Is it safe to walk around with a camera in Costa Rica?

Yes, it is safe to walk around with a camera in Costa Rica. However, there are a few safety measures you should adopt. Always have the camera on you. Carrying your photography equipment in a bag protects it and keeps it safe. Installing tracking software reassures you that you can track your camera in case of theft. 

During my first visit to Costa Rica with my husband John, we decided to flash our Canon Powershot SX60 as tourists do. Fortunately, on our first day out, a fellow traveller advised us on the dos and don’ts of carrying a camera in Costa Rica. The fact that we have visited Costa Rica many times without our cameras or photography equipment being stolen assures us that Costa Rica is safe. 

Key Takeaways From This Article

If Costa Rica is on your bucket list, you should read this article to the end. Safety measures for carrying your camera safely include the following: 

  • Keep the camera on you and avoid leaving it unattended in public places like the beach. 
  • Due to rapid weather changes, remember to carry moisture-absorbent packets and a rain jacket to protect your camera. 
  • Carrying your photography equipment in a bag ensures you don’t attract much attention and can carry everything safely. 
  • Installing tracking software makes it possible to track your camera in case it’s stolen. 
  • Carry the right camera gear, such as a monopod, a small hard drive with memory card slots, and several memory cards. 

Camera Safety  Measures While In Costa Rica

In Central America, Costa Rica is one of the safest countries to visit. A statement by the U.S. Embassy’s advisory about rising crime in Costa Rica might have made a few tourists shy away from visiting the country. 

The most popular cities in Costa Rica include Uvita, Tamarindo, La Fortuna, Puerto Viejo, Monteverde, San José, Liberia, and Santa Teresa. The safety of carrying a camera in Costa Rica depends on the city you’re visiting. Be more careful in the bigger cities. The murder of a Canadian man while taking photos has tainted the image of Limón City in Costa Rica. 

Downtown San Jose is another area where you might avoid carrying your expensive camera. But if you want to venture to that part of the city, carry an inexpensive camera and several memory cards. 

Always be alert when walking in crowded areas, as that’s where most crimes are likely to occur. It’s also wise to avoid isolated or deserted areas. As much as you would like to take demonstration photos, we recommend avoiding them for your safety. 

How To Carry and Safely Use Your Camera 

 

Exposing your camera even in the safest cities will alert the petty pickpocketers. But there is nothing to fear if you follow the safety measures highlighted below. 

  • Always keep the camera on you. Don’t leave it in your car, as car theft is common in almost all American cities. 
  • Don’t hang the bag carrying your camera on the back of your restaurant chair. 
  • If travelling by bus, carry your camera on your lap and avoid putting the camera bag in the overhead compartment. Pack your camera in your carry-on luggage when flying. 
  • When carrying your camera, avoid flinging it over your shoulder. Put it around your neck. For further protection, you can put it inside your shirt if you are a man. You can put the camera inside your handbag if you are a lady. 
  • A backpack to carry your camera is another suitable way to carry it around. Avoid branded backpacks, as most people will identify the type of camera you are carrying.

You should be more alert when visiting crowded places. Carrying a camera might be challenging when visiting a public beach, especially if you want to swim. If you’re travelling in a group, one person can watch your backpack while others swim. 

However, if you are a solo traveller, leave your camera behind or avoid swimming. 

How To Protect Photography Equipment While Traveling in Costa Rica

Protecting photography equipment while travelling is essential, considering it is expensive. 

Remember to carry moisture-absorbent packets.  Due to the hot climate in Costa Rica, the packets protect your camera from condensation. 

If you are visiting areas with volcanoes, don’t expose your cameras or lenses to the volcanic gases. Once you leave the volcanic areas, ensure to wipe your photography equipment. The volcanic gases will cause damage to your equipment. If you don’t use the camera lens, keep their caps on constantly. 

Have a bag to store all your photography equipment. That way, you are unlikely to have some of the equipment stolen or lost. Installing tracking software helps you track your camera if it is stolen. The software uses GPS and controls your device to take photos of the thief. 

