The fatal stabbing of a Toronto school teacher on a beach in Costa Rica has again raised the question: just how dangerous are those fabled tropical vacation spots that continue to attract Canadians throughout the year?
Though we continue to hear that there might be occasional reports of violence in almost any location frequented by tourists—tropical or otherwise—most visitors remain safe, happy, unharmed and completely satisfied with their escape to paradise for a week, a month, or a half-year sabbatical.
However, if you’re the family of a victim of violence, safety statistics aren’t much consolation. And given the evident rise of break-ins, muggings, rape and murders in what were once benign islands in the sun, it’s clear you need to practice a heightened state of vigilance wherever tourism is a mainstream activity.
According to the most current advisories from Global Canada, the majority of Caribbean countries are relatively safe so long as you “exercise normal security precautions.”
What do government warnings mean?
It means that in the area you’re visiting: there may be incidents of crime, including armed robbery and sexual assault. Petty crime and crimes of opportunity are most common. Be aware of your surroundings and exercise caution, especially when walking alone, even during the day. Avoid isolated or poorly lit areas, especially on beaches. Keep your car doors locked, windows rolled up, and personal belongings, including handbags, safely stored at traffic lights, where you could be a target for thieves.
Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach or carry large amounts of cash or jewelry. Leave your valuables and travel documents in your hotel room safe. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or designer bags where they can ripped off. Don’t tour unknown areas without an experienced guide. Always lock and secure your hotel room doors and windows.
Sometimes, too much sun, relaxation, and a little too much alcohol can interfere with common sense, and that’s when you become vulnerable.
Pay attention to the degree of warning.
There are notable exceptions, where the Canadian government advisories go a step further and warn you to “exercise a high degree of caution,” where crime rates are rising to problematic levels, where local tourism authorities are concerned about their effects on their local economy, where headlines about sexual assaults, muggings, and daylight robberies are too frequent.
Nassau in the Bahamas, a major cruise hub is, according to Global Canada advisories, is seeing a spike in crime rates among tourists, armed robberies and muggings downtown in broad daylight; sexual assaults by some water sports rental operators, and home invasions.
The Dominican Republic is also on the “exercise a high degree of caution” list because of an increase in shoulder bag snatching and pick pocket incidents among foreigners; robberies at resorts, airports, from hotel rooms and even hotel room safes; drive-by robberies where thieves reach into cars and taxis stopped at red lights.
Visitors to Jamaica are warned of violent crime and armed robberies in Kingston, Spanish Town and Montego Bay; pocket picking and bag snatchings in heavy tourism areas; credit card skimming at ABMs and stores; hotel room theft; and physical harm incidents on deserted beaches at night.
And though Costa Rica has become known for its bird watching and wildlife adventures, it is also on the Global Canada travel advisory list as a location in which one must “exercise a high degree of caution” to avoid thefts at bus stops, restaurants, resorts and ABMs; to make sure hotel room safes are bolted to the floor or the wall; to leave parked cars only at supervised lots, thoroughly locked, and with no valuable contents visible.
And then there is Mexico, where a “high degree of caution” has been urged upon tourists for many years in respect to violent crime. The effects of such warnings have virtually emptied former glamour spots like Acapulco of foreign tourists. But despite the warnings, Mexico’s tourism continues to break records year after year.
But warnings are there to help you keep their feet to the ground, to be aware of your surroundings while you fully enjoy the pleasures of the environment you have chosen to visit. Without such experiences life would be a pretty boring chore.
The solution is not to stop traveling, but to be a smarter and safer traveler. Stay connected, and heed the warnings.
Be a smart and safe traveler by arranging your insurance well before your trip. Check out your sunny options here.