Important Facts

Important information about Costa Rica - know before you go

Important Facts

Important information about Costa Rica - know before you go

Important Facts

Airlines Flying to Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a wide range of flight offerings for arrivals and departures.

Its two main international airports receive hundreds of flights per month from major cities, allowing constant mobilization of passengers through safe and modern ports of entry. Juan Santamaría International Airport (Code: SJO) is the country’s main airport, located in Alajuela.

The modern Daniel Oduber International Airport in Liberia (Code: LIR) mainly receives specific flights for tourists visiting Guanacaste, Monteverde and La Fortuna. This comfortable airport connects with beautiful beaches in one of the largest and most important tourist areas in the country. Costa Rica has several local airports with two airlines that fly domestically: Aerobell Airlines and Sansa Airlines.

Following are airlines flying to Costa Rica and their itineraries (routes):

  • Itinerary for international flights to Costa Rica by country.
  • Local Flights

Since 2016, the country’s departure tax is included in most of the airline tickets. For those flight tickets where it is duly stipulated that they do not include the departure tax, you must pay $29 per person, either in dollars, colones, credit or debit card.

For more information on itineraries, visit each airline’s website.

Regulations for entry into the US.

Important Facts. Visiting the United States is not easy for everybody and one almost needs a manual to keep up with all the changes. ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) adds a new paragraph to the regulations for nationals of Visa Waiver countries. As of January 12th 2009, citizens and nationals from all Visa Waiver eligible countries must have approval through the ESTA system before traveling to the United States on a Visa Waiver.

The electronic system will determine whether visa-free applicants pose any security or law enforcement risks and provide an electronic travel authorization to those approved for entry. Once approved, the authorization will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever is sooner.

Get registered in time

Important Facts. The duration of permission can take until 72 hours; accordingly, this should be done quickly.
The registration can be accomplished via the following Website of the Department for Homeland Security: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

Air Connections

Important Facts. The most convenient way to reach Costa Rica is by air.

Commercial international flights to Costa Rica currently land either at the Juan Santamaría International Airport, located ten miles from downtown San José, or at the Daniel Oduber International airport in Liberia, Guanacaste. Costa Rica is serviced by numerous major carriers, with service originating from various points in Europe, the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and South America. Airlines with direct flights to Costa Rica include Continental, American, Delta, United, Iberia, KLM, Martinair, British Airways, Grupo Taca, Copa, Cubana, Avianca, and Mexicana.

Entry Requirements | Important Facts

Citizens holding valid passports from the following countries are permitted to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days without a visa:

Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France and Germany dependencies, Greece, Holland and dependencies, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, United Kingdom, United States of America, Czech Republic and Uruguay.

Citizens holding valid passports from the following countries are exempt from all visa requirements for stays of 30 days in Costa Rica, though once inside the country, they can apply for extension from the Immigration office, for an authorized period of stay of 90 days:
Antigua & Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Chile, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, Saint Kitts/Nevis, San Marino, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Suriname, Taiwan, Turkey, The Vatican, Venezuela, Estonia and Monaco.

Citizens of all countries not listed above are required a visa from a Costa Rican embassy or consulate before traveling.

Entry Requirements COVID-19

Since Nov. 1, Costa Rica has allowed all countries in the world to enter by air, as long as they meet the country’s visa and COVID-19 entry requirements.

The Government of the Republic has facilitated the entry of international tourists, and since Oct. 26, eliminated the requirement of RT-PCR tests for the detection of the coronavirus. Neither Costa Ricans nor foreigners will be issued sanitary confinement (or quarantine) orders when entering the country by air. These measures are subject to change and dependent on the evolution of the pandemic both in Costa Rica and around the world.

Tourists visiting Costa Rica are asked to abide by the sanitary protocols implemented for carrying out all tourist activities in the country.

