We had a last minute cancellation recently. The couple was concerned about the safety of camping in Costa Rica. They had some friends or relatives who had been to Costa Rica and thought that camping would not be safe (although these folks were not campers!)
So I would like to say that traveling in Costa Rica is not more dangerous than traveling any where else. Any tourist, or camper, must be aware of their surroundings. I visited the Vatican in Rome, for example, and there were pickpockets everywhere. Everyone on the cruise ship knew about it and that you had to watch your belongings and the people around you when you went to the Vatican.
It is the same in Costa Rica. You can’t leave your bags on the car seat when you go in to a restaurant or shop. They should be left in the trunk, or carried with you. If you have expensive gear (laptops, cameras, etc) you should plan how you will keep it safe during the trip. Normally the best is to keep it with you, or in a safe deposit box at the hotel.
In the case of our camper, my feeling is that it is very safe. Our clients who have rented the van also felt very secure throughout the trip. They tend to travel light, plus the camper has quite a few great hiding spots that we will show you. When you go to sleep at night, it is totally enclosed, so you are safe from insects, animals and any people wandering about.
Another factor is that when you arrive to a camp area and begin to set up the camp site, you tend to draw a crowd. These are park rangers, other tourists, or locals. Campers are not common here, and the graphics on the side of the vehicle draw attention. People want to see what it is and they will come up and talk to you.
The advantage is that this breaks the ice, so you get to know others who are camping in the area. If you talk to locals, you will find that they are very nice people and you will also feel safe, especially in the more remote areas that the camper allows you to get to and enjoy up close.
Now if you compare the safety of renting the camper to renting a 4 x 4 and staying in a hotel, I would say that it is as safe, or safer than the hotel. Here are some factors:
– Most rental 4 x 4 s don’t have a trunk, they have a cargo area. So your gear is out in the open.
– Just as many thefts occur at hotels and restaurants as on the streets. This is true anywhere in the world. If you are staying at one hotel for a week, the chances of something getting stolen are in my opinion very low. You can use facilities in your room or in the hotel for valuable items. However, if you are planning on covering a lot of ground on your vacation, your chances increase dramatically.
Weighing these two factors, I would prefer the camper. Only the front windows offer visibility from the outside, particularly if you draw the curtains. In any case, you have multiple spots to stow valuables. With the camper, you know you will be on the move and in the open, so you will also be aware of your surroundings much more. Finally, you will be avoiding the urbanized beach spots like Tamarindo, Coco and Jaco, which are where the real thieves concentrate.
In a camper, you will be traveling to less developed areas and getting to know the real Costa Rican people. So in my opinion any extra precautions or awareness you will have to go through will be well worth the trade – off of getting to see the real Costa Rica, and getting to enjoy its most unspoiled spots in an up close and personal way.