Costa Rica

Avoiding Prostitutes

Avoiding Prostitutes 1195 1593 Greg Ellifritz

I enjoy a relatively mundane existence in a generic American suburb.  In my normal life, I simply don’t encounter prostitutes at home.  All that changes when I travel in the developing world.


I wrote a whole chapter in Choose Adventure about dealing with prostitutes.  For the record, I actually think prostitution should be legal; but it’s not for me.  I have zero interest in banging a woman who is likely an abused drug addict.  The disease risk is too high for me.  Besides that, lots of prostitutes are opportunistic thieves as well.  While you are resting in your post-orgasmic bliss, she is taking your wallet, passport, and phone.


No thanks.  In more than 20 years of serious worldwide travel, I’ve never once hired a prostitute, even in places where such conduct is legal.

Some countries are prime destinations for sex tourists.  Guys schedule entire vacations around finding as many call girls as they can.  In countries like this, prostitution is far more noticeable to the uninterested traveler than in other places.


I’m in Colombia now.  It has a lot more prostitutes than most of the places I visit.  In fact, when I discuss “running the gauntlet of whores” in my book, I was in Cartagena, Colombia.  Other countries where it’s more obvious are The Dominican Republic, Brazil, Costa Rica (especially underage sex trafficked girls), Thailand, and the very poor countries of Africa.


Many other places have their various “Red Light Districts” but you don’t see many streetwalkers outside those spots.  Most of my readers likely have no experience dealing with prostitutes, so I’m going to outline a few ways you might pick up on the fact that there is sex for sale.  Why do you care?  Because where sex is sold, so are illegal guns and drugs.


Some Red Light Districts are easier to spot than others.
This is the “Love Time Hotel” in Rio. I wonder what happens there?


The same pimps running the girls are also selling drugs and organizing theft rings.  There is an entire economy based around the sex trade.  Dudes who want girls often also want drugs.  When you watch the ecosystem of a place ripe with prostitutes, you can observe the hookers, the “Johns,” the pimps, the dealers, the pickpockets, and a whole other class of folks looking to prey upon any of those people when they become distracted.


Two Colombian women appearing to be prostitutes approached three guys in the street and organize a deal. Viewed last weekend from my third floor hotel balcony.


The dudes looking for sex in these areas are perfect victims.  They are often impaired by excessive alcohol and/or drugs.  The bad guys also know that a guy picking up a hooker isn’t likely to call the police to report any type of crime out of fear of being arrested himself or having his activities outed publicly.


These sites are really not the safest places to be. They’re probably not where you want to spend much time unless you are looking to be victimized.


Many tourists are completely clueless about some of these issues and unintentionally put themselves or their families in danger because they didn’t recognize the subtle indicators.  Let me use my trip to Colombia as an example to provide an education about some of the things you should be paying attention to.


Amsterdam’s Red Light District


As I was in the taxi going to my hotel from the airport at 2:00am on a Thursday night, I saw a massive number of street prostitutes.  Probably close to 100 girls in a 20-minute ride.  I asked the cabbie about it.  He said that they were a huge problem in the city.


The cabbie told me that in Medellin, they call the prostitutes “mujeres divinas,” or “divine women”.  He said the term comes from an old Spanish song by the same title.  Check out the video below.


If you don’t speak Spanish, the song is about some guys drinking and talking about all the women who had wronged them in the past, inspiring the creation of some drunken anti-female song lyrics.  In the end, the singers declare that despite all the ways women have wronged them, all women are divine creatures to be adored, no matter their faults.


So if you hear the words “mujeres divinas,” the direct translation may not be quite correct. I’d never heard that particular term before.


I arrived at the hotel safely.  I was staying at a very trendy and expensive (by Colombian standards) place.  It wasn’t a cheap hourly rate motel in the ‘hood.


At registration, the desk clerk warned that the hotel does not allow guests to bring girls under 18 years old back to the room for overnight stays.  All overnight guests must show identification to ensure that people aren’t bringing back underage prostitutes.  The hotel wouldn’t need such a policy if there hasn’t been a problem with it in the past.


When you hear of such things, your guard should go up a bit.


When I got to my room, I had two more clues that there was a lot of “pay for play” going on in the neighborhood.


I don’t ever remember seeing condoms (extra secure at that) available right next to the M&Ms in the hotel room mini-bar in any of the US hotels where I’ve stayed.


I then went into the bathroom.  They have a special separate trash can for disposing of said used condoms.


Another thing I’ve never seen in the USA.


During the weekend, you might see even more prostitutes trying to sell themselves.  I’m staying at a ritzy hotel in the most expensive neighborhood in Medellin.  The security guards chase the hookers away from the entrances so they don’t harass the guests.  So then the women line up on the sidewalk just out of sight of the hotel guard and go to work.


Last Saturday night I walked to a restaurant about five minutes away from my hotel to eat dinner.  On my short walk home, eight different hookers directly offered me their services.


Another clue that there is a lot of prostitution going on is seeing old Gringo tourists walking hand in hand with very young local girls.  As I strolled the city yesterday I saw an American guy who appeared to be between 65 and 70 years old.  He was holding hands with a local girl who looked to be about 15 as they were walking down the street.  He stopped at a street vendor and bought the little girl a long stemmed rose.  This is very common in Thailand as well.


Besides the street-walking prostitutes, a lot more women meet their “clients” on dating websites.  Guys who get a sudden burst of online attention from young, hot women want to believe that they have stumbled upon a dating paradise.


Sorry, dude.  That hot 20-something doesn’t really think you are cute, she’s just looking to get paid.  A high percentage of women on dating sites in busy South American tourist towns are working prostitutes.


Take a look at the photo below.  She liked my Tinder profile.  It’s funny.  I never have 24-year old girls interested in my profile at home.  I’m more than double her age and live in another country.  Do you really think she’s looking for a relationship with a dude like me?


At least this one is honest about what she’s doing.  Read her bio.  “Busco” means “I’m looking for” in English.


A lot of your online dating matches will be prostitutes. Not all of them will be this obvious.


The issue is so common down here that the locals have a term for a woman who trades sex for favors, travel, or expensive presents.  They call that girl a “prepago.”  It means “pre-paid” like a pre-paid credit card.


It denotes a woman who doesn’t directly demand money for sex like a regular prostitute, but instead will gladly provide sex to a man who “pre-pays” her with expensive dinners or gifts.  “Prepagos” are so common that women who are not prostitutes will often note they aren’t “pre-paid” directly on their dating profiles.


Here is another woman who swiped on my Tinder profile.  Note what she says in her bio: “no soy prepago o amigos con derechos.”  It means “I’m not “pre-paid” and will not be a “friend with benefits.”  That shows exactly how common prostitutes are using dating apps to get their clients.



If you are single and in the dating market, be extra cautious about your online dating matches.  Down here some of the girls use scopolomine to knock out their dates and rob them blind.  Others will lure them to a secluded location where they are robbed by the hooker’s friends.


Meet all your dates in a public place.  If you are going to get intimate, take your date back to your hotel or rental rather than going back to your date’s place.


One other good thing to do is to ask your date if he/she has identification.  You can tell them (whether true or false) that the security in your building is strict and won’t let anyone in without an ID.  Criminals don’t want you to know their true identity.  If they don’t have an ID, that should be a real warning sign.  If the name on their ID is different than on their online profile, that should also worry you.


Dating in other countries can be really fun, but there are a lot of pitfalls to avoid.


Here’s the bottom line.  Even though I don’t partake in prostitution, I don’t judge.  I think consenting adults (not trafficked children) should be able to make an agreeable business relationship, even if it involves sex.  That doesn’t diminish the potential dangers of being around a bunch of prostitutes, pimps, and drug dealers.


Where people are openly selling sex, it’s an indication that the people in your location likely abide by different social norms than what is common in the place where you live.  You should be alert to the fact that if some social norms are drastically different, it is likely that other norms are different as well.  That makes social situations harder to judge and places you in a bit more danger.

Be extra careful in these areas.

Travel Log- Costa Rica

Travel Log- Costa Rica 620 477 Greg Ellifritz

*My Travel Log series describes various past travel adventures and provides perspective about living and traveling in different countries.  This particular segment covers a trip to the Guanacaste, Costa Rica in December of 2018.


I had been to Costa Rica twice before.  I did a family tour of the country way back in 2002.  I followed that up with some white water rafting and surfing on another trip down there in 2011.


In both of those trips, I went all over the country, but I never made it up to the northwest corner (Guanacaste).  It was time to remedy that problem.  We had a few days off and decided we wanted a relaxing beach trip without much stress.


Our most recent prior “vacations” involved living in the Peruvian rain forest and some desert camping in Nevada.  Fun, but not really relaxing.  We needed someplace chill for this trip.


I booked us a condo near the tiny town of Playas del Coco and we hopped on the plane.

View from our condo


We were only down there five days and quite honestly didn’t do too much.  It was perfect.  We laid around on the beach, went snorkeling, and took a sailboat ride.  We ate some amazing fresh seafood (the Restaurante Citron was my favorite) and I read six books.  It was a nice break.


Our beach

Knowing that you all like guns and tactics, I usually do a brief report on gun issues whenever I visit a new country.  I don’t have much to report on this trip.


