Don’t you just hate when your dog chews up your passport?
Even worse is when immigration officials turn you around as you arrive in your destination... because the dog, er, chewed up your passport!
Thus, according to this story in the Chicago Tribune , traveler Olga Parra and her husband were refused entry to Costa Rica  when she arrived for a vacation after their pet dog apparently chewed a corner off the front page of the husband's passport.
According to the State Department's travel advisory website for Costa Rica , there's a clear warning that: "Passports should be in good condition; Costa Rican Immigration may deny entry if the passport is damaged in any way." It omits to also mention that you'll be refused entry if your passport is due to expire in less than one month. Play it safe and make sure it’s valid for at least six months after your entry to Costa Rica.
Unfortunately for Mr. and Mrs. Parra, the dog got frisky with the paperwork on the eve of their departure and they had no time to do anything about it, other than cancel their trip. Apparently assured by Spirit Airlines ’ staff that there would be no problem in Costa Rica, they boarded the plane. The rest, as they say, is history.
The moral of this story is, of course, that if your passport has been damaged physically in any way prior to a journey, you need to inform the State Department and request a new passport.
Meanwhile, the same State Department advisory warns that: “Pickpocketing and theft remain the most common crimes perpetrated against tourists.”
The good news is that theft of U.S. passports in Costa Rica has declined in the past two years. Passport theft peaked in 2007, when 1,407 U.S. passports were stolen in Costa Rica, earning the country the dubious distinction of being the worst in the world for passport loss. To put it in perspective, according to Nicholas J. Manning, Consul-Deputy Chief of the Consular Section, fewer than one hundred passports are reported stolen each year in Guatemala Nicaragua, and Panama. (Passport theft in Costa Rica declined to 1,108 passports in 2010, and declined further in 2011.)
Usually such loss is incidental to theft of luggage. See my blog post of January 7, 2012: Car Robbery Against me Foiled in Costa Rica 
The other good news is that in June 2011, the tourist board—the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo —increased the budget to enable a doubling in the number of tourist police, which now number 312 officers in San José  and major tourist zones, such as beaches. Thus, in November last year, Xinia Velasquez, Director of the Tourist Police Department, and Mario Zamora, security minister, reported that since the creation of the tourist police in 2006, crimes against tourists have been reduced by about 40 percent.
Here’s some practical advice from my Moon Handbook Costa Rica :
• Make photocopies of all important documents: your passport, airline ticket, credit cards, insurance policy, driver’s license.
• Carry the photocopies with you, and leave the originals in the hotel safe if possible. If this isn’t possible, carry the originals with you in a secure inside pocket.
• Prepare an “emergency kit,” to include photocopies of your documents and an adequate sum of money in case your wallet gets stolen.
If you’re robbed, immediately file a police report. You’ll need this to make an insurance claim.
If you lose your passport in Costa Rica, the U.S. Embassy in San José can assist. See its web page  for details.
For an overview of the broader crime situation in Costa Rica, see the U.S. State Department’s “Costa Rica: 2012 Crime and Safety Report.” 
For further information about travel in Costa Rica, buy Moon Handbook Costa Rica 
If you're traveling only to San José and the Caribbean, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Caribbean Coast  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to the beaches of Nicoya, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Nicoya Peninsula  pocket guide.
If you're traveling only to Arenal and/or Monteverde, buy Moon Spotlight Costa Rica's Arenal & Monteverde  pocket guide.
Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly
Learn more about Christopher P. Baker .
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker