Costa Rica is the Safest Country in Central America
=> True but misleading
While statistically true, this is a bit deceptive. Guatemala has the highest murder rate in the world, El Salvador is close behind and Mexico is over-run with feuding drug lords. Costa Rica is in fact much safer than the other countries in Central America but the statement is nearly meaningless because the others are so bad.
In 2016 through 2019 some surveys actually moved Costa Rica into second place behind Nicaragua for the lowest crime rate in Central America.
AirBnB 2br 2ba whole house $100 per night
=> Always False
AirBnB, VRBO, Homeaway and other booking sites are great in most aspects but it’s really annoying that they consistently lie about the cost of accommodations. I don’t know where they learned math but 4 nights at $100 a night does not add up to $632.
It’s really difficult to stay within budget when the price you pay is up to 60% more than the advertised price. It would be manageable if it were just a few bucks for the government but they add employee pay (housekeepers), profit (service fee), profit (convenience fee), occupancy tax, sales tax and value added tax.
That’s $158 a night, not $100.
Crime in Costa Rica is Like the U.S./Canada/Europe -or- It Could Happen Anywhere
While overall statistics may be similar for Costa Rica and a traveler’s home town, tourist are specifically targeted in Costa Rica. They are many times more likely to be victims of theft in Costa Rica than they are at home.
Theft from tourists is rampant for two reasons. First there are a bunch of tourists wandering around thinking “oh, that Costa Rica expert on TripAdvisor told me crime rates are similar in the U.S. and Costa Rica so I have nothing to worry about” making them perfect victims.
Second, stealing is frequently not in practice punishable by law in Costa Rica.
On the bright side travelers can avoid becoming a victim with some basic education and easy thievery means that violent crimes against tourists rarely happen. Why risk injury or jail time committing a messy mugging when there’s a safe, no-risk, and profitable alternative?
Mandatory Rental Car Government Insurance
=> True but misleading
There is Mandatory Government Car Insurance in Costa Rica – Rental car companies in Costa Rica use the small legally mandated liability insurance cost (about $2.50 a day from the government) to pad their rates by charging $10-$25 for it.
Sometimes agencies also imply that Collision Damage Waiver coverage is legally required. CDW isn’t even insurance it’s just an agreement between you and the car company that there will be a limit on the amount you pay for damages. It may be “required” in the sense that they won’t rent you the car unless you pay extra but there are no laws forcing CDW in Costa Rica.
There are other questionable charges car rental agencies use to increase rates compared to advertised prices.
Expedia/TripAdvisor/Hotels.com/Travelocity Have the Best Rates on Lodges, Resorts & Hotels
=> Occasionally true
For the most part the prices on internet booking sites are slightly below retail but the savings may be negated by the fees you pay to the booking sites. These sites can be a convenient way to make reservations but typically the higher quality lodges don’t need to discount their rates so you won’t find online bargains and you may pay more.
Groupon/LivingSocial/Zozi Travel Deals tend to be the same situation although occasionally a new property will run a promotion for a grand opening or to get the word out how good they are.
The Cheapest Rates for Hotels and Tours are Last Minute Pay in Cash
=> Occasionally true
For the most part good hotels and lodges are full or nearly full with pre-paid reservations in the high season and have already discounted rates as much as they can for the low season. Desperate hotels of questionable quality will sometimes offer big discounts but we have to be desperate to decide to stay there…
The only time we’ve found significant discounts are at smaller places where the accounting is casual and they can save around 15% by not paying taxes on a cash transaction. Sometimes they will pass those savings along.
You Can Charge the Departure Tax on Your Credit Card
=> kinda sorta true
Conveniently though for credit card users the departure tax desk is also a bank. For a fee they will give you a cash advance on your credit card which they will then deposit to the Costa Rican government’s tax account without ever handing it to you or telling you that is what they are doing.
You may think it’s just an unimportant technicality, but a credit card cash advance (as opposed to a purchase) can cost as much as twenty dollars plus interest which equates to a 60% convenience fee added on top of the departure tax.
While Costa Ricans are accustomed to paying cash advance fees and interest when using their credit card to pay an electricity bill, licensing fee or property tax, most travelers expect their credit card to be treated as a credit card unless they are standing in front of an ATM specifically requesting a cash advance and end up surprised by the extra charges.
The most likely time travelers will be hit with a surreptitious cash advance is paying the departure tax at the airport, paying for a parking or traffic ticket or anything where you’re required to go to the bank, make a payment and bring back a cancelled receipt.
*By 2019 most airlines include the departure tax in the cost of a ticket…see details.