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Costa Rica for women - Dress code? Harrassment?? Help please!

edited January 2009 in - Central America
im 16 years old and for a school field trip im going to Costa Rica in March. Me and about 30 other north americans are going. i have heard that woman shouldn't wear shorts that arent knee length and no tank tops. also that because that i am from noth america that the costa rican boys will whisle at us. is this true? or are my teachers parnoid? Are their any other dangers i should know about the people in Costa Rica. We also are told we shouldn't wear two peice bathing sutes or wear a shirt. is the harrassment that bad? also that we may be "hit on" and asked to get marryed??? because we are of legal marrying age.
please help me. the more my teacher drag on about this the more it worrys me. lol are americans seen as loose? i was told that also.

anything that you could tell me about the people in costa rica would be nice. also this info can be shared with my classmates so we can be safe. i have read about the petty crime about the pickpocketing. so i know about that, but this dress code stuff, im not use to it so i dont believe it. i dont know how i would be able to wear pants in 80 degree weather! I'm from New York USA so the shorts and sun is a VERY nice break..


  • edited 9:37AM
    sorry more info...
    my teacher told us that we may be targeted for harrassment that we need to try to blend in, but im fair skinned and with blonde hair. so were going to stick out like a sore thumb. (winter just is ending so everyone is very pale skinned). will people skeek us out? do you think people will be mean to us because were americans? i know many countys hate the US, but i dont believe that Costa Rica has anything against us, but i dont know for shure. are northren americans a target?
  • edited 9:37AM
    Loki - Relax, you are going to have a great time in Costa Rica. This is one of the safest countries in the world to travel in, even for women travelling alone. There is very little hostility to Americans, and your presence in their country is very welcome.

    Behind Amsterdam and Ireland, Jessica Labrencis, staff writer for the travel website has named Costa Rica as the third safest destination in the world for female travelers, as reported in the daily USA Today.

    It is worth mentioning that South African men have a tendency towards "machismo" which is evident in whistles, cat-calls and forward remarks. These are pretty harmless and if you ignore them nothing further will happen. It is true that if you dress revealingly you will get a lot more machismo behaviour. In fact, the less you wear the more you'll attract unwelcome attention. So while shorts and a t-shirt are just comfortable wear for you - to a macho local they send a message that you want that sort of attention. The solution? Dress conservatively in long, cool, cotton pants and similar tops.

    Most important of all: have a sense of humour, keep your wits about you, and relax into the experience of being in this wonderful country. Have a great trip! (And please send us your experiences via this blog and on
  • edited August 2009
    Look, I've lived here 3 years and no matter what you do, if you look different, people will stare at you. I am blonde.. I tried blending in but that never worked.. they KNOW you are a foreigner.
    Piece of advice... please bring your tank tops... It's hot here and you will need them. Secondly, who cares if you stand out.. Just deal with it, and don't let all the attention you get make you paranoid.
    Women commonly wear hoochie clothing here, so I'm pretty sure you wont' be dressed that provocatively,no matter what you do.
    Just do yourself a favor. spare yourself from being laughed at, and DO NOT WEAR jurassic park style clothing.. By this I mean, khaki coloured everything, wearing hikers in San Jose, wearing those dorky tourist hats, or t shirts that are splashed with the words COSTA RICA or PURA VIDA.
    For the guys.... Hawaiin style shirts with large flower prints or parrots ARE OUT... YOU WILL LOOK LIKE A GRINGO TOURIST if you dress this way, which makes you stand out wayyyyy more..
    Best advice... wear your normal summer clothes, just as you would back home.. trust me... You will look less like a tourist, maybe more like a foreigner that lives here.