Playas del Coco is a very sleepy little town full of friendly locals.  There is very little crime.  We had no altercations with criminals.  Despite the recent murder of an American citizen in the country, we didn’t see a even a hint of violence.  In fact, the cops we saw in town were unarmed, save one guy who had a huge riot club holstered across his back ninja sword style.


I saw one armed security guard (at the local grocery store) carrying a Smith and Wesson Sigma in a cheap nylon holster with the thumbreak cut off.  He had no spare magazines, handcuffs, or any less lethal options.


The cops at the Liberia airport were wearing what appeared to be Sig traditional double action automatics (maybe P226?) in Safariland ALS holsters.  I was happy to see that they weren’t using the Serpa as that seems to be a Latin American standard.


The cops had a nylon double spare mag pouches, but none of them were filled.  The airport cops generally wore the empty mag pouches either behind the gun or in the small of the back.  They had a handcuff case, but that’s the only gear they carried.


I didn’t see anyone carrying long guns.  Like I said, it’s a pretty chill place.  Costa Rica does not have a military and devotes the money it would normally spend on an army to education instead.  The country has a stunning 98% literacy rate.  Battling the sand flies on the beach was the most violent challenge we faced.


If you are interested, citizens and permanent residents in Costa Rica can get firearms ownership/carry permits.  The process involves taking a class, completing a psychological evaluation, and a criminal background check.  Carry permits require a short qualification course.  According to the locals I spoke with, citizens are barred from owning “military weapons” or “weapons of war” but I’m uncertain how that rule is actually enforced.


Interestingly enough, handguns are more common than long guns in the country.  That’s the opposite of many other Latin countries where citizens can own hunting firearms but not handguns.  Hunting is illegal in Costa Rica.  If you move down there, you won’t be able to justify your home defense pump shotgun or lever action rifle as a “hunting” gun like you can in other Latin American countries.


I found it amusing that when I was down there, my Facebook feed seemed to be filled with people posting their hotel “pocket dumps.”  This is my hardcore carry selection for when I went into town.



When I’m home my pocket dump looks like a lot of other folks’.  I carry a gun, spare mag, a couple knives, OC spray and a flashlight.   The picture above is what I rolled with down in Costa Rica.   There’s honestly not many problems I can’t solve with a blade, some OC spray, a flashlight and a bunch of cash.


Oh, and don’t forget a local beer. Not import (that implies you are too good for the locals), but the favorite local brew. Buying a few of those has gotten me out of way more trouble than my Glock ever has.


To be honest, my normal carry load out at home doesn’t teach me anything. I learn a lot more when I’m forced to interact in a strange and potentially dangerous environment relying on my charming personality and some cash instead of my gat.


It’s a practice I’ve found really valuable over the years.


For what it’s worth, I packed a Sabre Red stream pepper spray dispenser,  Fenix P35 flashlight and a Spyderco Ark neck knife.  I chose that one because its excellent resistance to salt water.  I could carry a decent weapon even when out in the ocean.


Honestly, the most dangerous condition you will likely face in C.R. is the horrible driving.  Other than the main highways, roads are in deplorable condition with massive potholes everywhere.  Narrow roads are shared by ATVs, bicycles, pedestrians, big trucks, motorcycles, and cars.  Often several of these are jockeying for position on the narrow roads at any given time.  The roads are dark and neither pedestrians or bicyclists use lights.


There are few street signs.  Addresses are difficult to find and the Ticos (what Costa Ricans call themselves) drive like crazy people.  You are risking life and limb every time you hop in a car in Cost Rica.


A lot of my friends who have never really traveled talk about retiring to Costa Rica.  While it’s certainly possible, the days of a truly cheap retirement down there are long gone.  It’s become one of the most expensive destinations in Latin America.


Property here is relatively pricey.  It isn’t California expensive, but probably on par with beachfront property in Florida.  A two bedroom 1200 square foot house on a cliff overlooking the ocean (no beach access) was $247,000 US.  A really nice house right on the beach in Guanacaste can easily run up to $700,000.


Cars are subject to a very large import tax and road conditions are really bad.  Food in restaurants is approximately 2/3 what you would pay in the USA.  Local produce and fruit is cheap.  Any imported electronic items are approximately 50% more expensive than in the USA.


The only thing cheap down there is manual labor.  Many expats have gardeners, maids, and cooks.  Talking to some of the locals, they say that manual laborers make the equivalent of about $2.00 US an hour.


It would be fairly easy to live there, but unless you want a huge bevy of servants, you probably won’t be saving a significant amount of money doing so.


We had a relaxing trip.  Back to normal programming tomorrow.



Costa Rican sunset from a sailboat in the Pacific Ocean.