The proliferation of steel bars on windows and doors in Costa Rica begs two questions: “Is it safe?” and “Is there crime?” Living here for 6 years, we believe the answer to both questions is “Yes, it’s normal.” The problem comes when tourists are careless and inattentive. I would not leave my back pack and camera lying on a beach in Seattle, nor would I do it here. I wouldn’t leave the car windows down at the grocery store in Cincinnati, with my purse tucked under the front seat. And I wouldn’t walk back from dinner alone along the dark waterfront in Galveston. It’s normal.
That said, a tourist, the world over, is always a good mark for a pickpocket or a car break-in. Travelers carry everything with them: cash, credit cards, cameras and, more and more frequently, expensive electronics like I-pods and I-pads. The difference is that, in a poor developing country, what you’re carrying is probably worth more than a month’s salary for a local Costa Rican.
So be attentive and be safe. Don’t bring it to Costa Rica if you don’t need it. Don’t flaunt it by dangling it around your neck or hanging it off your backpack. Don’t carry with you more than you can afford to lose. Don’t create temptation by leaving it lying around in your hotel room. If your vacation rental has a safe, use it. And lock the doors to your room and car.
Show some healthy caution and show some respect. You’ll have a great vacation.