    OH and learn some spanish.. that always helps..... And if the guys honk at you, just ignore it or smile. To them, it's just their way of telling you that yo are hot! HAve a good trip
  • edited 9:37AM
    Hi loki866,

    Honestly, I think your teacher is kind of paranoid. As of now, you might have gone to C.R. and returned to the U.S. again. It's good to take precautions to any place you go, but please never become paranoid because *for sure* you will not enjoy. I am a Costa Rican, and yes, you might find whistles from un-educated guys roaming the streets, but the majority of people in CR would not bother to even notice you.

    As a Costa Rican I do not hate "gringos" or have any bad feeling, we are pretty relaxed people in that sense. I even have a "gringa" aunt. The only thing that bothers me is when a US person comes into any restaurant or shop screaming in english that he needs something and complains in a bad way about our way of doing things. We really make an extra effort when treating foreigners. Costa Rican love to make foreigners feel even better than home. Just be friendly and receptive. And if go the extra mile and learn spanish, you will have queen-treatment :-)
  • edited 9:37AM
    Hi there! I have worked in Costa Rica with exchange students, mostly from the US and this has always been a source of concern...
    like someone said, if you look different they will catch people's attention...and pick-up lines will also be part of it. But from that to being harassed or getting married proposals...hehe! that's a bit over the top! I think many people don't know what the culture's really like and they love making up stories and stuff. So no need to worry. If you hear pick-up lines just pretend you didn't hear a thing! and don't carry that 30-ton backpack like if you were coming a lost city in the middle of the jungle. This ain't no Temple of Doom!
    other than that, have a good trip and a good time here
  • edited 9:37AM
    Costa Rica sounds a lot like Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, culturally. As a visitor, treat the people who live there with respect and that is how THEY will treat you. I went there with two beautiful daughters (one 24 and one 18) and they got some smiles and whistles, but it was on the beach and they were wearing bikinis! No one was threatened!

    Use common sense, and you will be fine. That advice applies when you are home too, right?

    Last time we were in Mexico, some friends said they could not believe we were going. They said we were crazy and it was dangerous. We had a wonderful time, while in our "safe" frigid small U.S. city there were four murders while we were away..
  • edited 9:37AM
    Hi loki866,

    My daughter and I are traveling to Costa Rica during the week of Thanksgiving. She has spent hours on the web checking out places and different post on where to go what to do and is it safe. She has not found anything that makes her feel Costa Rica is a bad choice.

    You should always common sense and caution where ever you are, even in the US. Don't wonder off alone, always travel in groups. All cities have areas that are not good places to be if you are alone and especially if you are female. Just use good judgement.

    As far you teacher - he or she has a great responsibility on their shoulders. They what you to go and have a good time but you know kids have that mentality of - it won't happen to me - I know what I'm doing - etc. etc. etc. I'm sure your teacher is just trying to make you think and stay safe. Go and enjoy yourself - Don't be scared to enjoy the adventure, but don't be stupid either.

    I'll try to find this post after my trip and give you and update.
  • edited 9:37AM
    I'm a foreign (from Europe) living in Panama, my husband in from Panama. I believe those 2 countries are very similar when it comes to dealing with foreign, don't be scared, be open, nobody will eat you, as they said previously, they will try to know where u are from, to know u, ask questions about US, ... Just wear normal summer cloth that u have home, it will be fine. Of course they will see u aren't from there but it doesn't matter. They will treat u really well as long as u are interested in the people, the culture, the country and try to speak spanish as much as u can, they will love it !!!
    Of course, don't go walk around in the jungle by urself, stay with ur group of people, don't go in areas where u shouldn't (but that's kinda common sence anywhere...) I don't think US is safer in any way than central america, it's a very different lifestyle, culture, language and everything, but it's wonderful.
    Enjoy ur time, make sure to learn as much as u can as a life lesson.
  • edited 9:37AM
    The people in Costa Rica are a lot more proper and young ladies are expected to be more modest than in the States.