Entry requirements for the country

For information on visas, refer to the General Directorate of Migration and Foreigners: https://www.migracion.go.cr/Paginas/Visas.aspx

The following requirements remain during the Covid 19 pandemic:

  1. Complete the digital form called HEALTH PASS and available at https://salud.go.cr
    • This pass will be available 48 hours before boarding. It must be accessed in an updated browser (except for Internet Explorer). An individual form must be completed for every person, including minors.
  2. Purchase health insurance
    • It is mandatory that tourists purchase travel insurance, covering their accommodations in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19 illness. An explanation of one’s travel insurance coverage, addressing Costa Rica’s requirements, must be uploaded or entered into the HEALTH PASS in order to be reviewed and approved by the Costa Rican authorities. If more information on international insurance is needed, the Costa Rican authorities will contact the passenger at the email address indicated in the HEALTH PASS.
    • In the case of international insurance, the tourist must request from their insurer a certification issued in English or Spanish, noting at least three conditions, without forgetting to add it to the HEALTH PASS:
      1. Validity of the effective policy during the visit in Costa Rica.
      2. Guarantee of coverage for medical expenses in cases of pandemic disease COVID 19 in Costa Rica, for at least US $50,000 (fifty thousand dollars of the United States of America).
      3. Minimum coverage of US $2,000 for extended lodging expenses due to pandemic illness or trip interruption/cancellation due to illness, which covers the extra cost of the passenger due to quarantine.
    • If you do not have international insurance, it is possible to opt for travel insurance from Costa Rican companies approved by SUGESE (General Superintendency of Insurance of Costa Rica), which offer their services at Juan Santamaría international airports (city of San José) and Daniel Oduber Quirós (city of Liberia).
    • National insurances meet all the requirements to have coverage of medical expenses for illness, including COVID-19, for a minimum amount of $20,000 and coverage for extended lodging expenses or quarantine, due to pandemic illness, for a minimum amount of $2,000.
    • Local insurance authorized for travelers can be valued at the following links. If you have doubts or queries about the requirements or conditions of the insurance, please email seguros@ict.go.cr
    • Foreigners with temporary or permanent residence or temporary category who return to Costa Rica, and who are not up to date with the corresponding payments with the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, must purchase a temporary local insurance for 22 days or bring an international insurance that complies with the requirements of a foreign tourist.
    • In the case of foreigners with the migratory category of permanent or temporary resident, or special category in the latter case, with the exception of the Student Subcategory, they must demonstrate the insurance by the Costa Rican social security, which can be verified at https://sfa.ccss.sa.cr/servMedicos/validarDerechos.do

If these requirements are not met, the passenger will not be able to enter the country.

Private flights

From Sept. 1, private flights from the United States of America are allowed to enter the country. For passengers on private flights, the same requirements already described apply.

Maritime entry

Passengers and crew of yachts and sailboats must meet the same sanitary entry requirements that the country requires of those who enter by air.

In addition to the aforementioned requirements, tourists coming from yachts or sailboats must also hand over to the immigration authorities the document “International Ship Sailing and Dock” in authorized marinas.

In case of doubts with the medical insurance, the passengers and crew of yachts or sailboats can write to the email seguros.marinas@ict.go.cr.

Remember that:

A return flight ticket is needed when entering Costa Rica. The immigration officer will ask for it upon your arrival.  It is advisable to make a photocopy or take a picture of your passport with the entry stamp to carry at all times during your stay.

  • Your country of origin determines the amount of days available to stay in Costa Rica as a tourist.
  • In some cases, the Immigration official may request you show economic solvency for your stay in the country.
  • Even with a 90-day tourist visa, the immigration official determines the duration of your stay as allowed by your passport.

Visitors to Costa Rica must have a valid passport as well as proof of their intent to exit the country before their visa or entry stamp expires, usually within 90 days.

