Why are there bars on the windows?

crime in samara costa ricaThe 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.

  1. Mac said:

    Generally, this was well-written. However, do you see bars on windows in Seattle or Galveston? Generally no, one doesn’t, except in Hispanic or black neighborhoods. Be honest.
    However, in Costa Rica one sees bars on windows and iron cages protecting motor vehicles in even the ritziest of neighborhoods. When I was there ca. 1990, even the former President’s house was encased in rebar!
    That’s what’s remarkable about CR.

    Also, you mention car break-ins. You would do your readers a service by frankly telling them that no such break-ins of rental cars are necessary in CR as the thieves have keys to virtually every make and model! That’s right: at the tourist sites, the robbers will simply open your car’s interior and trunk and in quite a civilized fashion, help themselves to your belongings!

    If folks in the tourist business would simply state the facts honestly as I just have, then intelligent tourists could simply make the decision to not bring anything of value to these sites, and we could do away with the “break-in” myth.

    • lavaeha said:

      Alas, another point of view. Thanks for your comments. Those “cages” around motor vehicles in CR look a lot like garages in colder climates.

      • Mac said:

        But they are not garages – they’re iron cages specifically built to impede vandalism and theft. I grew up in the suburbs of Phoenix (mild winters), and garages were virtually unheard of. Simple carports were the rule, and thefts from these homes were unusual.
        Again, when upper class neighborhoods need the highest security, there is a problem within the culture.

        And we all know stories of people returning to their CR homes after a two-week vacation, only to find it completely ransacked, including any copper plumbing! Which is why it’s necessary to have home sitters for any unattended property – and one still has to hope the home sitter isn’t also a burglar!

        Nonetheless, CR remains at the top of my list of countries in which I would like to live.
        Pura vida!

        PS: Please help dispel the “rental car ‘break-in’ at the tourist sites” myth! You know what I wrote previously is the truth.


  2. steve said:

    Very well said!

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