactions and check your accounts for unauthorised purchases. Street money changers often pass counterfeit Costa Rican and US currency. You should change money in banks or official exchanges.

Passports are a popular target for criminals in Costa Rica, who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. Make two photocopies of your passport, tickets, Costa Rican entry stamp and visas. Keep one copy with you in a separate place to the original (such as the hotel safe) and leave another copy with someone at home. Secure your valuables in your hotel safe and only carry your passport when required for travel. Immigration authorities do undertake spot checks of visas and identification. You should carry a copy of your passport (photo page) and the entry stamp at all times.

If you lose your passport while travelling in Costa Rica, you will need to arrange a replacement travel document through the Australian Embassy in Mexico City. If your plans require you to travel on to, or via the United States using an emergency travel document, you will be required to obtain a US non-immigrant visa. This process takes a minimum of four to five days for you to arrange.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Local travel

Driving in Costa Rica can be hazardous due to poorly maintained roads and vehicles, local driving practices, inadequate road lighting and signage, potholes and landslides. Driving at night should be avoided when possible. Carjackings occur, often at gunpoint. Remain vigilant when your vehicle is stationary as criminals target stationary cars for smash and grab robberies. We recommend that you drive with the doors locked, windows closed and valuables out of sight.

Serious traffic accidents are common. Travellers involved in a traffic accident are required to stay with the vehicle and not move it until the Traffic Police have inspected the scene. For further advice, see our road travel page.

When renting vehicles, you should ensure you have insurance for theft, park in secured car parks whenever possible and never leave valuables in the vehicle. Rental vehicles are clearly marked and often subject to robbery and attack.

Visitors who plan to drive and/or rent a vehicle in Costa Rica should be aware that, in the event of an accident, the Costa Rican government may prevent the driver involved from departing the country until any injury claims have been settled. This could occur regardless of whether the driver is covered by insurance or considered to be at fault in the accident.

Strong coastal currents, including rip tides on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, can make swimming dangerous. Lifeguards are not common and few beaches have signs warning of dangerous conditions. Crocodile attacks have been reported on the Pacific Coast. Local authorities can provide advice regarding local conditions.

The safety standards you might expect of tour operators, including adventure activities such as white water rafting, bungee jumping, scuba diving and jungle canopy tours may not be of the same level as in Australia. Sufficient safety equipment may not be provided and recommended maintenance standards and safety precautions may not be observed. Always use available safety equipment, such as lifejackets or seatbelts, even if others don't. If appropriate safety equipment is not available, you should use another provider.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Costa Rica.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.


You are subject to the local laws of Costa Rica, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research laws before travelling, especially for an extended stay.

Penalties for drug offences are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails. See our Drugs page.

It is illegal to photograph official buildings. You should check with local authorities before taking photos.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Local customs

Photographing children and women may be met with suspicion and violence. You should always seek permission from the child's parents before taking photographs of children or talking to children.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides further information for dual nationals.


Zika virus: Costa Rica is experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus. The infection often occurs without symptoms but in some cases can cause fever, rash, severe headache, joint pain, and muscle or bone pain. There are no vaccines. All travellers are urged to protect themselves by taking measures to prevent mosquito bites. Given possible transmission of the disease to unborn babies, and taking a very cautious approach, pregnant women (or women trying to become pregnant) should consider postponing travel to Costa Rica or talk to their doctor about implications. See our travel bulletin on Zika virus.

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

Your doctor or travel clinic is the best source of information about preventive measures, immunisations (including booster doses of childhood vaccinations) and disease outbreaks overseas. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our Health page also provides useful tips for travelling with medicines and staying healthy while overseas.

Public medical facilities are of a reasonable standard in the capital San Jose, and very limited in smaller towns and rural areas. Private medical facilities are available and well equipped. Doctors and hospitals require cash payment prior to providing treatment. Serious medical emergencies may require evacuation, at considerable cost, to a third country where the cost of medical treatment is very high. The cost of a medivac could exceed AUD$65,000.

Costa Rica has decompression chambers on beach resorts such as Liberia and Samara.

Malaria is a serious risk in the provinces of Limon and Puntarenas, including near the border with Panama. Other insect-borne diseases (including, dengue fever, Chikungunya virus, chagas' disease and leishmaniasis) are also a risk to travellers, particularly during the wet season (April to November). We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Costa Rican authorities require a Yellow Fever Vaccination Certificate for visitors who within the last ten days have travelled to Sub-Saharan Africa, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Peru and Venezuela.

A number of countries are experiencing ongoing transmission of the mosquito-borne Zika virus (ZIKV). Please read our travel bulletin on the Zika virus for more information.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We advise you to boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, and avoid ice cubes and raw and undercooked food. We advise you not to swim in freshwater lakes and rivers as they can be contaminated and not have danger signs. Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

Where to get help

Depending on your enquiry, your best option may be to first contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurer. Your travel insurer should have a 24 hour emergency number.

Tourist police operate in many tourist areas and can provide assistance in the event of a robbery or other incident. Tourist police can be contacted by dialling 911. You should always obtain a police report when reporting a crime.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas.

The Australian Consulate in San Jose, headed by an Honorary Consul, provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Costa Rica. The Consulate does not issue Australian passports, but can conduct passport interviews and provide Provisional Travel Documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian Embassy. Contact details are:

Australian Consulate, San Jose

Centro Corporativo Plaza Roble
Edificio El Prtico, Tercer Piso, Sfera Legal
Escaz, San Jose, Costa Rica
Telephone: +506 2201 0000
Facsimile: +506 2201 0001

You can obtain full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico:

Australian Embassy, Mexico City

Ruben Dario No 55 (Polanco)
Col Bosque de Chapultepec., C.P.
11580 Mexico D.F. Mexico
Telephone: +52 55 1101 2200
Facsimile: +52 55 1101 2201

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

If you are travelling to Costa Rica, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Hurricanes and Storms

The rainy season in Costa Rica normally occurs between May to November, although it can extend until January. The hurricane season is June to November. Landslides, mudslides, flooding and disruptions to essential services may occur during these periods. You should keep informed of weather forecasts, monitor local media reports and follow the instructions of local emergency officials.

If you are travelling during hurricane season, you should contact your tour operator to check whether tourist services at your planned destination have been affected.

The direction and strength of hurricanes can change with little warning. You can check the latest hurricane information at the National Hurricane Center website.

In the event of an approaching hurricane, you should follow the instructions of local authorities. Flights in and out of affected areas could be delayed or suspended. Available flights may fill quickly. You should contact your airline for the latest flight information. The hurricane could also affect access to sea ports in the region. In some areas, adequate shelter from a severe hurricane may not be available to all who may choose to stay. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel or cruise ship evacuation plans. You should carry your travel documents at all times (i.e. passport, photo ID etc.) or secure them in a safe, waterproof location. We also suggest that you contact friends and family in Australia with updates about your welfare and whereabouts. For further information, see our Severe Weather page.

Earthquakes and volcanos

Costa Rica is subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Australians are advised to remain alert to local media and, in the event of an earthquake follow the instructions of local authorities. You should familiarise yourself with your hotel’s procedures in case of an earthquake. Information on earthquakes and volcanic activity can be obtained from the US Geological Survey.


All oceanic regions of the world can experience tsunamis, but there is a more frequent occurrence of large, destructive tsunamis in the Indian and Pacific Oceans because of the many large earthquakes along major tectonic plate boundaries and ocean trenches. See the See the Tsunami Warning Center website and the Tsunami Awareness brochure.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in this country, see the following links:

Warnings by area

Map of Costa Rica