The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world and restricted international travel opportunities.
Early in the pandemic crisis, the government of Costa Rica took one of the most restrictive positions in Latin America due to COVID-19, imposing curfews on residents and completely stopping international arrival. Only citizens and legal residents could enter the country due to this temporary border closing.
During the early part of the pandemic, US-based airlines offered repatriation flights to US citizens in Costa Rica who desired to make a quick return.
Now, as we pass more than half of a year of the pandemic in the United States, one of the most frequent questions that people ask me is, can you fly from the US to Costa Rica?
Can US Citizens Travel to Costa Rica?
As of September 1st, US travelers from the following states and district can enter Costa Rica:
- District of Columbia
- New York
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
On September 15, the country will open to residents of:
What are the entry requirements?
Just because you might be a resident of one of these states does not mean that it’ll be desirable to vacation in Costa Rica right now.
In order to prove residence in one of the qualifying states of the United States, travelers are required to present a driver’s license or state ID to verify that they are coming from one of the states on the approved list.
Travelers also must:
- Fill out an online health form, which is available in the English language.
- A real-time PCR test with a negative result for SARS-CoV2, taken within 72 hours of travel.
- Travel insurance which covers the cost of expenses should you become ill with COVID-19 while in the country. Specifically, you have to present proof of:
- Insurance coverage while in Costa Rica
- A minimum coverage of $50,000 for medical expenses
- A minimum coverage of $2,000 for lodging in case of illness
If your flight originates from your allowable home state but has a layover in a non-allowed place, such as Texas or Florida, you’re still allowed to enter Costa Rica provided that you don’t leave the airport during your layover.
Arrivals from private flights originating in the United States are not subject to the same geographic restrictions. [source]
But what if I’m a legal resident of Costa Rica?
Americans from the United States who have legal temporary or permanent residency may enter Costa Rica, regardless of US state residency, provided that they can present the following things upon arrival:
- Valid DIMEX
- Proof that payments to the Caja payments are up to date
- Completed Health Pass (Pase de Salud).
Legal residents (as well as Costa Rica citizens arriving from abroad) must quarantine for 14 days after arrival unless they are arriving from one of the authorized locations, can prove that they were in that authorized location for at least 14 days, and have a negative real-time PCR test for SARS-CoV2, taken within 72 hours before their flight to Costa Rica.
Tourists in Costa Rica who were already in the country when the borders closed (technically, those who entered after December 17th, 2019, approximately 90 days before the borders closed) are automatically granted an extension of their 90-day tourist visa, by the country’s immigration office, to November 18, 2020.
When will residents of other states be allowed to enter Costa Rica?
According to the head of Costa Rica’s Department of Tourism, the criteria that the Costa Rican government seems to use for placing countries and US states on the list is that they “currently have an epidemiological condition similar or lower levels of contagion to those of Costa Rica.”
So, it seems that when a state or country has the same level or lower level of COVID-19, as judged by the Ministry of Health, then then the government will consider adding it to the approved list.
The most important metric is the number of new cases per 100,000 population. The government says that they will periodically revisit which states will be allowed based on updated information.
What about other countries?
Here is a list of currently-approved countries by region:
In South America, only citizens and residents of Uruguay are allowed.
In North America, besides the allowed states of the US, only citizens and residents of Canada are permitted.
In Europe, countries of the European Union, Schengen Zone, and the United Kingdom are allowed.
In Asia, allowed countries are:
- South Korea
Australia and New Zealand are allowed countries in Oceania.
Is it worth traveling to Costa Rica right now?
The answer to this question is complicated. For some people, such as those with diabetes or other health issues, international travel, in general, may be too risky. However, lower demand appears to be driving excellent opportunities to get value on your travel budget.
The US State Department has placed Costa Rica on a Level 4 Travel Advisory, which instructs US citizens not to travel to the country, leave the county or shelter in place if they are already in Costa Rica. This advisory doesn’t prohibit travel, but it is a strong statement.
Flights from the US to Costa Rica are being added.
More flights from the US are being added, according to a statement from the Costa Rican tourism board.
American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta Airlines are adding flights, including a daily flight from Houston to SJO and three weekly flights to LIR (which, until Texas becomes an approved state, will only allow travelers that are connecting in Houston from an approved state).
The country uses a tiered-system of alerts and restrictions based on the level of infection in various zones. The two alert levels are yellow and orange. There are weekly restrictions on driving based on the last digit of the automobiles’ license plate. However, these restrictions don’t apply to rental cars.
All open-air activities are permitted. Beaches are open from 5 am to 2:30 pm. National parks continue to operate. Hotels are allowed to rent 100% of their rooms but must limit capacity in common areas such as restaurants, bars, lobbies, and casinos to 50% capacity.
Indoor mass gatherings are prohibited. Masks are required in closed public spaces such as stores and on public transit.
If you decide to make the trip, make sure that you take all of the prudent precautions before traveling. I’m not a health professional, however, I think that it makes good sense to protect your health in general with a smart vaccination regimen.
The CDC in the United States recommends that all travelers consider the following vaccinations before traveling to Costa Rica:
- Measles-mumps-rubella (MMR)
- diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine
- varicella (chickenpox) vaccine
- polio vaccine
- and annual flu shot.
Most travelers should get vaccinated against hepatitis A and typhoid.
Some travelers should consider getting:
- Malaria vaccination
- Hepatitis B vaccination
- Rabies vaccination
- Yellow fever vaccination
For more information, consult the CDC website. Always talk to your doctor or health care provider.
What is Costa Rica doing in the fight against COVID-19?
Costa Rican scientists are developing a COVID-19 treatment that calls up their experience developing anti-venin to treat snakebites.
The University of Costa Rica’s Clodomiro Picado Institute is working on the treatment, which uses antibodies from horses infected with the SARS-Cov-2 virus, much like how anti-venin is made from snake venom.
The experimental treatment will be tested on 26 subjects beginning in mid-September. [source]