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U.S. Department Of State
Crime Warnings For Costa Rica

February 23, 2007

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U.S. Department Of State
Crime Warnings For Costa Rica

February 23, 2007

The Department of State currently considers the crime rate in Costa Rica as high. The embassy routinely deals with U.S. citizens who are victims of criminal activities. While common criminal activity is similar to what is found in any large U.S. city, there are criminal activities that are particular to Costa Rica.

Criminals frequently prey on tourists through street scams, automated teller machine thefts, robbery of their effects on public buses, and increasingly, credit card theft, to include number skimming.

There are numerous crimes associated with rental vehicles. The most common is to puncture a tire on the victim's rental car, and follow the car until the driver pulls to the side of the road. At this point the criminals, posing as "good Samaritans" approach the vehicle to replace the tire and in the process steal the personal effects of the tourist.

Tourists with rental cars have been victims of carjacking, thefts, and assault. All criminals should be considered armed with firearms or knives. The criminals, if challenged or threatened, will quickly use their weapons.

Credit card fraud or "numbers skimming" is common. Numbers skimming is the theft of the information contained in the magnetic strip on the backside of the credit card. The theft of the information occurs when a criminal swipes the card through a machine that stores all the information.

With this information the criminal can charge items to the unsuspecting victim's credit card. Only when the monthly invoice arrives does the victim realize that they have been swindled. Travelers should carefully monitor their credit cards, and frequently check their credit card accounts. Travelers should avoid use of debit cards for point-of- sale purchases.

Long term visitors to Costa Rica must be alert for ever increasing auto theft rings, and escalating incidents of carjacking. Residential break-ins are common. All residences should be secured by grills and protected by an alarm system.

Costa Rica is also a micro-climate, and travelers to Costa Rica should check the projected rainfall amounts for the area in Costa Rica they intend to visit. Flooding may occur around the port city of Limon or other lower elevation areas of Costa Rica at any time, regardless of time of year and projected rainfall amount in a particular region.

Poor road conditions and erratic driving are daily hazards in Costa Rica. Roads are generally in poor condition. The roads are often overcrowded and narrow; drivers should be on the lookout for large potholes, road washouts and mudslides during the rainy season

(May-November). Drivers must be cautious when coming to a bridge, as a road leading to a bridge is two-way while the bridges themselves are sometimes only one way. Even the most experienced drivers are challenged by the disregard for traffic laws and road safety. Speed limits and red lights are often ignored. It is very common for vehicles to cross multiple lanes of traffic without regard to other drivers.

Pedestrians are not given the right of way, and extreme caution should be used whenever walking on the streets. Motorcycles are prevalent on the road and weave through traffic in any type of traffic situation.

Costa Rica has one of the highest vehicle accident rates in the world. In the event of a traffic accident, the vehicles must not be moved. This commonly results in excessive traffic back-ups.

The traffic police (Transito) and the insurance investigator (INS) must complete accident reports. Both of these officials will come, eventually, to the accident scene upon notification.

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