SAFETY AND SECURITY
*** Worldwide Travel Alert ***
The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens of the potential for anti-U.S. actions following the disruption of a plot, linked to Iran, to commit a significant terrorist act in the United States.
The Threat from Crime
Crime is increasing in Costa Rica and U.S. citizens are frequent victims, particularly of petty theft. American tourists and residents can, however, take steps to protect themselves.
Criminals often operate in small groups, but may also operate alone. While most crimes are non-violent, criminals, including juveniles, have shown a greater tendency in recent years to use violence. The following are some examples of recent crimes against U.S. citizens:
* A tire of a rental car went flat, and people who stopped to "help change the
tire” stole U.S. passports, bags, cash, and camera.
* A hotel room was broken into during the day, and items the tourist had hidden
* Several Americans were traveling on a tour bus. The bus was parked at the
parking area of a white water rafting company, and while the tourists were
rafting, the bus was broken into. U.S. passports were stolen along with
cameras, cash, credit cards, and clothing.
* An American's backpack was stolen from a chair at a restaurant while he was in
* Items were stolen from the locked trunk of a rental car.
* A purse with a passport and credit cards was stolen out of a backpack on a bus.
* While making a transaction, an American set his passport on the counter at a
bank and was distracted by another "bank client" who started talking to him
and when he turned around, his passport was gone.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise the same level of caution here that they
would in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world. Here are some steps
that may help Americans avoid becoming victims of crime:
* For starters, put your passport in a safe place, like a hotel safe, and carry only a
copy (the photo page and the page containing the Costa Rica entry stamp) as
you enjoy your stay in Costa Rica.
* Carry on paper the name of your hotel and the phone number as well as the
phone number of the U.S. Embassy.
* Avoid areas with high concentrations of bars and nightclubs, especially at night.
* Seek entertainment in groups of people you know.
* Do not consume food or drinks you have left unattended or accept food or
drinks from "friendly" people.
* Do not leave a bar or other facility with a stranger.
Sightseeing or Walking About
* Avoid walking around at night (especially in the San Jose city center).
* Stay alert: crowded tourist attractions and resort areas popular with foreign
tourists are also common venues for criminal activities.
* Steer clear of deserted properties or undeveloped land.
* Walk or exercise with a companion.
* Lock all doors, and keep all windows closed.
* Keep valuables on the car floor and/or out of sight of a person who could see
them and grab them.
* Leave sufficient space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you
to allow you to drive away quickly, if necessary.
* Be alert to suspicious persons loitering on the side of the road.
* Use only licensed taxis (they have yellow triangle medallions with numbers
painted on the sides.)
* Use extreme caution if bumped from behind on an isolated stretch of road.
One method of initiating kidnappings and carjackings is to bump the victim's
car from behind; the unsuspecting victim stops, believing he or she is involved
in a minor accident, and is taken hostage or robbed. Use extreme caution if
you have a flat tire. Drivers with flat tires are advised to drive, if possible, to
the nearest service station or other public area, and change the tire
themselves, watching their valuables at all times. Most car rental companies
will cover the damage to the tire. (A common ploy by thieves involves the
surreptitious puncturing of tires of rental cars, often near restaurants or tourist
attractions, or close to the car rental agency at which the car was rented; when
the travelers pull over, "good Samaritans" quickly appear to change the tire and
rob the traveler.)
* Park in secured lots whenever possible, and do not leave valuables in the
* Travel with a cell phone.
* Do not accept help if someones says, "Follow me. I'm going that way."
* Change money in banks or other financial institutions (money changers on
the street have been known to pass off counterfeit U.S. dollars and local
* Retain all credit card receipts and check accounts regularly to help prevent
unauthorized use of credit cards.
* Avoid using debit cards for point-of-sale purchases, as a skimmed
number can be used to clean out an account.
* Keep the phone numbers for your banks on a sheet of paper in case your credit
cards or bank cards are stolen or lost.
* Reduce risk by keeping valuables out of sight, by not wearing jewelry, and
by traveling in groups.
* Avoid carrying large amounts of cash, jewelry, or expensive photographic
* Minimize travel after dark.
* Avoid responding in kind to verbal harassment.
* Do not store valuables in a car's trunk or glove compartment.
* Do not engage in a physical confrontation with the criminals. You are
outnumbered, and they may have hidden weapons.
* Don't try to outrun an armed criminal; no car or person can outrun a bullet.
* Immediately report any suspicious activity to police. If you are with or become
a victim of sexual assault please contact the Embassy immediately.
If You become a Crime Victim
If you are the victim of a crime, report it to the OIJ police who are able to take your report, and also to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy at 2519-2000 (during work hours) and 2220-3127, 2519-2280, or 2519-2279 (after work hours), or by email to: email@example.com. The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the U.S. Embassy. This allows the Embassy to make the necessary notifications that may help catch criminals, including terrorists, who try to buy or use the passport.
In Costa Rica, there are two kinds of police. Those in uniform are La Fuerza Pública.Their role is crime prevention. OIJ, plain clothes police, are in charge for investigations. In general, only OIJ police can accept reports of crime
How to Contact Us
Telephone: (506) 2519-2000 | From the U.S.: 011-506-2519-2000
After hours emergencies: (506) 2519-2280
After hours emergencies from the U.S.: 011-506-2519-2280
Embassy fax: (506) 2519-2305 | From the U.S.: 011-506-2519-2305
Consular fax: (506) 2220-2455 | From the U.S.: 011-506-2519-2455
Non-urgent questions/inquiries can also be sent via email to ACSSanJose@State.gov Hours of Operation
Embassy business hours are Monday–Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (Note: the Embassy is closed on U.S. and Costa Rican holidays)
Beginning October 11, 2011, all routine services, including passport renewal or replacement, additional passport pages, Consular Reports of Birth Abroad (CRBA), and notary services are available by APPOINTMENT ONLY.
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