The posts on "Lonely Planet" about CR are scary!

Jul 18th, 2005, 08:22 AM
Original Poster
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The posts on "Lonely Planet" about CR are scary!

I've posted before that I don't know if our family is adventurous enough to enjoy CR. Everyone on this board has been encouraging. Then I read the "Post Cards" section on Lonely Planet's site. Mind you, some of the info is a couple of years old but goodness, it's just terrifying.

Lots of posts about being way over charged on departure tax and/or being encouraged to pay the wrong people. Posts about being robbed at gun or knife point and being left bleeding in the streets. Posts about beaches where if you even leave a towel unattend it will be stolen. Posts about locking your luggage in your hotel room and coming back to an empty room. There's even a post about a lady's boyfriend drowning on what should have been an uneventful boat ride.

Are the Lonely Planet folks and the Fodor's folks talking about the same country? Did the Lonely Planet folks happen to choose bad neighborhoods and beaches? I know that the US has very safe areas and very dangerous areas, so you can't generalize about a whole country, but I admit that Lonely Planet has scared me. Comments?
missypie is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 08:57 AM
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First let me say, I frequent and support both BB's. My feeling is that more Lonely Planet people travel at a MUCH more shoestring budget level than middle-class folks here, generally speaking. Which may account for some of the variations in experience. Renting a car and checking into an expensive eco-lodge situation, taking guided tours, is likely quite different than backpacking, taking local busses around, and camping on the beach, for example.

suze is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 10:16 AM
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In my view, there is a lot of fairly sophisticated petty crime in CR but not a lot of violent crime.
For example, when a couple was checking in to the hotel I stayed at in Manuel Antonio, a woman distracted the check in clerk and couple by asking if she could take pictures of the pool. While they were distracted her ~4 year old daughter stole the bag containing their passports and money.
RBCal is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 11:13 AM
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I wasn't overcharged on the departure tax. Nobody I know was, either.

suze is correct about the folks at the Lonely Planet boards traveling on a severely shoestring budget.

Just use common sense and you'll be fine, i.e., don't flash your cash while walking down the streets, don't walk around bad neighborhoods by yourself, be careful at night, don't leave your bags unattended, etc. Really, just take the same precautions you'd use at home.
Liquidsunshine is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 11:18 AM
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I think you're reading just a little too much into whatever it is you read. Makes CR sound a little more like Iraq than the peaceful country that it is. There are 2 desks (with signs) at the airport where you pay your tax. If someone is gullible enough to get taken in by a man walking up to them & claiming they need to pay him for the tax, well....lesson learned. The cost is $26, no more, no less.

Is it possible your stuff might get stolen whilst unattended on the beach? Yes. Is it possible it won't get stolen? Yes.

If you stay in a dodgy hotel in a dodgy part of San Jose, will you get robbed? Possibly. (Then again, the same applies to my own city).

Most of what you're reading looks like only a fraction of the whole story, which I guess if you worry about it enough you can scare yourself into not going. Case in point...a few months ago I read a story about a man from the US who fell countless feet from a zipline. Sounds awful, right? Enough to scare anyone from ever going on ziplines again. Well, turns out the man was not on any tour, he just decided to shimmy out across the lines using his hands. No surprise that mid-way he tired out & fell. Luckily he lived. But if you just go by the 1st part and skip ziplines altogether, well you're missing out because you don't have all the facts.

I found traveling to CR, as a single female, no more adventurous than Europe or the US. I did find much friendlier people, awe-inspiring beauty and an honest joy having me as a guest in their country. You can scare yourself into not going places, but such a pity to miss out on such a wonderful place.
tully is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 11:38 AM
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Another thing I try to keep in mind when reading internet postings is that people tend to post their negative events most often.

Folks complain gypsies bothered them in Rome, they were pickpocketed on the Metro in Paris, or they hated a particular hotel.

