The Best Places to Stay in Costa Rica
Costa Rica is one of the top vacation destinations if you’re looking for tropical paradise. If you’ve never been, it can be difficult to decide where to stay. From the beautiful beaches to the charming towns, here’s a guide to some of the best places for your next trip.
A volcano may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a vacation destination, but it’s one of the most beloved spots in Costa Rica. The land surrounding the active volcano is a place for anyone looking to push their own personal physical limits with activities like hiking, rappelling, zip lining and whitewater rafting. If you prefer something a little quieter, many of the hotels and resorts in the area have their own hot springs on their properties, so you can kick back and relax while you take in the gorgeous scenery in the area.
San Jose is Costa Rica’s capital, and if you want to spend your vacation shopping for souvenirs and enjoying local cuisine, this is the place for you. Learn about Costa Rican culture at one of the city’s museums, or tour one of the nearby coffee plantations. Enjoy a blend of the country’s history mixed with modern amenities as you stroll the city streets. If you’re in Costa Rica to enjoy the country’s natural beauty, many of those destinations are just a quick drive from the San Jose metro area.
For peace and quiet, look to the Bay of Papagayo area. It’s home to many of the country’s top luxury resorts, and it’s home to some of the most upscale beaches in Costa Rica. The water is calm here, making it an ideal spot for swimming, kayaking and a variety of water sports. After a day in the sun, you can head back to your hotel for pampering and services that are practically unmatched. Just be prepared to pay a little extra to stay in this area.
People come from all over the world to visit Tamarindo, which is one of the country’s more popular beach areas. It’s a laid-back community that attracts surfers and other water sports enthusiasts. While it’s not quite the quiet town that it once was, it’s still a wonderful place to come let your hair down. Relax by the beach during the day, and enjoy the bustling clubs and restaurants at night. Sometime in between, visit one of the bordering national parks.
If you’re planning a trip to Costa Rica to get away from it all, you may want to head to Drake Bay. Located on the Osa Peninsula, it may take you a little while to get to this out-of-the-way place, but once you arrive, you’ll feel so thankful that you made the trip. It’s not crowded, the village is peaceful and you can spend each day in solitude if you wish. It’s also one of the most beautiful places in the country. National Geographic once called it the “most biologically intense place” on the planet, notes Costa Rica Guides.
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Ecotourism in Costa Rica: Your Ultimate Green Travel Guide
You’ll often hear the phrase Pura Vida when visiting Costa Rica. It means “pure life,” and not many countries follow that belief better than this Central American nation. The people’s warmth, connection to nature, and their commitment to environmentally-friendly ways of living are incredible. What better way to enjoy Pura Vida than ecotourism in Costa Rica, leaving a minor impact on the country while experiencing it to the fullest? So, let’s go green and see how to explore the “Rich Coast” in its purest form.
Why Ecotourism Matters For Costa Rica
Tourism is the country’s backbone, bringing in much more revenue than any other industry, representing over 5% of the GDP . Costa Rica nature tourism is a perfect fit with dozens of national parks, wildlife refuges, and biological reserves. The stunning jungles, volcanoes, beaches, and river systems are home to an incredible variety of animal and plant life, and the Costa Rican people have a deep respect and love for the land. Supporting sustainable travel is a win-win for tourists and locals alike, bringing money into the country, protecting natural resources, and connecting people with the environment.
Where To Stay
If you want to immerse yourself in ecotourism, Costa Rica is the ideal place. You can find luxury hotels that adhere to strict environmental standards, affordable lodging that is also some of the most sustainable, and eco-lodges on remote beaches or blending into the rainforest canopy. No matter where you decide to stay in the country, you can find places that meet Costa Rica’s sustainability initiatives. Some standout areas include:
Arenal Volcano National Park
This amazing volcanic wonderland offers hiking, biking, and horseback riding opportunities everywhere you look. There are many sustainable lodging options nearby, including Arenal Observatory Lodge & Spa (from $114 – $700 per night). It is surrounded by the park in an ideal location, uses sustainable maintenance, reforestation, and energy and water conservation practices, and it employs personnel from the locall from the local communities.
Corcovado National Park
This park is the pinnacle of ecotourism in Costa Rica. You can stay just outside the boundaries in eco-lodges with infinity pools or rustic options with solar power and comfortable, natural settings. An eco-lodge that stands above (literally, it is nestled high in the treetops) is Luna Lodge (between $200 – $580), which offers a beautiful setting and self-sufficient property with its own hydroelectric and solar power.