All non-resident travelers must possess a return ticket or a ticket as proof of when they intend to exit the country, commonly referred to as an outbound exit or onward ticket. An onward ticket is required of non-residents who are:

  • Traveling on a one-way ticket
  • Entering the country with a return ticket dated more than 90 days after arrival
  • Flying into Costa Rica and flying out of another country

By law, an onward ticket includes any of the following on approved, commercial transport:

  • A pre-purchased bus ticket out of the country
  • A pre-purchased flight out of the country
  • Proof of passage on a cruise ship

Obligation to Declare when entering or leaving Costa Rica:

When entering or leaving a port in Costa Rica, if you carry an amount equal to or greater than the US $ 10,000 or its equivalent in other currencies, cash or securities, you must request and complete the form provided for this purpose at the migration post and present it to the Customs Authority for verification; The declaration must be made before finalizing the corresponding immigration procedures. The omission of what is established by Costa Rican law (No. 8204, article 35) will result in the immediate loss of money.

What inoculations do I need before entering Costa Rica?

Starting on July 30, 2007, all travelers coming from the following countries must possess a yellow fever vaccination certificate before entry into Costa Rica will be allowed: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and the Republic of Guyana.

For more information click here

Custom regulations

Important Facts. No customs duties are charged on personal luggage, which includes a series of items for personal, professional, non-commercial use. Costa Rican laws require checked luggage to be screened and travelers to fill out customs declarations declaring the value of any item in their possession, including fruits, vegetables, meat and by- products, biological products such as vaccinations, serums, etc. The head of a family may make a joint declaration for all members residing in the same household and traveling together to Costa Rica.

Money Matters | Important Facts

  • The colón is the currency of Costa Rica.
  • US$ dollars and major credit cards are widely accepted.
  • Exchange money only at banks and approved change offices. Check exchange rate here
  • Bank transactions require a valid passport (not a copy nor a picture).
  • ATMs are located throughout the country. Some of them remain closed from 11:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m.
    Remember not to flash your cash.
  • Sales tax or Value Added Tax (VAT) is 13%. It is included in the final price of every service or product purchase.
  • The departure tax should be included in most of the airline tickets. For those flight tickets where it is duly stipulated that they do not include the departure tax, you must pay $29 per person, either in dollars, colones (local currency), credit or debit card.

Dollars are widely accepted; there is no urgent need to convert. Banks are normally open 9.00 am – 4 pm, but hours vary. Do not expect fast service, Costa Rican banks can be very slow. Most hotels will exchange dollars for colones for guests, but often only small amounts. Do not exchange money on the street.

Health

Important Facts. Costa Rica is one of the safest destinations in the developing world, from a general health point of view. This is largely due to high health standards in our country.

There are no required immunizations for entering Costa Rica. However, it is always wise to keep up your basic shots such as tetanus and diphtheria. Risk of contracting malaria is minimal, but for itineraries that include the Caribbean lowlands, travelers might wish to take the extra precaution of a prophylactic medicine such as chloroquine.

Decisions about immunizations and anti-malarial medications should be made on a personal basis after consultation with your personal physician.

If you take prescription medication, have your doctor give you a spare prescription with a note suggesting an alternative medication if your first choice isn’t available.

Private and public hospitals in Costa Rica treat foreigners. Many Costa Rican doctors speak English. You are required to pay all doctor and hospital bills when you are treated. Private hospitals take credit cards but public (Caja) hospitals do not. If you do become ill in Costa Rica, we recommend the Clínica Bíblica in San José. www.clinicabiblica.com

Public safety and personal security concerns | Important Facts

Solo Female Travel

We want you to enjoy exploring the beauty and culture of our country. And if you are traveling alone, please take the following precautions:

  • Use official transportation only.
  • Avoid walking, jogging, or sightseeing alone in secluded areas, especially at night.
  • Do not share the details of your itinerary on social media or with strangers.
  • Understand the risks of traveling alone and being with people you do not know.
  • You can trust the police. They are here to help you.
  • Always keep in touch with your family and friends.
  • In case of emergency or suspicious behavior, dial 9-1-1.