There are several anti-theft accessories that you can buy for your photography equipment, as we highlight in the table below. 

Photography Equipment and Anti-Theft Accessories
ItemFeatures
Anti-theft beltIt has hidden compartments to store small items, such as memory cards.
Anti-theft scarvesThey have hidden compartments with zippers where you can keep some of the smaller items.
Anti-theft bra pouchThe pouch is primarily for women to attach to their bras.
Backpack with anti-theft straps:The backpack has hidden compartments, and it’s difficult for anyone to guess you’re carrying a camera.

 

Consider taking travel insurance for your photography equipment. Do your research correctly, as most travel insurance policies don’t cover photography equipment. Others have coverage amount limits. 

Emergency Tips For Tourists In Costa Rica

While tourists are made to feel welcome by the locals, you should be familiar with Costa Rica travel safety for tourists. If you are a victim of a crime or theft, report it to the police immediately. Call 911 to have police come to the location you’re in. 

In Costa Rica, the Fuerza Publica (National Police) deals with crime prevention. The Policia Turistica (Tourist Police) is usually on patrol in many tourist places and can assist you. 

Once the police reach where the crime occurred, they will do the following:. 

  1. The officer reports the crime to a different branch of the OIJ (Organismo de Investigación Judicial). 
  2. The OIJ investigates and brings the suspects to the station for further questioning. 
  3. Ensure you request a copy of the report if you want to make a claim with your travel insurance company. 
  4. Contact the Department of State in the U.S. at (202) 501-4444 if you’re an American citizen. Alternatively, you can contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy. 

While the police act on camera theft prevention in Costa Rica, you must also take some personal safety measures. 

What Is the Right Camera Gear for Costa Rica?

Photography can be bulky when travelling. However, we have some tips for photographers visiting Costa Rica. 

Nikkon, Canon, Sony, and Fuji are some of the best camera brands. It depends on your preference, as all the brands have quality cameras. However, we recommend a mirrorless or DSLR camera, as it has better features. 

Backpacks with a zipper on the backside are the safest for your equipment. That way, a thief cannot get to the camera compartment without you knowing. A sling bag might be a better option for when you want to take photos on the go. 

Consider carrying small hard drives with memory card slots to protect your photos. Every evening, back up the day’s photos. Alternatively, use an online backup (cloud or website). 

Due to frequent weather changes in Costa Rica, carry a waterproof camera or buy a photo CD. Other items that act as the right camera gear include: 

    • Monopod: It can also act as a walking stick. The monopod is more convenient than a tripod, which takes longer to set up. 
  • Accessories: wipes, charger, extra batteries, a rain jacket to protect your camera and lens, and an external flash. 
  • Suitable lens: Costa Rica has different environments within short distances. Consider carrying two lenses that can take photos in dark or bright conditions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Are there legal restrictions on photography in Costa Rica?

There are no significant restrictions on taking photos in Costa Rica. However, taking pictures of official buildings in Costa Rica is illegal. But if you want to, you must request approval from the local authorities. 

While not unlawful, avoid taking photos of children or women without seeking their approval first.

  1. Which time of the year is suitable for visiting Costa Rica?

December to April are the best months to visit Costa Rica.  The weather is usually drier and cooler, with no sudden rainfall. It’s also the best time to take photos of wildlife animals in their natural habitat.

May, June, and November are other months to visit Costa Rica and take the best photos. 

Conclusion

Being aware of your surroundings and keeping alert will prevent you from encountering petty thieves and having your camera stolen. Be especially careful in crowded areas. 

Avoid flashing money or expensive photography equipment while walking around Costa Rica. That is a sure way to attract unwanted attention, especially from petty thieves. 

Costa Rica is a beautiful country. Share with us some of your wild experiences and how you were able to protect your photography equipment. 

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About 

Born in California, Michelle traveled extensively through the USA and Europe before moving to South Florida during the pandemic. Her career in Marketing has taken her all across the world. Her favorite country is France but she'll never turn down a beach vacation!

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