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It is a smart idea to stay on guard while traveling through Costa Rica. Theft, of personal property and especially cars, is more common than you may expect. In the major cities, you’ll notice that even houses sometimes have bars over the windows. Theft is most common in transit; pickpockets will wait for unaware tourists on buses to leave a bag unattended. Always hold your belongings while on a bus or train, and you should be just fine.
Indeed, Nicoya is more rural and more safe than the rest of Costa Rica. When out in the countryside, you’ll rarely have to worry, though of course it’s always a good idea to keep money and documents close to you and hidden. It is especially important to keep your passport with you at all times, because it is not uncommon for the police to demand such identification from tourists.
The most serious safety issues are health-related. Don’t go swimming alone if you are unsure of water depth or currents; don’t drink tap water (bottled water is always safest when traveling); and don’t forget to stay hydrated and bring comfortable shoes. Remember also that roads are the most dangerous part of Nicoya, because drivers are unpredictable and erratic. There is no such thing as a crosswalk – just assume the driver isn’t going to stop for you and wait!