But when I have a smooth and uneventful trip it is not likely I rush home and post... just went to Mexico for the upteenth time, nothing bad happened to me anywhere, wasn't robbed or ripped off, not a darn mishap the entire trip. I believe it's human nature to carry on and want to be heard about negative experiences, for whatever reason.

suze is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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We just returned from our 1st trip to CR. I live in NJ ( at a beach community)and work in NY. I am more frightened every day at home that i was even once in CR. Spring lake beach- upcale and nice- in NJ...had my wallet stolen.
This is life. Point is be smart. We never felt the least bit threatened. Apply the same rules as in the rest of the world.
Visiting CR was an enriching experiance. The people were fantastic. Sincere, honest, hard working. Respectfull. Proud. Restored my faith in the human race.
So consider the source, and be smart.Enjoy
marleyzoemom is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 02:02 PM
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I don't doubt that those things did happen to the people who posted, but like everyone here has said, you need to keep them in perspective.

Up until about a year ago, you could pay your airport departure tax at any number of places. There were private individuals standing outside the airport selling it. Some were honest. Others not. In spite of a continuous recording in English and Spanish over the PA system outside telling you to pay the tax inside, many passengers just arriving at the aiport with all their luggage opted to pay the tax to these guys. When they got inside and presented the forms at the ticket counter, a few found they had paid too much, or that the forms were bogus. Now you can only pay the tax inside the airport or at branches of Bancredito. These guys have disappeared.

I wouldn't leave anything of value on the beach. It might not be there when you get back. That doesn't mean the beaches are dangerous, but there is petty crime.

That drowning did happen a few months ago on what should have been a routine boat ride.

Things do happen, but I wouldn't let them stop me from going to Costa Rica. Watch your things. Stay vigilant just as you would when traveling anywhere. Most people have hassle free trips to Costa Rica.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 05:28 PM
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missypie, you sound like me. I worry about safety too before planning a trip.

I planned a great and safe Costa Rica trip for my family using a variety of sources. We just returned a couple weeks ago. I too read about crimes and other scary things. As with any country, I tried to take my family to the safest areas and hotels that I could find based on my research. (That's one reason we decided to avoid San Jose, we never went to San Jose.)

I am easily intimidated, and I never once felt threatened in Costa Rica. In fact, when I returned home to San Diego, I actually felt more threatened in my own home-town airport than I did anywhere in costa Rica.

Here is something interesting to check. Go to When you log into their travel talk section, it will tell you how many discussions are posted for different countries in Latin america and Central America. You will notice that as of today, 969 different discussions are posted for Costa Rica, and only 8 discussions are posted for Nicaragua. Now, that doesn't prove that Costa Rica is safe. But it does show that Costa Rica is appealing to a tremendous number of visitors. How is Costa Rica managing to do that? In a variety of ways, they are managing to sustain high levels of interest in tourism. In other words they are doing something right where it comes to tourism. This does mean something.

I don't like the Lonely Planet guidebooks because when you are choosing hotels, there isn't any easy way of comparing them using the Lonely Planet guidebook.

I would generally agree that the Fodors guidebook is meant for mid- to high-end travel, not for budget travel.

I have found the most reliable sources for updated travel information is to find someone on who is a repeat visitor to the country you want to visit, who has made several visits in recent years. Make sure they share your travel philosophy (for example if they always go camping and you never go camping, they don't share your interests.) These people have the most updated information available! They can stear you towards safe accomodations and safe areas of any country, in any budget! To find these people, you have to read the fodors travel talk section for several months, and notice who keeps posting and knows a lot. If that sounds like too much work, you can always use a packaged tour, but I prefer independent travel.

I planned safe family trips to both Italy and costa Rica for my family using this method. good luck! Have fun.
Melissa5 is offline  
Jul 18th, 2005, 06:01 PM
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I remember assuring Melissa5 before her trip to Costa Rica that it is a wonderful country with polite,kind people. She definitely found it that way as you can read from the great, detailed report of her trip. My daughter and I planned our own trip, took the bus, and never had any problems feeling unsafe. We went into San Jose in the daytime and still felt very safe around the National Theater Gold Museum area. We took taxis and found all drivers to be honest and helpful. One taxi driver went shopping with us helping us buy souvenirs.
I have traveled through Vietnam, Thailand and other countries others might feel some fear,but I always was sure I stayed in good hotels and did not wander off the beaten path. Much of traveling is your own attitude, adapting to where you are, and doing your homework with all these wonderful people who post on Fodors as well as suggestions in guide books and other travel sites.
I have a young friend who backpacks to Costa Rica, Thailand, etc. and he definitely does travel differently than I would as an older woman. Lonely Planet is geared more toward this type of traveler.
Go and have a wonderful time.
maryanne1 is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 05:19 AM
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I took my wife and my 18 month old son two years ago and had the greatest time. As everyone else posted, use common sense and you will be fine. The country is still very poor in many areas and crimes do occur because of it, but if you play it smart, you will never even know it is there. Enjoy and the memories will last a lifetime.
ewesthoff is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 05:24 AM
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The LP Thorn Tree board is a great source of info for everybody- not just "budget" travelers.