San José is a big city, and North American and European visitors bring expensive cameras and other things that tempt. Here are a few tips for avoiding petty theft:

  • Make a photocopy of your passport and leave the original, your airline ticket and the bulk of your money in your hotel safe.
  • Change money in your hotel and ask for part of it in small bills.
  • Gentlemen, carry your cash, credit card and passport copy in your front pocket. Ladies, grip your purse tightly against your side. Never let a purse dangle from your shoulder.
  • Carry backpacks on your front.
  • Never change money in the street or flash big wads of bills.
  • Avoid seedy areas of town—ask your hotel. If you find yourself in one—leave!
  • Don’t wear anything other than costume jewelry. Men, get a cheap watch for the trip.
  • If you are going out at night, take a taxi.
  • Don’t leave money or valuables lying around your hotel room.
  • Use the safe or check them in at the reception desk.

Feel The Sand

  • Costa Rica is a year-round destination! Go get a tan, go surfing and walk on the beach, but don’t leave your belongings alone when you do.
  • Ask locals or surfers about the beach conditions and about rip currents.
  • If someone is at risk, and you haven’t been trained in first aid, seek for help.
  • When traveling with friends, don’t joke around in a way that may put your life or others at risk.
  • Keep children, elderly people or people with physical limitations close to you, and avoid swimming alone.

Keeping safe on the road

Driving a car in Costa Rica gives you the freedom to navigate the beautiful landscape at your leisure. But there are a few things to keep in mind before you begin your adventure.

  • If you experience a mechanical issue or a flat tire avoid stopping in lonely places and don’t accept unsolicited help from strangers. It is better to call the Rent-a-Car or dial 9-1-1 to request help.
  • Don’t leave any valuables unattended in your car – such as credit cards, cash, jewelry, or your passport. Use public parking lot with surveillance.
  • Use a GPS or a GPS navigation app. It’ll save time and prove convenient when exploring. Just make sure you have a chip or an international data plan!
  • The terrain can get more adventurous depending on where you choose to go. So keep that in mind when renting your vehicle.
  • Verify the condition of the car and its required safety equipment (warning triangles, reflective vests, lug nut wrench, spare tire and a fire extinguisher).
  • When renting the car, read the contract thoroughly to understand what is covered and what is not. Ask for details of car policies and insurance. Be aware of all the details about the insurance policies.

Pedestrian safety | Important Facts

  • Cars do not give pedestrians the right of way.
  • Walk defensively and be very careful when crossing streets.

What should you bring for a trip to Costa Rica?

Important Facts. Remember as you’re packing, there are shops in Costa Rica! It is possible to purchase items you’ve forgotten, or to replace items as they burn out or wear out or get left behind at the beach. on almost any trip to Costa Rica, you will visit mountains, the beach, and the temperate Central Valley. You need to be prepared for temperatures from the low 50s to the low 90s, and everything in between. When you’re headed to Costa Rica, travel light. If there’s a way to avoid checking baggage, do it. Play it safe and carry on. You’ll be able to take advantage of hotel wash rooms and laundromats on your journey and the less you have to keep up with, the better. If you are checking baggage, remember to weigh bags before you get to the airport.

Try to pack only what is necessary, cool clothes that are easy to wash and dry, since airlines and tour operators have weight restrictions on luggage, and you will probably move from one place to another.

Include in your luggage all the medication you may need if you have a medical condition, since some medications in Costa Rica require a certified prescription.