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve
To get a higher vantage point and an entirely different experience than the lower elevations, head to Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Its eco-lodges sit among the clouds, giving visitors access to incredible wildlife and biodiversity. Try the Monteverde Lodge (from $203), settled between two major nature reserves, guaranteeing your immersion into a bird and animal paradise. Its sustainability practices include a biological gray water treatment plant and buying locally-sourced products, and it supports the local music festival and health fair.
Tortuguero National Park
This national park provides tropical beauty, environmentally-friendly lodging, and interactive opportunities to protect endangered wildlife. You can work with green turtles on the pristine beaches where they lay their eggs. One way to immerse yourself is at the Mawamba Lodge (from an affordable $115 per night). This riverfront resort encourages active explorations in nature, whether hiking, canoeing, kayaking, or observing and learning about the turtles. It is a highly-sustainable lodge with conservation practices across the board.
Culture & Food
Part of the draw of ecotourism in Costa Rica is immersing in the local culture and discovering what the place is all about. Sustainable travel often includes interacting with the people who live there authentically to feel the heartbeat of the land and its communities. As a bonus, you get to try new, delicious foods, giving you a more complete feel for a country. If you like friendly people and amazing, healthy food, you’ll love Costa Rica.
The vibe of the locals -“Ticos” – is as warm and welcoming as the weather, and you can easily connect with them and their culture. Whether you eat at Tico-owned restaurants, get to know guides and drivers, or ask for insight into people’s traditions, Costa Rica will welcome you. You can explore, relax, and socialize, knowing that your support benefits the people who live and work here. The country touches the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and its people reflect these unique and diverse regions: including indigenous groups, Spanish, Caribbean Islanders, Asians, and other immigrants. Its government is democratic, and it has no army, with a mellow and neighborly feel wherever you go.
The food in Costa Rica is as diverse as its culture and includes everything from rice and beans to grilled fish to Latin sweets. Some amazing foods to try are:
- allo pinto – rice and beans
- hifrijo – fried pork with red beans
- ondón – a seafood stew sort of similar to cioppino, as cooks throw whatever they may have lying around into it
- C horreadas – corn pancakes
Many foods tie into nature with organic, healthy choices and sustainably grown ingredients. And don’t forget to try the world-famous coffee! The warm, misty climate and the fertile volcanic soil are ideal for growing flavorful beans and excellent aromas.
How To Get Around
Costa Rica nature tourism is a snap. It is a small country, about the size of Denmark or Croatia, and there are many ways to travel that benefit the people. You will increasingly find electric and hybrid vehicles to get you from Point A to Point B while booking a guided tour means fewer rental cars on the road. Ecotourism is more than going green, though. It also means supporting and enhancing the local population, which you can do by booking homegrown tours , hiring Tico drivers , and planning your trip and travel to embrace the culture.
For active travelers interested in ecotourism, Costa Rica is a paradise. You will discover so many nature-based activities that allow you to learn , explore, and get moving without the guilt of causing harm to the area. Some ideas include:
- Wildlife-spotting: You could spend months cataloging all the birds and animals you might see in places like Manuel Antonio National Park, but taking a few days hiking and looking for wildlife is a guaranteed good time.
- Extreme excitement: If zip-lining, rafting, mountain biking, or rappelling sound like fun, ArenalVolcano National Park is a great destination. You can support the country’s sustainability efforts by visiting, and you can stand in awe at the foot of an active (but currently sleeping) volcano.
- Hit the surf: Costa Rica is a world-famous surfing destination, with a wide variety of breaks for all skill levels. Knowing that your environmental footprint is small, you can enjoy the warm water and soothing sea.
- Go Birding: The sheer number of birds is jaw-dropping. You see and hear them everywhere, and birders from around the globe come here to observe them.
- Coffee-tasting: Visit one of the many coffee plantations to sample delicious Costa Rican coffee and support the people who run them.
Sustainable Travel Tips In Costa Rica
- Look for sustainability ratings. You can find out how hotels and lodges rank under the government’s Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) program or similar Blue Flag ratings.
- Get hands-on with volunteering. Help animals directly, volunteering to protect wildlife and rebuild habitats.
- Find eco-friendly tour companies . The CST program monitors tour operators, too. They give awards from 1-5 leaves so you can see who operates responsibly.
- Support the local culture. Several organizations showcase local artists , musicians, and dancers , putting on shows and events tourists can watch and support.
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Travel Advisory July 17, 2023
Costa rica - level 2: exercise increased caution.
Reissued with obsolete COVID-19 page links removed.
Exercise increased caution in Costa Rica due to crime .
Country Summary: While petty crime is the predominant threat for tourists in Costa Rica, violent crime, including armed robbery, homicide and sexual assault, occurs in Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government provides additional security resources in areas frequented by tourists.
Read the country information page for additional information on travel to Costa Rica.
If you decide to travel to Costa Rica:
- Be aware of your surroundings.
- Do not physically resist any robbery attempt.
- Do not display signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive Alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- U.S. citizens should always exercise caution when traveling abroad.
- Follow the Department of State on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram .
- Review the Country Security Report for Costa Rica.
- Prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations. Review the Traveler’s Checklist .
- Visit the CDC page for the latest Travel Health Information related to your travel.
View Alerts and Messages Archive
Length of stay.
1 page per entry stamp.
Not required for stays less than 180 days, but return ticket required.
Yellow fever, if arriving from certain countries in South America or Africa .
Embassies and Consulates
U.s. embassy san josé.
Calle 98, Via 104 Pavas San José, Costa Rica Telephone: + (506) 2519-2000 Emergency After-Hours Telephone: + (506) 2220-3127 Fax: + (506) 2220-2455 Email: [email protected] Routine American Citizens Services appointments available online .
Learn about the U.S. relationship to countries around the world.
Entry, Exit and Visa Requirements
See the Embassy of Costa Rica’s website for the most current visa information.
Requirements for Entry:
- Passport valid for duration of stay. Immigration may deny entry if passport is damaged.
- Return ticket or proof of onward travel to another country.
- Proof of yellow fever vaccination if you are arriving from certain countries in South America or Africa.
- Proof of funds for at least $100 USD per month of proposed stay.
Tourist stays up to 180 Days: Authorities may permit stays up to 180 days without a visa but are not required to do so. Be sure to leave by your required date of departure. Immigration authorities may levy a fine on foreigners who overstay their visas. Even a short overstay may result in significant delays, deportation, and/or denial of entry to Costa Rica in the future.
Exit tax: Check with your airline to see if the $29 USD exit tax was included in the cost of your ticket. For more information, visit the Costa Rican Immigration Agency website.
Entry and Exit for Minor Children: All children born in Costa Rica acquire Costa Rican citizenship at birth and must have an exit permit issued by immigration authorities in order to depart the country. Non-Costa Rican minor children who are ordinarily resident in Costa Rica may also be subject to this requirement. This is strictly enforced.
Though not required, parents traveling with minor children may consider carrying notarized consent for travel from the non-present parent. Parents of minors with Costa Rican citizenship should consult with Costa Rican immigration authorities prior to travel to Costa Rica.
Indebtedness: If you owe money in Costa Rica, authorities may prevent you from leaving. This includes unsettled injury claims from vehicular accidents and unpaid medical bills. U.S. citizens owing child support in Costa Rica may be required to pay 13 months of support in advance before being allowed to leave Costa Rica.
Documentation Requirements: Carry copies of identification and immigration status at all times. During routine checks for illegal immigrants, authorities may ask to see the original passport and papers.
Local authorities have the right to detain United States citizens until their identity and immigration status have been verified.
HIV/AIDS restrictions: The United States Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Costa Rica.
Find information on dual nationality , prevention of international child abduction , and customs information on our websites.
Safety and Security
Crime: In areas frequented by tourists, including national parks, theft and pickpocketing are the most common crimes targeting United States citizen travelers. More violent crimes, including sexual assault and murders, have occurred. Armed assailants usually target victims for their smartphones, wallets, or purses. If confronted by someone with a weapon, it is best not to resist.
Do not leave valuables unattended on the beach, in an unattended vehicle, or in an unlocked room. Even a locked vehicle in an area with parking attendants may be broken into. Avoid isolated areas when on foot, especially after dark. Maintain situational awareness and secure your valuables out of sight.
The Embassy is aware of reports of robbery of isolated rental properties. Research any rental homes to ensure they have adequate security and remember to properly secure all doors and windows.
See the Costa Rica Country Security Report (osac.gov) for an overview of crime in Costa Rica. For information about international financial scams, see the Department of State and the FBI pages for information.
Victims of Crime: United States citizen victims of sexual assault are encouraged to contact the United States Embassy for assistance. Report crimes to the local police at 911 and contact the United States Embassy at +506 2519-2000 or [email protected]. Remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting crime. Authorities will only investigate and prosecute a crime if the victim files a police report (denuncia). The Costa Rican Investigative Police (OIJ) is responsible for investigating and prosecuting crimes that occur in Costa Rica.
To file a police report : Visit the local office of the OIJ. You can find the closest location by calling 800-800-3000. The Tourist Police can also take reports at the following tourist destinations:
- Puerto Viejo
- El Coco See our webpage on help for U.S. victims of crime overseas .
U.S. Embassy San Jose can:
- Help you find appropriate medical care
- Assist you in reporting a crime to the police
- Contact relatives or friends with your written consent
- Provide general information regarding the victim’s role during the local investigation and following its conclusion
- Provide a list of local attorneys
- Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S .
- Provide an emergency loan for repatriation to the United States and/or limited medical support in cases of destitution
- Help you find accommodation and arrange flights home
- Replace a stolen or lost passport
A police report with a case number is necessary for case follow up, insurance claims, and waiving of rebooking fees on certain airlines. Check with airlines regarding their rebooking policies.
Beach Safety : Swimming areas at some popular beaches around Costa Rica can have dangerous rip currents. Some beaches lack lifeguards or warnings of unsafe conditions. United States citizens have died in Costa Rica due to these dangers. Check the Costa Rica Tourism Institute (ICT) website, or with your hotel or relevant tour operator to request current information on local swimming and surf conditions. Please be aware that the Costa Rica Tourism Institute confirms that there are trained lifeguards at the following beaches:
- Manuel Antonio Beach Caldera Beach
- Esterillos Oeste Beach
- Bahia Ballena Beach
- Ventanas Beach
- Tamarindo Beach
- Cocles Beach
- Manzanillo Beach
- Negra Beach (Limon)
The Oceanographic Information Module at the Center for Research in Marine Sciences of the University of Costa Rica provides public information regarding wind and wave forecasts, including warnings of hazardous conditions. You can learn more about the dangers of rip currents and how to avoid them from the NOAA National Weather Service's Rip Current webpage.
Do not dive into water of unknown depth. Do not swim alone, especially at isolated beaches. Avoid the consumption of alcohol while swimming.
Tourism : The Costa Rica Tourism Institute (ICT) website maintains a list of Certified Tour Guides .
Adventure Sports: Some tour operators take risks, and government regulation and oversight of firms that organize sporting activities may not always adhere to international standards and best practices. United States citizens have died in Costa Rica while participating in adventure sports. Use caution and common sense when engaging in ALL adventure sports, such as bungee jumping, sky diving, hiking, rappelling, climbing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, etc. Make sure your medical insurance covers your sport. See our section on Medical Insurance under “Health” below. The Ministry of Health maintains a list of authorized Adventure Sports operators.
Never participate in adventure sports alone. Always carry identification and let others know where you are at all times. Before kayaking and rafting, check river conditions and wear a life jacket and helmet. Even popular rafting locations such as the Rio Naranjo near Quepos can become extremely dangerous in flash flood conditions. When hiking, rappelling, or climbing, carry a first aid kit and know the location of the nearest rescue center. Observe all local or park regulations and exercise caution in unfamiliar surroundings.
Domestic Violence: United States citizen victims of domestic violence are encouraged to contact the Embassy for assistance.
Students and Volunteers: Violent assaults, rapes, and deaths have occurred involving students and volunteers. Ensure that your organization provides safety and security information on the area where you will stay. See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips . To register complaints: Contact Costa Rica’s Tourism Commission or by phone at 800-TURISMO from Costa Rica or 011-506-2299-5800 from the United States. Email: [email protected]
Potential for Natural Disasters: Costa Rica is in an active earthquake and volcanic zone.
- Three volcanoes , two near San Jose and one in the northwest, have become more active in recent years. Ashfall due to volcanic eruptions from Turrialba can disrupt air traffic and cause or aggravate respiratory issues. Visitors should monitor and follow park service guidance and alerts regarding volcanic activity. Never attempt to climb or gain unauthorized access to an active volcano.
- Tsunamis may occur following significant earthquakes.
- Flooding occurs during the rainy season, typically from April until October, in the Caribbean Province of Limon and the Pacific Provinces of Puntarenas and Guanacaste.
- Flash floods and severe landslides occur in many parts of Costa Rica, depending on the time of year and rainfall. Do not drive into water of unknown depths.
For information concerning disasters, see:
- U.S. Embassy Costa Rica website . The Embassy also sends out emergency information via e-mail, text, and/or Radio Dos (FM 99.5) or Radio Columbia (FM 98.7.)
