Costa Rica Country Report
There are no major operational risks to foreign investors in Costa Rica. Potential protest risks are greatest for resource development, public transit, and fiscal reform issues. However, such demonstrations would not fundamentally undermine Costa Rica’s propitious investment climate. Skilled labour is readily available and the level of unionisation in the private sector is relatively low. Environmental awareness is high and development projects are closely monitored by international and national organisations. Improving infrastructure, particularly highways, is currently a focus for the government amid repeated reports of degradation, but a number of major projects have faced delays.
There are no known terrorist groups in Costa Rica with the intention or capability to target private, military, or government-owned assets. However, explosives were used in mid-2019 against government buildings, which is unusual in the country. There is a modest but growing presence of international drug-trafficking organisations that do not have an interest in conducting terrorist attacks, although their presence is contributing to high violent crime rates. Former members of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia: FARC) are unlikely to present a direct crime or terrorism risk.
Crime rates in Costa Rica are lower than those in other Central American countries but rose steadily from 2012 to 2017, with the homicide rate reaching historic levels of 12.1 per 100,000 residents in 2017. However, there has been a gradual improvement under the administration of President Carlos Alvarado. In 2018, the rate decreased to 11.7 and in 2019 to 11 per 100,000 residents. The main crime risks for foreigners include armed robberies, drug-related incidents, and assaults. Car theft has become a growing problem because of growth in the stolen-car market in neighbouring countries. Theft of cargo incidents have also slightly decreased over the past year.
Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948, but remains protected by an active national security force and through international co-operation with the United States. The risk of interstate war remains low despite an ongoing border dispute with Nicaragua along the San Juan River. Occasional incursions into contested areas are likely as both countries pursue infrastructure projects along the San Juan River and Nicaragua seeks to expand offshore oil exploration. Major disputes between Nicaragua and Costa Rica will probably manifest themselves through diplomatic channels.
Vaccinations required to enter the country
Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over nine months of age arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission (with the exception of Argentina, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago ) and for travelers who have been in transit for >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.
Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.
Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.
Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).
Yellow Fever: A vaccine is available for children over the age of one year.
Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).
Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - chloroquine (sometimes marketed as Nivaquine).
For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.
Costa Rica is vulnerable to natural disasters, including seismic activity. The risk is highest on the Nicoya Peninsula (north) and the Osa Peninsula (south).
Eruptions of the Turrialba Volcano, located approximately 35 km (25 mi) east-northeast of San José, are relatively common and can lead to flight disruptions at San José's Juan Santamaria (SJO) and Tobías Bolaños (SYQ) international airports, including full airport closures. The volcano also regularly drops potentially hazardous ash over the Central Valley, home to 60 percent of Costa Rica's 4.3 million residents as well as on San José (see HEALTH section). Various other active volcanoes are present in Costa Rica, including Irazú, Rincon, and Poás.
In the event of nearby volcanic activity, keep abreast of the situation and take the necessary precautions if in affected areas, such as stocking up on drinking water, wearing respiratory masks, and wearing covering clothing to protect skin from abrasive ash. Be prepared to evacuate if such an order is given.
Thunderstorms and downpours are common during the rainy season, which lasts from May through November with a peak of precipitation in September and October. Flooding and landslides, and consequent travel disruptions, are possible during this period.
Roads are often in mediocre condition; motorists should drive with caution, particularly on secondary roads and in rural areas. Poor road conditions and reckless local driving habits contribute to high fatality rates on the road. Additionally, roads are often closed due to flooding and landslides during the rainy season (May to November). Avoid driving at night when possible, particularly outside of cities.
Traffic congestion is notorious in the capital region (Gran Área Metropolitana), e.g. the cities of San José, Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago, particularly on San José's Circunvalacion ring road. Traffic conditions are particularly poor in the event of protests or car accidents (common in the city) and on rainy days, especially in the event of flooding.
While the ride-sharing application is technically illegal in Costa Rica, the service continues to function. Regarding taxis, it is advisable to only use licensed taxis with working meters. City buses are generally safe, inexpensive, and well maintained; be vigilant, however, regarding pickpockets.
Criminals have been known to specifically target rental cars, sometimes puncturing tires and following the car until it is forced to pull over then robbing the occupants.
Air travel is safe in Costa Rica. However, flight disruptions are relatively common in the afternoon due to the frequency of rain and thunderstorms.
Conditions are wet and tropical along the Caribbean coast but drier inland and along the Pacific. The dry season lasts from January until May and the rainy season from April until December. Rainfall is the heaviest along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts (intense but brief showers). Costa Rica's Central Valley has a temperate climate throughout the year. Temperatures are very high along the Pacific coast in the summer and slightly cooler along the Caribbean coast (30°C).
Voltage: 120 V ~ 60 Hz