I think I’ve mentioned before that San Jose has grown on me during our year here. It offers more luxury comforts of home than anywhere else in Costa Rica, and being a city girl the past few years it’s been nice to be able to get my ‘city fix’ every once in awhile and go out to a fancy dinner, go to the movies, shopping, bars, etc.
I had a GREAT time in San Jose with my friends this weekend, but I was also unfortunately reminded of why I hated San Jose in the first place. While the rest of Costa Rica is a very safe, peaceful place, San Jose is very dangerous, especially for tourists/foreigners.
One of our good friends in our group was mugged, at knife point, Saturday afternoon right outside of the hostel we were all staying in together. She wasn’t drunk, she wasn’t being irresponsible, she simply walked alone to the Market 5 minutes down the street, in one of the “best” parts of the city, during daytime hours. We have all done this a million times. In fact, we were all out and about at this time, we had all gone off and done different things during the day and were about to meet back at the hostel to get ready for the night out.
During our orientation, we kind of had the fear of god put in us about traveling in and around San Jose, and this is probably a very good thing. If anyone is reading this blog looking for advice on Costa Rica travel, being ridiculously careful in San Jose is probably the thing I would want you to take from this most. While it’s usually petty crime/robbing, there are people walking around with machetes. And the cops? They aren’t much help. They showed up at the hostel about 3 hours after we called them and pretty much told her she shouldn’t be out by herself and didn’t even look at the video from the hostel surveillance camera. Would it really have helped stop the guy with the machete if another female volunteer was walking with her? Or would he have just gotten away with more money and credit cards and cellphones?
Our group had a really fun time last night for the going away party and we didn’t let that awful experience ruin anyone’s evening. More on the fun stuff later, but for now some words of advice for surviving in San Jose:
-Only take what you need out with you. If you are traveling through with all your stuff this is difficult, but if you are there for a night or two lock all important things up in a safe in your hostel or hotel (any worth staying in should offer a safe). Bring only a copy of your passport, no credit cards if possible.
-When going out, don’t get drunk and sloppy. This is true for anywhere, but in SJ they are waiting for tourists to get drunk and ‘misplace’ their fancy cameras and smartphones. The guys are also waiting for girls to get drunk and ‘misplace’ their morals.
-Always take a taxi if you are alone. Even if it’s a short walk and the weather is beautiful. Make sure to take a legit taxi and ask for it ‘con maria’ (with a meter). It’s expensive, but not as expensive as losing all your stuff.
-If you are in an unavoidable situation despite your best efforts, give them what they want. Nothing you have in your purse or wallet is worth your life!!!
Don’t let this affect your plans to visit Costa Rica at all! Most city’s in the world have more dangerous places in them then this entire country put together. This is just a reminder, that sometimes there is trouble, even in paradise :)