    Not a bad thing!
  • edited 9:37AM
    Loki, as an ex-New Yorker who also lived in Costa Rica for nine years and is married to a Costa Rican, I can tell you that nothing your teachers told you is accurate, except for the stereotype of American girls as being loose... just as Americans stereotype latinos as being hot-blooded. Costa Ricans, and Latin Americans in general, are rather conservative people, and while you will find that Costa Ricans dress rather conservatively, nothing you mentioned wearing will be out of place there. You'll want to have cool summer clothing for the beach - ALL young women will be wearing two-piece bathing suits there - but also a light jacket and sweatshirt if you plan to spend time in San Jose or the mountains, as it can get very cool in the evenings.

    You won't stand out for being a blonde - there are blonde Costa Ricans - but you will stand out as a tourist simply because you will probably be traveling in a group and you won't be speaking Spanish. So, though Costa Ricans are very friendly people, you will need to have some street smarts and be very careful about pickpockets and don't leave things lying around, just as you wouldn't do that in NYC. You also need to be careful because some Costa Ricans see dollar signs when they see tourists, but most are geniunely friendly people, and most of them are pro-American. As long as you're open-minded and don't come across as feeling superior because you're an American, you'll be fine. Just use your common sense and have fun!
  • edited 9:37AM
    hello! Can you tell me like exactly what girls wear and exactly what boys wear because im doing a project and i am having troubles finding that informaton. what do they wear everyday and what do they wear to dress up. And do you know how much these would cost?
    Thanks you...
  • edited 9:37AM
    a lot of girls here wear tight tanks tops, ill fitted jeans and roll the cuffs on their jeans about 8 inches. Also they like to be matchy -matchy.
    There are conservative ticos as well. They like to wear striped polo's.

    And as for not being stared at for being a blonde, that's not true. I've travelled all over. And now I LIVE here. And I get stared at all the time. There aren't that many blondes here. I think also, the beach ticos are different than Valley ticos. Valley ticos really like to stare.
    I dont get it since they see lots of tourists regularly, yet, I still feel like they look at me like I'm an alien.
    I'm not saying Tico's arent' nice. They are VERY nice. But sometimes I get weird looks cause I look different then the majority of people here. I'm not lying. Even my tico friends notice it.
    I'm not American, so I don't know what people are saying on here about Loose American girls. Sorry but there are just as many loose girls here as there are in other places I've travelled to.
    Also it's a bit of a classist society. The money ticos dress more conservatively. I would suggest to dress a bit conservative, just to not purposely draw more attention to yourself than is necessary. Just leave the "bling" at home.

