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) last updated October 2021:

Flights to San José, Costa Rica (SJO)

Here are all the flights from the United States to Juan Santamaría International Airport in Alajuela, serving San José and the surrounding areas:

  • Los Angeles: Alaska (as of November), Avianca (as of December), Delta, JetBlue (ends in October), United.
  • Phoenix: American (December and January).
  • Denver: United.
  • Dallas: American.
  • Houston: United (IAH), Southwest (HOU).
  • Chicago: American (November to May), United.
  • Atlanta: Delta.
  • Orlando: Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit (ends in May).
  • Miami area: American (MIA), Avianca (MIA), Frontier (MIA; as of November), Spirit (FLL and MIA), JetBlue (FLL).
  • Washington, D.C.: United (IAD).
  • New York City: United (EWR), American (JFK; starts in November), Avianca (JFK; starts in December), JetBlue (JFK).
  • Flights to Guanacaste, Costa Rica (LIR)

Here are all the flights from the United States to Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica:

  • Los Angeles: Alaska (ends in August), Delta (November to January), JetBlue, United.
  • San Francisco: United.
  • Denver: Southwest (November to April), United.
  • Austin: American (starts in November).
  • Dallas: American.
  • Houston: United (IAH), Southwest (HOU).
  • Minneapolis: Delta (December to April), Sun Country (December to April).
  • Chicago: American (November to April), United.
  • Atlanta: Delta.
  • Miami: American.
  • Orlando: Frontier (starts in November).
  • Charlotte: American (starts in December).
  • Washington, D.C.: Southwest (BWI).
  • New York City: United (EWR), American (JFK; starts in December), JetBlue.
  • Boston: JetBlue (ends in April).

Since 2016, the country’s departure tax is included in most 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.

Important: Make sure to check the latest regulations for entry into the US.

On November 8, 2021, non-U.S. citizens who are not immigrants to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and provide proof of their vaccination status to fly to the United States. There will be very limited exceptions to this vaccination requirement for certain non-U.S. citizens who are not immigrants, including children under the age of 18.

Fully vaccinated air passengers, regardless of citizenship, will continue to be required to show a negative pre-departure COVID-19 test taken no more than three days before they board their flight to the United States. For passengers who are not fully vaccinated, the rules will tighten to require a test taken no more than one day before departing to the United States.

All air passengers to the United States will also be required to provide basic contact information to airlines before boarding flights to the United States.

These travel requirements will be effective for air travel to the United States from any foreign country at or after 12:01AM ET on November 8, 2021.

Further guidance on the very limited exceptions to these vaccination requirements, what constitutes acceptable proof of vaccination, and other operational details are available on CDC’s website.

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 travelling 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 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 travelling.

Entry Requirements COVID-19Learn more information about health protocols from our blog by clicking here.

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 updated requirements remain during the Covid 19 pandemic:

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. The risk of contracting malaria is minimal, but for itineraries that include the Caribbean lowlands, travellers 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 travelling 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 travelling 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 behaviour, 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 jewellery. 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 help.
  • When travelling 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 cars – such as credit cards, cash, jewellery, 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 washrooms 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 travelling 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 sanitiser: The CDC recommends hand sanitisers 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 travellers. 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. Traveller’s 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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