Fire and rescue services
Call 911 or 118.
Call 911 or 128.
We haven't changed our level of advice:
Exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica.
Full travel advice: Safety
Full travel advice: Health
Full travel advice: Local laws
Full travel advice: Travel
Full travel advice: Local contacts
Violent crime is common in Costa Rica, including:
'Express kidnappings' also happen, where criminals force you to withdraw funds from ATMs.
Travellers have been the target of armed robberies or drug-related crime.
Criminals often target:
Drink spiking with methanol is a very serious current problem. It usually happens with locally made alcoholic drinks. Methanol spiking has killed people.
Women are at risk of sexual harassment and assault, particularly when alone on a beach or in a taxi.
Take care in San José, particularly after dark. High-risk areas for theft include:
Take care in other areas of Costa Rica, including:
To protect yourself from violent crime:
Petty crime is common, particularly pickpocketing and bag-snatching. Thieves often target overhead compartments on buses.
Unattended vehicles are targeted:
To keep your belongings safe:
Road-based crime is common. Criminals who target vehicles may:
Carjackings happen, often at gunpoint. Criminals target stationary cars and rental vehicles for robberies.
In tourist areas, you can get help from tourist police. See Local contacts
Credit card fraud is a risk.
Street money changers often pass counterfeit Costa Rican and US currency.
To protect your money:
Nationwide strikes and roadblocks have been happening since September 2018. It's unknown how long the strike action will continue.
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
Civil disturbances may happen, including strikes. This can disrupt local public services who may stop work.
To protect yourself during periods of unrest:
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Strong coastal currents and rip tides occur on both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. These can make swimming dangerous.
You may not find lifeguards on public beaches. You also may not see warning signs for dangerous conditions.
Crocodile attacks have been reported on the Pacific Coast.
Get local advice before swimming.
To protect yourself in case of a natural disaster:
The hurricane season is June to November, although tropical storms and hurricanes can happen in other months. The direction and strength of hurricanes can change suddenly.
Landslides, mudslides and flooding can also occur, especially during heavy rainfall in the rainy season from May to November. The rainy season can sometimes extend to January.
If there's a hurricane or severe storm:
Severe weather may also affect:
If you're travelling to Costa Rica during hurricane season or after a natural disaster, monitor weather reports.
If you choose to stay when a hurricane approaches, adequate shelter may not be available.
Costa Rica is in an active earthquake zone. Earthquakes and tsunamis can happen.
Volcanic eruptions also happen. The Turrialba volcano has been active since May 2016, causing ash fall and vapours. This has disrupted air travel.
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave. Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation. The Australian Government won’t pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many 1000s of dollars up-front for medical care.
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
If you need counselling services while overseas, contact the Australian Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on (+61 2) 6261 3305 and ask to speak to a Lifeline telephone counsellor.
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Costa Rica. Take enough legal medication for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
Malaria is a serious risk in Limon and Puntarenas, including near the border with Panama.
Preventative anti-malaria medication can help protect you.
The risk of contracting other insect-borne illnesses increases in the wet season from April to November. These include:
To protect yourself from insect-borne diseases:
Get medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.
Zika virus is widespread in Costa Rica.
If you're pregnant, the Australian Department of Health recommends that you:
Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases are common. These include:
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
To protect yourself from illness:
If you're bitten or scratched by an animal, get medical help straight away.
Get medical advice if you suspect food poisoning or have a fever or diarrhoea.
Public medical facilities are reasonable in San José, but limited in smaller towns and rural areas.
Private medical facilities are available and well-equipped but expensive.
You'll usually need to pay cash upfront before doctors and hospitals will treat you, even in an emergency. Doctors will rarely agree to work with your travel insurer. This means you may need to ask for reimbursement after paying cash for your treatment.
Decompression chambers are available at Liberia and Samara.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to a place with suitable facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter. But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and can include long imprisonments in local jails.
It's illegal to photograph official buildings in Costa Rica.
Strict laws protect native animals and plants.
To avoid inadvertently breaking the law:
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
Locals may be suspicious if you photograph children and women, or talk to children.
To avoid giving offence:
On an Australian passport, you don't need a visa for a tourist visit of less than 90 days.
You might be refused entry if you can't show that you'll return home or travel onwards.
Entry and exit conditions can change. Contact the Embassy of Costa Rica for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
If you’re travelling through the US, you must also meet US entry or transit requirements.
If you're travelling via Canada, you'll need an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada.
You may require extra documents if only one parent or guardian is travelling with a child.
Dual-national Australian and Costa Rican children need notarised written consent from both parents to leave the country. Contact the Embassy of Costa Rica to confirm this.
You'll need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter Costa Rica. Some airlines may want to see one when you leave.
Find out about returning to Australia after exposure to yellow fever.
You must pay a departure tax to leave Costa Rica. This might be included in your airline ticket.
At airports, you can pay with US dollars or Costa Rican Colones (CRC), in cash or by credit card.
At other border crossings, you can pay at Bancredito kiosks.
Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport.
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
The local currency is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC).
You can't exchange Australian money in Costa Rica, but you can exchange US dollars.
Credit cards are widely accepted.
Take care if you're taking part in adventure activities, such as:
Adventure tour operators may not maintain safety gear or follow recommended safety standards.
If you plan to do an adventure activity:
If proper safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.
You can drive for up to 3 months with your Australian driver's licence. If your Australian licence allows, you can drive a car and motorcycle.
You're 2.5 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident in Costa Rica than in Australia.
Driving in Costa Rica can be dangerous. Hazards include:
Serious traffic accidents are common.
If you plan to drive in Costa Rica:
If you're in an accident, you must stay with the vehicle. Don't move it until the traffic police allow. You may be unable to leave Costa Rica until you settle any injury or insurance claims, even if you weren't at fault and have insurance.
Official taxis are red and have a yellow triangle on their side panels.
Official airport taxis are orange. You can buy prepaid vouchers for airport taxis in front of the San José airport terminal.
If you use an unofficial taxi, there's a risk of robbery and assault.
To protect yourself and your money when taking a taxi:
If you're female, don't travel alone in a taxi.
Travelling via public transport puts you at risk of theft. Don't put your passport and other valuables in luggage racks or under your seat.
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check Costa Rica's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
Call 911 or 118.
Call 911 or 128.
Tourist police operate in many tourist areas. You can contact them by calling 911.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Contact your provider with any complaints about tourist services or products.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Australia has a consulate in San José, headed by an honorary consul. This consulate provides limited assistance to Australians in Costa Rica.
The consulate doesn't issue Australian passports. They can conduct passport interviews and provide provisional travel documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian embassy.
Third Floor, Oficentro Torre La Sabana
La Sabana, San José, Costa Rica
Phone: (+506) 8995 9900
You can get full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico.
Ruben Dario No 55 (Polanco)
Col Bosque de Chapultepec., C.P.
11580 Mexico D.F. Mexico
Phone: +52 55 1101 2200
Fax: +52 55 1101 2201
See the Embassy website for details of opening hours and any temporary closures.
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
Be the first to know official government advice when travelling.