Many people posting on LPTT travel the same way as posters on this board, stay in the same hotels, go on the same tours and rent cars from the same companies. Especially the posters in the central american section.
To discount postings warning of the dangers of travel in central america with "those people are riding buses and sleeping in flop houses" will only handicap your own awareness of your travel destination.

I love Costa Rica, have visited several times without incident and plan to return soon. We have stayed in the nicest hotels in the country as well as a few budget digs but lets call spade a spade people.

Crime, especially petty crime, is an issue in CR. One needs to look no farther than the RECENT postings on THIS board to reach that conclusion.

Should this stop you from being one of the million plus tourists who visit every year? NO.
Will being aware of the issues save you from an unpleasant experience? maybe

greenfieldhunter is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 06:11 AM
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greenfieldhunter, I am a BIG fan of Lonely Planet and never said anything like "those people are riding buses and sleeping in flop houses". I do maintain there are more budget-oriented folks as regular posters there.

I am curious since you think people on Fodors and Thorn Tree stay in the same places, etc. in Costa Rica, what do you think accounts for the discrepancies of experience that Missypie found between the 2 BB's and that her original question was asking about?
suze is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 07:05 AM
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I'm just finishing up a year living in Costa Rica, doing research, and your post really touched me. My family isn't super adventurous either, but have now been here twice. And my younger sister (14) is actually here by herself visiting me right now.

As others have said, it all depends on what you do. Sure, I know plenty of people who have been robbed, including Costa Ricans, but mostly they weren't being careful. They were trying to save a dollar by taking a bus home late at night instead of paying that extra dollar for a taxi. Things like that.

Your towels will probably be fine on the beach; keep them in sight, or ask other tourists to keep an eye on them; or take turns swimming so as not to leave your things alone. My basic rule is not to carry anything that I would be devastated to live without.

I've been mugged once while I was here (not to jinx my last month), and yes, it was frightening. But as someone else responded, even Spring Lake can be more frightening (I'm from Shrewsbury, NJ!). In fact, when I called home to cry to my mom that I had been mugged, she told me not to freak out because it can happen in any city - in fact, she's been mugged twice in New York - and at gun point. That helped put things in perspective.

There is risk in any trip and in any city or town. You have to be aware of your surroundings. Use safes in hotels and keep copies of your passports. Don't walk around alone at night. I would think that you'll have an advantage traveling as a family. Costa Ricans, especially in popular tourist spots are very helpful and friendly, whether you speak Spanish or not. I'm thrilled to have been able to spend (in total) about a year and a half in Costa Rica and plan on moving back after grad school.
CaitieBlueBug is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 01:09 PM
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Suze- I am not aware of the threads you mention of B and Bs in CR.

I too like both boards and I agree that budget travelers are better served on thorn tree for all areas including central america.

greenfieldhunter is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 01:50 PM
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<discrepancies of experience that Missypie found between the 2 BB's and that her original question was asking about?>

My question was how to explain the discrepancies between the general mood of the postings on the BB (bulletin board) Thorn Tree and here at Fodors, in response to the original question.
suze is offline  
Jul 19th, 2005, 05:54 PM
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Crime rates (especially burglary and robbery) are higher in CR than in the USA, but just as in the USA, tourists are not the major targets of criminals. While there is more tourist-targeted crime than just a a few years ago, the vast majority of visitors to CR have no difficulties.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
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