Are you wondering about the Costa Rica entry requirements before your vacation?
Whether you are planning to enter Costa Rica by air, by land, or by sea; there are several things you need to know in order to successfully gain access to the country. Costa Rica’s entry requirements are not extensive, but the regulations in place are heavily forced.
We have been living in Costa Rica for several years and are experienced with the entry requirements. Plus, we have had countless friends and family visit us throughout the years from the United States and Europe. We have become somewhat of experts on the requirements and restrictions when entering.
I have dealt with being denied entry (you can read about it at the end of this post) and we don’t want you to have to go through the same thing. Because of that, we have gone through all the information from the Costa Rican government to put together this comprehensive guide on Costa Rica entry requirements for you.
Passport Requirements for Costa Rica Entry
A valid original passport is required in order to obtain entry into Costa Rica. This needs to be your actual passport and not a photocopy.
If you do not have a passport we suggest ordering one from your home country several months in advance of your trip. It can sometimes take a while for everything to be processed.
If you are a US citizen you can order a new passport here. It is possible to expedite it if you are short on time.
Everything I have read online says that your passport needs to be valid for your length of stay in Costa Rica plus one day. This is a new law that was enacted in 2016.
However, I suggest that you make sure your passport is good for at least 3 months from the time you will leave Costa Rica. I have been denied international travel in the past due to passport validity length, so it is always better to be on the safe side.
Also, make sure you have at least one available page in your passport for entry and exit stamps.
You may be denied entry if your passport is severely damaged. This includes having holes, being ripped, etc.
Travel Tip: We suggest making a few color copies of your passport before traveling. This is helpful in case your passport gets lost. When traveling, we usually keep our passports locked in our hotel safe and just bring color copies if we need to show some form of ID.
Do I Need a Visa to Enter Costa Rica?
Most visitors to our site are from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, or the European Union. If you are a citizen of any of these places, there are no visa requirements to enter Costa Rica.
You must have a valid passport (which meets the passport rules I stated above), an onward or return ticket, and the required vaccines. You can then stay for 90 days in the country.
There are four different groups of requirements for entry into Costa Rica. Let’s go through each one.
Group One: Citizens are NOT required to have a visa for Costa Rica entry. Must have a valid passport, onward ticket, and required vaccines. These people can stay for 90 days in the country.
The countries in group one are: ANDORRA, ARGENTINA, AUSTRALIA, AUSTRIA, BAHAMAS, BARBADOS, BELGIUM, BRAZIL, BULGARIA, CANADA, CROATIA, CZECH REPUBLIC, CHILE, CYPRUS, DENMARK, ESTONIA, FINLAND, FRANCE, GERMANY, HOLLAND, HUNGARY, IRELAND, ICELAND, ISRAEL, ITALY, JAPAN, LATVIA, LIECHTENSTEIN, LITHUANIA, LUXEMBOURG, MALTA, MEXICO, MONACO, MONTENEGRO, NORTHERN IRELAND, NORWAY, NEW ZEALAND, PANAMA, PARAGUAY, POLAND, PORTUGAL, PUERTO RICO, REPUBLIC OF SOUTH KOREA, SAN MARINO, SERBIA, SOUTH AFRICA, SLOVAKIA, SLOVENIA, SPAIN, UNITED KINGDOM OF GREAT BRITAIN, UNITED STATES
Group Two: If you are from one of the following countries please contact your embassy to check how long you can stay in Costa Rica.
I have read two different things on official government websites. Some sites say that you can stay for 90 days and some say for 30 days.
Either way, you do not need a visa to enter. You will need an onward ticket, required vaccines, and a valid passport.
The countries in group two are: ANTIGUA , BARBADOS, BELIZE, BOLIVIA, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, EL SALVADOR, FIJI, GRANADA, GUATEMALA, GUYANA, HONDURAS, MARIANA ISLANDS, MARSHALL ISLANDS, SOLOMON ISLANDS, KIRIBATI, MALDIVES, MAURICIO, MICRONESIA (FEDERATED STATES), NAURU, PALAU, PHILIPPINES, KINGDOM OF TONGA, RUSSIA, SAMOA, SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS, ST. VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES, ST. LUCIA, SAO TOME, AND PRINCIPALITY, SEYCHELLES, SURINAM, TUVALU, TURKEY, VANUATU.