    As for the lack of fashion in CR, I'm still trying to change that! But come over! it's a great place to visit. The people may act different than you are used to, but they are very friendly and they mean no harm by their stares.
    If it bugs you when they stare, just tell em : No me enjache! (pronounced en-hatch-eh) they will get a kick out of hearing that from a foreigner!
  • edited 9:37AM
    Well at school i could pick any country i wanted so i picked Costa Rica knowing nothing about it but only its in Central America so i read up on it, Its beutiful by the way :) but when i get the money I would love to go there with my best friend anyways in my reading i got its a good government so could any one tell me that right because it seems perfect but another question is i see you said some guys wistle but are those guys like petifiles or just normal single guys and you say just ignore them but on many shows i watched on tv some people just get angry when u dont respond and sometimes like rape you lol but is there tons of crimes or few and do they treat women with respect and not like hate on them because they are female because some states look down on girls. And if i do travel there i dont wanna get hurt or beat up and i am not parinod about much i love hanging out so that wont be a problem and i am not blonde but sorta white but tan quick so thats not to much of a problem but i just would like to no how they treat girls-other then hit on them- and hows the government???? OH and how are prices like oh food and gas are they really high???? Oh and i read up on some stuff and is Don Pepe big there ( Jose Figueres Ferrer) oh and i no i ask alot but are the Ticos nice too like are they really nice normally or just for show ad can they be trusted if i moved there??? :) Thankz
  • edited 9:37AM
    damn kid there's no need to worry. costarican men know women are humans its not like in those middle eastern and some other countries were showing your elbows makes you a postitute. also those people who kill and rape a women for ignoring them are just crazy. that has nothing to do in a society like costa rica's and i really dont think that has ever happend there. if you walk by a group of men in the us (i live in newjersey but im tica) they most definitely wistle. but you know there are always some good guys who would help you out if you needed it. goverment is fair i dont know much about that and prices are about he same but technology is much more expencive. but keep in mind that things feel more expencive because it's 500 of the currency to a dollar so like a can of soda would cost like 500 colones or like twice that on the beach ( just like movie theater food is more expencive here. yess and beach food too speciall when your thirst on the hot beach and your willing to pay anything for a bottle of ice cold water.) also most people are trustworthy but jerks are universal so dont be dumb about things either.
  • edited 9:37AM
    You will be fine! Enjoy your time in Costa Rica. By the end of the trip you will be wishing you have had more time to be in our country.
    Take care and enjoy yourself.
  • edited 9:37AM
    Hey 2011 people.... She asked that question Jan 12th 2009. So, she already knows!!!
  • edited 9:37AM
    I know its been a while, well, a lot time ago since this was asked, but i would like to answer so more people like you can know a lil bout actual CR
    well, sorry for telling but your teacher is a complete total jerk, how does he dare to say such things about Costa Rica without even knowing it? i´ve never been other countries but here (Costa Rica), San Andres island in Colombia, which is nothing like Colombia as i´ve been told from a friend who is from Colombia, and the USA, when i was six and went to Disneyland, or Disneyworld, idk... anyway you were told wrong info about here, like in every country there are jerks who whistle to pretty ladies, or stare at them while they are wearing a really really revealing clothes, but, cmon waering skin thight pants, or shorts and a top is normal, actually many girls wear that here... also the harrassment thing´s nothing compared to Japn or countries like those, here, as i told u, the more you can get is a compliment in spanish and really really bad staring from middle aged to old men, not all 0of em of course, actually people here is really respectful, but no chasing after you or marriage proposals, thats totally outtaline hehe, about the bad staring for beign foreign well yeah, probably youll get some cause there are still uncivilizated and unevolved people who think stupid non sense, but most of employees of the hotels and restaurants and such stuff will treat you the best, if you intend to live here, i got some advices, get fresh cloth, and sweaters but nothing to hot, here the weather is just fine, i´ve heard and TV seen that winters in there are really rough, here its not, actually here it does not snow, but rains like freaking waterfalls by winter, summer is fresh time, not as hot, maybe just at the beach its hot, and maybe just at the mountain is colder, but relatively weathers varies extremely, like if you get really hard time, from C9º to C30º, but thats extreme weather here depending on time of the year, don´t know in Fº and to lazy to convert xD, summertime is from about december to april more like, and wet season goes from may to november... also as in every place you shoud have got vaccinated, but here is not much bigger risk than there in Usa to get some disease... also as in every city, crime is present, but here you got an average amount, but dont get out lot of money in public, or there will be following, also try learning spanish, cause some locations that are not turistical type places, do not have much english speaking people
    well to conclude try to act normally, here is a really lovely place to live and great to travel as well, you can find all groceries you need here, if looking for something from other countries, like imported food, go to AUTO MERCADO, thats a supermarket where youll be able to find most of the foord from the outside, some articles prices are higher, like technologic devices, so try to avoid gettin that here, also some stuff is more expensive, like food but nothing really astonishing, maybe yeah we will notice where are you from but thats no reason for bat treatment, and as i said act cool and have good time, do not ever worry for the exagerated things your teacher said, he clearly has never been here, sorry for bad english not really accurate trying my best, you will love the food, you got mcdonalds, BK and most likely every fast food restaurants here, but local food is great, such as casados for lunch, which is rice with whole black beans, some fried sweet platanes, really tasty, salad and fish, or chicken or pork or beef, you decide... and more like stuff like that, we dont use much spice in food, but lot of fried onions, sweet bell pepper and cilantro, and lil bit of garlic too
    you will love here and hope you enjoy
  • edited 9:37AM
    well thank u for posting even after a long pause.....i am heading there in less than a week and your post made me feel
    so much better after reading the previous posts....i will take your the people, culture and country and hopefully be able to tell my experience when i return home. gracias. K.
  • edited 9:37AM
    Hi! I am actually leaving to Costa Rica in July for a Study Abroad program in my university. I am Puerto Rican as well, so I can understand the whole tropical/Caribbean feel of things, but of course, PR and CR are different cultures, respectively. One thing I hate is looking like a tourist, and I just want to blend in and be a part of it all, not some kind of spectator.. (Yes, my camera WILL be flashing at all times). I wanted to know what would be some REALLY good places to get some AUTHENTIC Costa Rican items? Such as hats, bags, traditional shirts/dresses, etc... I don't want any of that "made in america" crap (no offense), but I just want the real thing.. I'll be in the San Jose area, so please let me know!

