I know access it not the same for everyone, but it sells on VWR for 2.5 kg for $90, which is very reasonable for almost any chemical. Anyone working in an academic or industrial lab should be able to get it at such a price.
Its about as safe as handling a concentrated acid. Its in the "don't spill it on yourself" realm.
I think it is the right choice for anything except very large scale industrial chemistry and home labs. Sure, if you aren't worried your compound will degrade, just cook it (possibly under vacuum), but if you are going to use an actual drying agent for active use (not storage), it deserves choice #1.