A Canadian couple who became burglary victims just two hours after traveling to Playa Cocles on the Caribbean coast have a philosophical response: “We see this as a sort of tourist tax,” said Grace McCracken.
The 24-year-old and companion Tim Gormley, 31, checked into a rental home for a week’s vacation. Then they went outside around 7 p.m. to take photos of the beach just south of Puerto Viejo.
During their brief absence, a crook or crooks managed to get away with everything: passports, camera, two phones, Gormley’s brand new electronic tablet, credit cards and $300 in cash, the couple said.
Fortunately, a family playing with a baby in another part of the home was not disturbed, they said.
Gormley and Ms. McCracken, both of Calgary, said they were shocked and frightened by the Nov. 2 theft of all their possessions right at the beginning of the vacation. At first they were afraid to leave the house, said Gormley, but by the end of their stay they felt relaxed and happy and actually relieved not to have to worry about being theft victims again.
“The people here are so poor, especially during low tourist season,” said Ms. McCracken. “Tourism brings high prices to this area, so the local people steal from tourists in order to have money to pay these inflated prices.”
The tourists blamed themselves for the crime and admitted they did not need to bring so many valuable things with them. They did not know about the culture: “Costa Rica is not Hawaii,” where it would not be necessary to lock things up while they were inside the house, they said.
On the day of their departure from Puerto Viejo, Gormley, Ms. McCracken and friends were relaxed and happy and said they would probably return to the Puerto Viejo area in spite of what happened. They said the experience of being burglarized and spending the vacation with nothing helped them to live life more simply and to appreciate what they have. “What the thieves robbed was essentially a day’s work for us,” said Ms. McCracken.
“We can go home and within a few days make the money to replace what was stolen. But these people here have to live in a tourist economy where it is difficult to survive.”
Gormley and Ms. McCracken offered advice to other tourists who plan to visit Puerto Viejo area beaches. “First, know the culture. It is different from the United States. Lock things up when you are not using them. And, consider how much you really need to bring with you. Leave the extras at home.”