Is Costa Rica a Safe Country? For Americans?
Yes. Costa Rica is certainly a safe, developing Country that welcomes Americans. However, it’s always important to be a smart traveler and respect cultural differences. Costa Rica takes crime seriously, however we urge our student, teacher and other group travelers to exercise the same caution that they would when traveling within any other foreign country (especially a developing country).
- Always travel with someone else, whether it be taking a walk, running or biking for exercise, hiking, etc. When crossing the straight, give vehicles the right of way to ensure your safety.
- Take extra precaution when visiting popular tourist attractions where criminals could potentially be looking to take advantage of lackadaisical tourists.
- Although uncommon, ignore any verbal harassment attempts from locals who may be looking to cause a stir with tourists.
- Keep your valuables at home, including passports, wallets, cash and expensive jewelry. Carry valuable photography equipment at your own risk.
- Never lose sight of your belongings, no matter what the value.
- Bring a photocopy of your passport with you on your trip, as extra protection in case your passport is lost or stolen. Also consider making a photocopy of your Costa Rican entry stamp.
- Driving in Costa Rica is not quite like driving in the United States. Our commonly understood road rules and laws are not always followed by drivers. Pedestrians, bikers and stray animals can also pop out into the road without warning. We suggest allowing our staff and predetermined arrangements take care of your transportation. For more information, our sister site (Costa Rica Escapes) has a great article on driving in Costa Rica.
- Be careful of the strong currents and undertow when swimming in the ocean. Rarely will a lifeguard be present, or even a warning sign about the danger level of the beach. Americans die every year in Costa Rica’s ocean currents, so please be very careful and never swim alone.
We also suggest that you visit the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site for any security updates on Costa Rica. Click this link to go straight to that particular page. You can also call 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in USA/Canada) to get the latest international security information via the telephone.
What Should You Pack for Your Costa Rica Student Group Trip?
It’s very important for your child to have the proper clothing and equipment while they are traveling with their student group to Costa Rica. Read our extensive “What to Pack” article, which details all of our packing recommendations for your student trip to Costa Rica.
Is There Extra Insurance Parents Can Take Out on Their Child?
Costa Rica Explorations provides a student protection plan for each student which is included in their program tuition. Details on this policy’s coverage are provided once it has been purchased. There is always more insurance one can buy. If you would like further coverage please ask your local insurance agent or contact Travel Insured International for more information.
How Can Parents Reach Their Child for Family Emergencies?
Parents will be given the contact information to the Costa Rica Explorations headquarters. Someone will be available at this number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week while the students are abroad. If there is an emergency on either end, the contact at Costa Rica Explorations Headquarters will act as the liaison between the group in Costa Rica and the United States. Your child will be contacted as soon as possible through this chain of communication. We have found this process to be the most effective and efficient for everyone because Costa Rica Explorations headquarters will know where the group is at all times.
In the event of a student group, we strongly suggest creating an email list, WhatsApp or iMessage group for the parents back in the United States. This is useful in letting parents know the students arrived in country safely and keeping them updated on the events of the trip. Students and teachers will have intermittent access to WiFi throughout the trip.
How is Payment Handled for Costa Rica Explorations Programs?
The payment schedule for a Costa Rica Explorations program is as follows:
- A deposit of is due with the submission of the First Part of the Student Application. The deposit secures you a spot on the trip.
- The tuition balance of the program must be paid anytime before 30 days from the program start date along with Part 2 of the Student Application.
- If applicable, the payment for plane tickets are handled soon after the initial deposit has been received. Costa Rica Explorations will handle plane reservations and will provide paperwork and instructions for purchasing these tickets when the time comes.
How Do you Select your Homestays & Can You Guarantee Safety?
The Costa Rican homestay families are chosen by close personal contacts to the Costa Rica Explorations founders and some are actual family members that are native to Turrialba, Costa Rica. We have been working with our homestay neighborhoods for years and know all of the families, parents and children very well. For example, a mother of one of the homestay families is the director of the local kindergarten.
Costa Rica Explorations always makes pre-program visits to each homestay famiy’s home to inspect and discuss the upcoming program’s necessities and expectations. Each adult family member within the homestays completes a background check and a contract is signed with Costa Rica Explorations to ensure he/she understands they are assuming a parential role to the Costa Rica Explorations students and are in charge of their physical, social and emotional well being. Families that are picked typically have school-aged children, so that the students will have peers.
Costa Rica Explorations guides and the students’ host teachers will also stay with homestay families in the same neighborhood. Guides are on call 24-hours a day, and there is telephone access in each of the homestay family’s houses. Many families have internet access as well.
What Vaccines Do I Need Before Traveling to Costa Rica?
It is not required that students, teachers and other group travelers get vaccines for trips with Costa Rica Explorations. Should you choose to get them, however, we offer the following suggestions if you’d like to take extra precaution. It’s recommended that you refer to your doctor’s advice for any personally recommended vaccines. We suggest contacting the Center For Disease Control and Prevention to request more information on any vaccines that you may want to consider for your group trip to Costa Rica.
Standard Shots & Vaccines for Costa Rica
In order to minimize the chance of infection, check to make sure the following vaccines are up to date. Although they rarely occur in the United States in today’s age, these diseases can still be common in developing parts of the world.
- MMR Vaccine: Measles, Rubella or Mumps
- DPT Vaccine: Tetanus, Diphtheria or Pertussis
- Polio Vaccine: Polio Virus, etc.
Hepatitis A, Heppatis B & Immune Globulin Vaccines
Although it’s rare, travelers to developing countries (such as Costa Rica) can potentially be at risk to these virus infections whether traveling for pleasure or service. They are typically contracted through food and beverages (especially water), in the uncommon scenarios that they are contracted. If you have any concerns, you may want to consider getting these vaccinations before traveling to Costa Rica.
Typhoid & Malaria Vaccines
The Typhoid vaccine is recommended for all unvaccinated students, teachers and travelers planning to visit very small cities and rural areas in and around Costa. Exposure most often occurs through food, beverages or water consumed within these smaller towns, cities and villages.
Certain parts of Costa Rica have a history with Malaria (i.e. – Limón), however the risks have lessened over the years. We highly suggest that you consult your doctor on how to avoid and prevent an uncommon circumstance of contracting Malaria on your trip. Some options to discuss with your doctor include:
- Prescribing an Anti-Malerial drug
- Preventing mosquito and bug bites by being diligent with insect repellant use and covering your skin with full clothing as much as possible (especially long pants).
- Using bed nets while sleeping, or residing in air-conditioned rooms.
Do I Need a Passport or Visa to Travel to Costa Rica?
Travelers need a valid passport that will not expire for at least 90 days after arrival to Costa Rica in order to participate in a Costa Rica Explorations program. Travelers’ passports must be in good condition for them to be excepted in Costa Rica. Make a copy of your passport to keep at home and to send to Costa Rica Explorations to have on record in case a passport goes missing.
To apply for a passport (or renew) go to US Department of State and follow directions according to your needs. Start this process as soon as possible, because it can take weeks to get your passport.
Every traveler not coming from the Americas or a European Union country should consult the following Costa Rican information web site to ensure that they meet current immigration requirements.
American citizens receive an automatic tourist visa upon entering Costa Rica, and are not required to have an additional visa to enter the country. Proof of a return (departure) flight is a requirement upon arrival to Costa Rica.