Scams in Costa Rica

It’s probably the thing that travelers are most afraid of (if they’re aware of them), and yet they continue to happen over and over. Scams can happen to the best of us, but if you know what to expect, your chances of falling prey to common tourist scams will be just about nill. 

Here are some of the most common scams in Costa Rica

  1. Taxi scam: this is one of the more common scams in Costa Rica. You’ll get in the taxi and the driver will tell you that the meter is broken – don’t believe them. Without the meter, they’ll be able to charge whatever they want. Find another taxi. 
  2. “Helpful” scam: This one is a little tricky. If you seem lost, someone might approach you to offer assistance or guidance, and then demand a “tip” for their services. Alternatively, someone may offer to help you with your bags, subsequently making off with them, or also demanding a tip. Moral of the story – be wary of anyone who approaches you uninvited.  
  3. Tour scam: A very friendly and professionally dressed individual comes up to you and starts spinning a tale of the best day tour you’ve been on in your entire life. It’s simple, it’s informative, it’s fun and full of activity, and best of all, the price is amazing. You’re sold, so you pay them the fee and wait the next morning for a tour bus which…never comes. They got you. The lesson – only purchase day tours from authorized tour companies, and read the reviews so you can be sure of a good experience. 

How can I keep my money safe while traveling in Costa Rica? 

Along with being wary of scams in Costa Rica, you should also keep an eye on your money in general. 

First, keep your money separated. You definitely don’t want to have everything in one place. In the unfortunate event that you fall victim to the pickpockets, better that they get some of what you got – not everything. So you have a couple options: divide up cash and cards, or divide whatever you have into as many places as you like. Just not one. 

In addition, when going out, carry small amounts of cash so that the risk is lower if the thieves get you. One way to keep what you have safe is also by using a money belt, something you wear under your clothes, so you can move around with a little less worry (tip: keep your passport in the money belt too – you’ll need to have it anyway, and this way your most important travel document is as secure as possible). 

Finally, never use an ATM after dark – you’ll be a very vulnerable target. Daytime ATM use only, please. 

And that’s it! Remember, the word you hear the most in discussions of pickpockets is vigilance. Check on your valuables frequently, and be suspicious of anyone who might come up to you. They won’t know who they’re messing with!

Looking for more information? 

Check out the following articles below for other tips on safety in Costa Rica: 

Safety in Costa Rica

Food and Water Safety in Costa Rica

Getting around: Buses and Taxis in Costa Rica

Solo Travel in Costa Rica

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