General Safety


Personal safety is a concern anywhere and at anytime but it does become more of a concern when living abroad. Without being fully aware of one’s new surroundings, one may not be aware of new risks associated with a new home and the precautions needed to protect oneself and property. These concerns vary by location, but in general, the main worries are associated with personal safety, sexual assault, and protection of personal property. ICDS will cover this topic thoroughly during the on-site orientation.

One of your first tasks of adjusting to a new home is to become acquainted with new surroundings and the challenges it may present. Students should be certain to check with their host families and ICDS program staff to help in their safety assessment of their new home and to get safety tips.

Parties and other social events can be one of the best parts of an experience abroad but they can create difficult situations. An individual needs to be careful that the new independence or choices presented by their new living situation do not lead to negative behavior such as drug or alcohol abuse. These problems often lead to impaired judgment and unsafe behavior. It is important for students to remain connected to their values & standards that have brought them safely to where they are today.

Download Security Tips (PDF Document) »

ICDS Personal Safety Recommendations

  • Students should always follow their common sense. Costa Rica is not especially dangerous, but neither is it completely safe. Foreigners stick out and thus may be more of a target than others, in terms of crime.
  • Students should always be aware of their surroundings and are advised to not get sucked into the ‘paradise syndrome’.
  • Most crime against tourists is non-violent: watching out for pickpockets, muggers, and con-men is important.
  • Students should hold on to bags and purses, especially when walking in downtown San José. Bags should not be left on the ground or on the backs of chairs while in restaurants or bars, or unattended on the beach.
  • Students should not wear gold or valuable, flashy jewelry in San José.
  • Walking around downtown San José late at night is inadvisable.
  • Students should be careful when entering and exiting ATMS, especially at night, and are advised to lock the door behind them if the ATM booth has that option.

Sexual Harassment and Assault

  • Forms of sexual harassment:
  • Momments, glares, gestures
  • Unwanted touches
  • Invitations, sharing of intimate personal matters

Sexual harassment may come from people (mostly men) one knows and people (mostly men) one does not know.

Rape and Attempted Rape
Suggestions for student safety

  • One should be aware of cultural differences, regarding greetings, dress, and body language
  • It is important to follow one´s feelings
  • Students should not feel guilty for standing your ground
  • It is important to have a personal plan in mind
  • It is of the utmost importance to contact somebody from the program immediately
  • Students should keep in mind that FOREIGN WOMEN (specially blond white women):
    • Are considered more “desirable”.
    • Are considered wealthy.
    • Are considered more open regarding sex.
    • Are looking for a “Latin lover”.


  • The use of “Summer clothing”
  • Traveling alone (walking home at night, going to the beach or to a park)

A student could attract more attention and therefore might be increasing the risk of sexual harassment/ assault.