    Also, what would be the best method of transportation? They say that getting a ride from locals is pretty common.. I'm a really independent person and want to be able to do it all and feel good. I don't mind taking the bus, I heard you meet interesting people there.

    Lastly, I know it's casual clothing, but I'm going in July... is it gonna be rainy or dry season? (I really don't want to be wearing a poncho like a dummy.. living near Disney, I'm tired of seeing them.

    Please let me know. Thank you!
  • edited 9:37AM
    hola ticos y ticas! i am going to costa rica for six weeks this summer and am really excited. Now, instead of being blonde and fair-skinned, i am the exact opposite- i am black and am going to have braids for the trip so mohair is easier to manage. I was wondering what the race culture is like there, for though i am not ghetto or ratchet ( i go to a rlly good private school), i am assuming that i will still be stereotyped that way. is the stereotyping worse or better than in USA.
    also, iv taken spanish at school, and sometimes people think I'm cubana or dominicana depending on how i'm dressed. Speaking of dress, just to confirm, it's okay to wear "short-shorts" and tank tops and bikinis during the summer?
    also, one more question, what is the teen social life like? discotecas?
  • edited 9:37AM
    Sonoway, everything you will see in the city part of San Jose is over prices, so bargain. An "AUTHENTIC Costa Rican item" would be their coffee maker. It's odd looking but it is an unusual and cool way to brew coffee. Also you have to try gallo pinto. If you dont try it, you have not experienced Costa Rican cuisine. As for transportation the Costa RIcans have a great bus system. You can get anywhere if you take the right bus, and it is relatively cheap. I've found that tico's (name for a person from costa rica) really dont wear rain boots or rain jackets really. They deal with it. They have two seasons, the rainy season and the dry season. You'll be in the rainy season so either deal with it, bring a light rain jacket, or look like a tourist.
    ximona1022, like everyone else said If you wear short revealing clothing you'll get attention. So dress how you want to be treated.
  • edited 9:37AM
    Costa RIca is a beautiful place with lots of fun stuff to do! So don't worry about those stuff and just go and have fun!]
    But make sure you always travel with a companion and not alone just incase you get lost or something!!
  • edited 9:37AM
    All of the comments on this forum have been very helpful in preparing for my trip to Costa Rica this summer. I will be staying there for about 6 weeks ( June to August) and I have been taking Spanish for about 6 years but I am by no means fluent; and I am very nervous about speaking Spanish down there. I have questions similar to ximona1022. I am dark skinned, and I am wondering how I will be perceived in Costa Rica. I know that every person is not the same but I would like to have an idea about how dark skinned individuals are stereotyped. I have also read that individuals in Costa Rica dress up a lot more. Meaning clothing that I would wear on dressy occasions are worn daily( at least in the university setting). Is this true? If so, when I do want to get dressy how dressy should I get? Your answers to this will help me so much in continuing to prepare for my trip. Thanks!! :)
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