Group Three: If you are from one of the following countries you will need a consular tourist visa before entering into Costa Rica. You will also need to meet the passport requirements, vaccine requirements, and posses a return or onward ticket.
The countries in group three are: ALBANIA, ANGOLA, SAUDI ARABIA, ALGERIA, ARMENIA, AZERBAIJAN, BAHRAIN, BENIN, BELARUS, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA, BOTSWANA, BRUNEI-DARRUSAL, BURKINA FASO (UPPER VOLTA), BURUNDI, BHUTAN, CAPE VERDE, CAMBODIA, CANERUN, COLOMBIA, IVORY COAST, COMOROS, CHAD, ECUADOR, EGYPT, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, GABON, GAMBIA, GEORGIA, GHANA, GUINEA, GUINEA-BISSAU, MALAYSIA, Equatorial Guinea, INDIA, INDONESIA, JORDAN, KAZAKHSTAN, KENYA, KIRQUIZISTAN, KOSOVO, KUWAIT, LESOTHO, LIBERIA, LIBYA, LEBANON, MADAGASCAR, MALAWI, MALI, MOROCCO, MAURITANIA, MOLDOVA, MONGOLIA, MOZAMBIQUE, NAMIBIA, NEPAL, NICARAGUA, NIGER, NIGERIA, OMAN, PAKISTAN, PAPUA NEW GUINEA, PERU, QATAR, ARAB REPUBLIC Saharahui (SAHARA WESTERN), CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC, PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA , REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA, REPUBUCA OF CONGO, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, (ESBLIZACAIREDE) Democratic People’s LAOS, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, RWANDA, SENEGAL, SIERRA LEONE, SUDAN NORTH,SOUTH SUDAN, SWAZILAND, THAILAND, TAIWAN ,TANZANIA, TAJIKISTAN, EAST TIMOR, TOGO, TUNISIA, TURKMENISTAN, UKRAINE, UGANDA, UZBEKISTAN, VIETNAM, YEMEN, DJIBOUTI, ZAMBIA, ZIMBABWE.
Group Four: You will need a restricted visa to enter Costa Rica if you are from one of the following countries. You will also need to meet the required passport, vaccine, and onward ticket rules.
The countries in group four are: AFGHANISTAN BANGLADESH CUBA ERITREA ETHIOPIA HAITI IRAN IRAK JAMAICA MYANMAR (AFTER BIRMANIA) NORTH KOREA (PEOPLE’S DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF) PALESTINE SYRIA (ARAB REPUBLIC OF) SOMALIA SRI LANKA
Do I Need Any Vaccinations?
If you are flying directly from the US, Canada or Europe, local laws do not require any vaccinations in order to enter Costa Rica.
If you are traveling from any of the countries listed below before visiting Costa Rica (this includes just for a stopover) you will need the Yellow Fever Vaccine. The exception to that is if you have been out of the high risk country for at least 6 days before entering Costa Rica.
This vaccine needs to be administered 10 days or earlier before your flight to Costa Rica. You will need to show proof of the vaccine for entry.
The countries that are considered at risk for Yellow Fever are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and French Guyana.
Keep in mind that even if you just have a stopover in one of these countries on your way to Costa Rica and never leave the airport, you will still need the Yellow Fever vaccine.
How Long Can I Stay in Costa Rica?
You can stay in Costa Rica for 90 days as a tourist. If you have a visa or residence permit to Costa Rica for work or study it will state how long you can reside in the country.
When you enter Costa Rica you will be required to show proof that you are leaving within 90 calendar days. You can not stay longer than 90 days without a visa or residence permit.
