Tourist scams in Costa Rica


Backpacking and traveling through Costa Rica can be an enjoyable experience. Not so, if you are scammed. So beware of the tourist scams in Costa Rica beforehand and avoid them while you are there.


The most common Tourist scams of Costa Rica are below:

  1. Time-Share scam. These are most common by alluring tourists off the street with free drinks and meals. (Usually free breakfasts) Then later being escorted into a ‘boiler room’ to be given the hard sell. Avoid these! you are going to have a hard time. Well you could eat the free breakfast and then leave. Nothing wrong with that.
  2. Un-Official Car park Attendants. This Scam is more prevalent around major tourist destinations like Wildlife parks and Popular national parks and destinations when you drive their yourself. These guys will advise you to park well away from the actual destination and charge you a small fortune which is absolutely not necessary. It is best to ask to just keep on driving through into the carpark and park and lock your car as quickly as possible and walk into the center and speak to official management about your car-park, to try and resolve any confusion.
  3. Un-Official Guides. If you are looking for a tourist guide at a wildlife park of natural reserve than only pay for an official guide. Usually priced at around $20, These guides are great if you are interested in spotting birds as they let you use their binoculars and they are well trained in knowing the species names. If not then my personal opinion would be to go it alone. Official guides are trained and will provide you a better experience. So check with the main office of the park/reserve before handing out your cold hard cash to any guide.
  4. Tour Company Scams. Like in other countries there are good business people that provide good value for money and bad businesses people that rip people off and are only in it for a quick buck. Costa Rica is no different, be very careful of tour operators and especially hotel recommended tour Operators. Some of the scams are just bad tour guide operators whom are great salesman and allure tourists in to souvenir shops only to upsell them a tour and pocket your money. If you do ask for a refund these scammers will only provide delay tactics and drip-feed $10 or so if you kick up a fuss to you until your departure date. Tips to avoid these rogue operators: trust your gut feeling, engage a professional tour group company whom has a professional setup and office and is visually busy. Read online reviews of the tour company before booking anything.
  5. Hotel Scams. Even though you maybe backpacking around Costa Rica, if you do decide to treat yourself by staying in a resort or hotel then be aware that there are many different potential scams to look out for. Ground level rooms with door lock issues, potentially allowing personal belongings to go missing during your stay.- Check your room upon arrival for this. The ‘lost reservation’, and the hotel is currently overbooked. The staff in this instance would try to make you move to a neighbouring ‘underperforming’ sister hotel often owned by the same company for one or two nights and then move you back. Try to avoid hotel booked ‘taxi’s’ if a Hotel has dodgy operations then they may order a non-goverment licenced taxi. These are easy to spot- they don’t have the red triangle on the side of their vehicle. All others are ‘private drivers’ and they are known to overcharge. Try to avoid these unless you are in a hurry. Watch out for a ‘Departure Tax’ or excessive fees/charges upon your departure, also Minibar/incidentals when checking out, they tend to say that a maid has reported items taken from the room and demand cash payment if the room payment has already been finalized. Tips to avoid a scamming hotel: Read online reviews of the hotel before booking. Before booking a hotel, ask as many question (and try to cover all these scamming techniques in your email) in writing to the hotel management that way if there is any discrepancies then you will have something to back up your argument
  6. Time-Share Scam: Be aware of time-share scams and free accommodation vouchers for hotels/resorts/condos. Most often than not these scammers will not warrant your voucher if you don’t pay for a time-share. By the way don’t buy a time-share while in Costa Rica, its a SCAM.
  7. Surge-Pricing Scam: Surge pricing is most prevalent at the Costa Rican Airport. Unless you want to pay USD$50 for a cheeseburger while waiting for your departing flight then take a cut lunch with you. The reason they get away with it is the simple ‘supply and demand’ principle, many people are hungry waiting for their flight yet there is only one place to eat. Check pricing of all restaurants and Costa Rican businesses before sitting down. Don’t be a victim of Bill-shock!


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