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The dark side of the moon

Street crime:

Street crime is as common in Costa Rica as it is in any other country in the world. However it is not excessive, as many people tend to think.

Millitary related crisis in central american countries have, over the years, formed a mindset in people that relates Central America with guerilla activity and social insecurity. This has not, however, been the case with Costa Rica which has been free of a millitary system since 1949.

San Jose and other cities should be treated as any large city in the world, and similar precautions should be taken. San Jose may be seen as a small scale Los Angeles or New York City. The city itself is safe, however the same security measures you take in your home town you should take in San Jose and other metropolitan areas in Costa Rica.

Do not leave personal items unattended at any moment, either on the street, in shopping centers, or at individual establishments.

Money exchange should be performed in authorized banks, ignore street vendors who may offer to exchange currency.

If you should be confronted, stand down and don't offer resistance. People in Costa Rica are much more friendly than in most countries, however street criminals tend to be just as violent and agressive and should not be confronted.


Firearms are permitted in Costa Rica, as long as you carry the appropriate permit. Permits must be obtained from the Department of Arms and Explosives of the Ministry of Public Safety (MSP). This particular department is located in San Pedro a few blocks from the Mall San Pedro.

In order to obtain a firearms permit, both a written and practical examination must be passed. The process may take a few months, depending on examination dates and availability. Your weapon must also be registered at the MSP in order to be admitted for portation.

Automatic weapons are banned, as well as the usual high power explosive and ballistic weaponry.


Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica, and is centered around certain areas of downtown San Jose and the larger cities.

Night clubs exist in the downtown area, as well as in a few suburbs. These normally charge an admission fee which is around $10 to $15. Some night clubs have no admission fee, but a minimum consumption of around $15 is required.

Prostitution is legal in Costa Rica only for those over 18 years of age. Prostitution of minors is illegal and punishable by law. US residents seeking minors in Costa Rica may also be subjected to local sanctions within the United States upon return. Legal age of consent is 18, according to the most recent edition of the Costarrican Penal Code.

Organized crime:

Presence of organized crime is minimal, centered mainly around vehicular theft and organized bank assault groups. Even with this presence, banking operations and vehicular transit through the country are safe as long as basic safety precautions are observed.

No guerilla activity has been reported inside Costa Rica.

Dangerous areas and off limits:

Several areas exist within the central valley which area crime prone and should be avoided.

In general, the downtown area of San Jose should be avoided after 7 PM unless you're looking at the night club sector (explore at your own risk). The downtown area has an extremely high concentration of commercial offices which empty after 7 PM, leaving the area practially deserted except for standard vehicular transit.

The south part of downtown San Jose (south of 2nd avenue) should be avoided during the day and especially during the night.

The southern part of the urban ring (Hatillo, San Sebastián, Alajuelita) contains no important attractions and should normally be avoided.

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