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The proof that you will be leaving can come in the form of airline tickets (it can be to any country outside of Costa Rica) or a bus ticket to Panama or Nicaragua with your name and passport number on it.
Note: If you are entering Costa Rica while on a cruise you can just show your cruise info as proof of departure.
For most of you, you will have a roundtrip plane ticket. This is great to show as proof that you will be leaving the country within 90 days. You do not need to print this out. We have never had a problem just showing our flight info on our phone if asked by the immigration authorities.
If you are backpacking through Central America and have a one way ticket, the best option to show proof of departure within 90 days is to book a bus ticket online through TicaBus. TicaBus is good because they ask for your name and passport number, which will appear on the ticket. That way the border control agent can confirm you are actually the person using the ticket.
Just note, in our experience, if you have a one way ticket this usually isn’t a problem when actually entering the country. It is more of an issue before you even fly to Costa Rica from your country of origin.
If you have a one-way flight to Costa Rica you will usually not be able to check in for your flight online. You will need to go to the check in counter at your departure airport to show proof that you will be departing Costa Rica within 90 days in order to board the flight to Costa Rica.
If you are backpacking through Central America and have a return flight from a different country within 90 days that is usually fine as well. However, it can vary by airline.
So, in summary, most of you can ignore all of that. If you are just visiting Costa Rica for vacation, have booked a round-trip flight, and are staying in Costa Rica for less than 90 days you will likely have no issues flying or entering the country.
What is it Like to Go Through Border Control at the Costa Rica Airport?
After exiting the plane we suggest walking relatively quickly to the Border Control area. It can get backed up if there are not a lot of employees working. We once stood in line for about 2 hours. Ugh!
When you get up to the Border Control desk the immigration officer will first ask to see your current valid passport.
They then usually ask 3 questions.
1. What is your profession?
Just answer them with your general title like “teacher, marketing, programmer etc.” They have a list of careers that they need to check something off of, so don’t get too detailed.
My dad once explained his full job to the immigration officer in San Jose. I was laughing so much because the poor man was looking at him like, “what are you even talking about?”.
2. Where you are staying on your first night?
You just need to give them the name of the hotel or vacation rental you are staying at on your first night and its location.
If you are staying with friends, just give them the name of the closest hotel. There are no addresses in Costa Rica so it will be very difficult to explain exactly where your friend lives.
3. What is the duration of your stay in Costa Rica?
They just need to know the date of your departure from Costa Rica. Occasionally they may ask to see your flight info.
As I mentioned above, it is fine to show this on your phone but it is a good idea to have it ready to show so you don’t have to scroll through all your emails while standing there.
Occasionally the Costa Rican immigration officer may ask for additional information, but typically those three questions are the only ones you will be asked.
The immigration official will then give you an entry stamp in your passport and write in how many days you are allowed to stay. They almost always write in 90 days unless you seem suspicious or there are some problems.
After that, you pick up your bags from baggage claim, put your luggage through one last scan, and exit the airport!
What is it Like to Go Through Border Control at the Land Borders?
The Nicaragua border and Panama border can be more chaotic than entering the country from one of the airports.
In our experience, the agents can be more controlling and sometimes want to see paper proof of your departure. It is best to have copies of your departure info printed out.
Our Experiences Entering Costa Rica
We have only had one major issue entering the country. Well, actually, I had the major issue. Thomas has never had any problems.
A few years ago we went to the Galapagos for our honeymoon. It was amazing and I made many lifelong friends. ↓
Unfortunately, when it came time to actually leave Ecuador and head back to Costa Rica I was not allowed to fly.
See, before visiting I had researched the Yellow Fever shot and learned that you do not need the vaccine to enter the Galapagos. It is not required by law and there isn’t any Yellow Fever there.
This was a relief because once you get the shot it takes 10 days for it to become active in your system and there was a shortage of Yellow Fever vaccines in Costa Rica at that time.