Here’s a checklist of items you might find useful during your stay:

  • Sunscreen and insect repellent.
  • Casual clothing for traveling in cities.
  • Cotton shirts, long and short sleeved sweater or jacket.
  • Trousers-cotton, hiking pants or lightweight hiking boots, thongs or sandals, river sandals or any kind of shoes that can get wet and strap onto your feet.
  • Shorts for hiking and relaxing.
  • Swimsuit.
  • Hat (s) – with visor for rain and sun protection.
  • Batteries -especially unusual batteries for cameras, hearing aids, and the like.
  • Film -cheaper at home than in Costa Rica; bring a bunch
  • Binoculars -look for these at the duty-free shops at the airport.
  • Watch.
  • Alarm Clock.
  • Contact lens supplies.
  • Combination lock.
  • Shower gel.
  • Towel.
  • Flashlight.
  • Electrical adapter.
  • Compass and Maps (if planning to go hiking to remote areas).
  • Towel and pocket knife.

Things to Add to Your Coronavirus Packing List

  1. Hand sanitizer: The CDC recommends hand sanitizers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol to kill coronavirus.
  2. Alcohol/ Disinfecting Wipes. To quickly and easily disinfect surfaces like doorknobs and light switches you encounter in your travels, you’ll also want some disinfecting wipes like Clorox or Lysol brand to take with you.
  3. Masks/Face coverings. Masks are a necessity in our daily life now, but are even more important for travelers. Pack plenty of masks because you might not have access to the same laundry options as back home. And if you are headed on a trip to a destination with a different climate, pack a wide variety of different kinds of masks. You might find one works better for different activities, humidity levels, or temperatures.

Important Facts. While most toiletries can be purchased in the pharmacies here in Costa Rica, imported items are heavily taxed and will therefore be much more expensive. Any prescription drugs you may need should be brought with you.Travelers checks in the form of US dollars are widely accepted and safe to travel.

 

Business hours

Offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Commercial offices are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Stores and other businesses are open from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Communications | Important Facts

Cell phone

An unlocked cell phone will work in Costa Rica. But remember to call your wireless provider before you go to add global roaming capabilities to your plan.You can also buy a SIM prepaid card and use your unlocked cell phone in Costa Rica. Find SIM cards at the Kolbi (the national telecommunications company) booth at the airport, or in any telephone company store around, such as Claro and Movistar. A local line is not required to dial 9-1-1 just in case of emergency.

Taxes

There is a 13% sales tax at hotels, restaurants, and most service industries, and an additional 3% tourist tax at hotels.

Time

Important Facts. Costa Rica is in the same time zone as U.S. Central Standard Time, but does not observe Daylight Savings Time.

Tips

A 10% tip in a restaurant is appropriate but most restaurants will add it to your bill, so read your bill before paying a tip. Taxi drivers generally do not receive a tip.

Drinking water

The water is safe to drink in all areas of the country. Nevertheless, we suggest you buy bottled water for drinking.

Electricity | Important Facts

Costa Rica’s electrical system is compatible with that of North America, 110 volts. Three hole grounded plugs are very uncommon, so if you have equipment that needs this type of plug, be sure to bring an adapter or buy one at a hardware store.

Postal system

Important Facts. Expect your postcards to arrive home after you do—especially in December. Never send cash or anything else of value by regular mail from Costa Rica. Federal Express, DHL and other courier services are available in major cities.

E-mail and the Internet

Sending and receiving e-mail via the World Wide Web is easy in Costa Rica.

Ecotourism | Important Facts

Ecotourism is tourism that has a minimal impact on the environment. It provides income that helps preserve protected areas and also benefits local populations to reduce their dependence on Activities that could damage natural areas.

How can you be a good eco-tourist? Here are a few guidelines:

  • Leave nothing behind, except your footprints
    Stay on the trails
    Don’t collect anything, including flowers, seeds and rocks.
    Avoid disturbing wild animals, especially when they are courting, nesting and feeding. Don’t feed monkeys or other wild animals. Observe nesting sea turtles only with a qualified guide.
    Be sensitive to the local culture and traditions, and willing to interact with local people, so that the tourism activity is a positive experience for everybody involved.

Departure tax

US$29 (twenty-nine US dollars). This tax applies to citizens and foreigners, minors and adults.

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