However, as I stated above, if you travel to Ecuador you need to show proof of the vaccine before you travel to Costa Rica. I had been so focused on looking at the requirements to enter the Galapagos that I hadn’t even looked into the requirements to go back into Costa Rica. I did not know this and so I was not allowed by the airline to fly from Ecuador to Costa Rica.
Thomas, however, was allowed to fly because he had had the vaccine a year earlier.
Of course, our flight was from the Galapagos to Quito, Ecuador. We had a stopover in Quito and then were meant to fly home to San Jose. I was allowed to fly from the Galapagos to Quito, but then was denied boarding in Quito.
After freaking out in the Quito Airport and trying to find a doctor who could give me the shot and forge the date (needs to be administered 10 days before flying) I finally succumbed to tears.
Thomas offered to skip his flight and stay with me, but he needed to get home to go to work the next day and I didn’t want both of us to have to pay for new flights.
He left and I was left alone with no luggage (we had already checked it through to Costa Rica in Thomas’s name) and a few credit cards.
After pulling myself together I figured my best option would be to fly to the US and then down to Costa Rica. If I opted to stay in Quito I would either have to stay for 10 days after getting the shot or find someone to forge the papers for me. That seemed like too much of a hassle, especially since I didn’t have a single change of clothes.
$400 later I had an overnight flight up to Miami and then down to Costa Rica. Which, is a true Bostonian I was happy to land in the morning in Miami and see a Dunkin Donuts as soon as I exited into the airport. I at least got my Dunkin fix out of my stupidity.
It ended up being quite the adventure, but about 20 hours after Thomas left I finally made it home to Costa Rica.
It was definitely illegal that I still went to Costa Rica after leaving Ecuador, but shhh, don’t tell anyone that I’m such a rule breaker.
Anyway, the lesson is, don’t be like me. If you are traveling anywhere in South America, before visiting Costa Rica, get that Yellow Fever vaccine. It will save you a lot of trouble and money.
Other Things to Know About Costa Rica Entry Requirements
- A travel insurance policy is not required in order to enter the country under Costa Rican law, however we still suggest purchasing it. Travel insurance is more than just medical insurance. It will help protect you from things such as lost luggage, a lost passport, changes in travel plans etc. We like Heymondo for Costa Rica travel insurance.
- There are no longer and COVID-related entry requirements such as a negative COVID test, proof of vaccination, or Costa Rica health pass. Those have all been eliminated as requirements.
- If you want to stay up to date on the entry requirements, check out the Costa Rican Embassy website.
- If you are a United States citizen, don’t forget to register with STEP. This allows the US government to get in contact with you if there is some sort of emergency while you are traveling in Costa Rica.
- If your passport is lost or stolen while in Costa Rica you will need to make your way to your embassy to try and secure a temporary passport. Most embassies are located in the capital city of San Jose. If you are an American citizen, the U.S. Embassy is located in the Rohrmoser neighborhood of San Jose.
- Don’t forget to check the entry requirements of any country you have a stopover in for an international flight. For example, if you are flying from Europe and have a stopover in the United States you will still need to do ESTA.
What About the Requirements to Leave Costa Rica?
When you leave Costa Rica you will first need to pay a departure tax. If you are leaving from the airport, there is a 90% chance this tax is already included in your flight. If you are crossing land borders you will need to pay this.
At the airport, you will then go to security. You will need to show your passport to the local authorities officer.
Next, you will do the usual thing of putting your hand luggage through a conveyer belt and walking through a metal detector. You will then get your luggage back and be in the terminal.
That’s it! No special requirements.
Conclusion: Costa Rica Entry Requirements
In conclusion, the Costa Rican entry requirements aren’t anything crazy. The tourism industry is huge here, so tourism is encouraged. Just remember that you need a valid passport in order to enter Costa Rica and you are only allowed to stay in the country for 90 days at a time without a visa.
Just note that the information for entry is always changing and we are not legal experts. Check the Costa Rican government website for updated information before traveling.
If you have any questions about entry requirements for Costa Rica please leave them in the comment section below. We are always happy to help you out!
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