- U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides general information about natural disaster preparedness
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information regarding disease.
- U.S. Geological Survey provides updates on recent seismic and volcanic activity.
Additional information regarding volcanic activity and other natural disasters in Costa Rica may be obtained from the following Spanish-language Costa Rican websites:
- Costa Rican National Emergency Commission
- Costa Rican Volcanic and Seismic Observatory
Demonstrations occur frequently. They may take place in response to political or economic issues, on politically significant holidays, and during international events. Strikes may affect transportation, fuel supplies, and other public services. Local law prohibits foreigners from participating in public demonstrations, and violators may be subject to detention or deportation.
- Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly become violent.
- Avoid areas around protests and demonstrations.
- Check local media for updates and traffic advisories.
Hiking : When visiting national parks, abide by signage and stick to marked trails. First responders have limited ability to locate missing persons in remote areas.
To hike in national parks, you must:
- Register with the park
- Obtain an entry permit
- Consider using a certified tour operator. The Costa Rican Tourist Institute (ICT) has contact information for Certified Tour Guides .
Tourism : The tourism industry is generally regulated, and rules are regularly enforced. Inspections take place on a regular basis; however, some lapses may occur in businesses that are not properly registered. Hazardous areas or activities are not always identified with appropriate signage. Professional staff is typically on hand in support of organized activities. In the event of an injury, appropriate medical treatment is available but may be delayed due to road and traffic conditions as well as physical distances. Outside of a major metropolitan center, it may take more time for first responders and medical professionals to stabilize a patient and provide life-saving assistance. United States citizens are encouraged to purchase medical evacuation insurance. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage .
Local Laws & Special Circumstances
Criminal Penalties: You are subject to local laws. If you violate local laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Individuals establishing a business or practicing a profession that requires additional permits or licensing should seek information from the competent local authorities, prior to practicing or operating a business.
Furthermore, some laws are also prosecutable in the United States, regardless of local law. For examples, see our website on crimes against minors abroad and the Department of Justice website.
The Embassy is aware of isolated reports of uniformed officers or impostors demanding a bribe. Should you be confronted for a bribe, do not argue. Note the name of the officer and any identifying numbers on the uniform or vehicle and report the incident by calling “ 911 .”
Ayahuasca/Kambo/Hallucinogens: Traditional hallucinogens, often referred to as ayahuasca or kambo, are often marketed to travelers as part of a “ceremony” or “spiritual cleansing.” Such substances typically contain dimethyltryptamine (DMT), a strong hallucinogen that is illegal in the United States and many other countries.
- Intoxicated travelers, including United States citizens, have been sexually assaulted, injured, or robbed while under the influence of these substances.
- Health risks associated with ayahuasca are not well understood, and, on occasion, United States citizens have suffered serious illness or death after taking these drugs.
- These incidents often occur in remote areas far away from modern medical facilities, increasing the risks.
Alcohol/Drugs: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could land you immediately in jail. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe, including long jail sentences and heavy fines. The possession, purchase, and sale of marijuana and marijuana related products are illegal in Costa Rica
Prostitution/Sex Tourism: Local law forbids promoting or facilitating the prostitution of another person. Local laws regarding human trafficking and child exploitation carry extremely harsh penalties, including large fines and significant jail time, including for first-time offenders.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested or detained, ask police or prison officials to notify the United States Embassy immediately. See our webpage for further information.
The law permits pre-trial detention of persons accused of serious crimes. Due to overcrowding in local prisons, courts may instead use an “exit impediment.” Individuals subject to these measures cannot depart Costa Rica, must be able to support themselves, and must check in with judicial authorities on a regular basis. Defendants have the right to a public defender and an official translator for important hearings.
Judicial Process: Due to differences in legal systems and case backlogs, local criminal and civil judicial processes can move slower in comparison to their United States equivalents. Civil suits on average take over five years to resolve. Some United States firms and citizens have satisfactorily resolved their cases through the courts, while others have seen proceedings drawn out over a decade without a final ruling.
Counterfeit and Pirated Goods: Although counterfeit and pirated goods are prevalent in many countries, they may still be illegal according to local laws. You may also pay fines or have to give them up if you bring them back to the United States. See the U.S. Department of Justice website for more information.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the following webpages for details:
- Faith-Based Travel Information
- International Religious Freedom Report – see country reports
- Human Rights Report – see country reports
- Hajj Fact Sheet for Travelers
- Best Practices for Volunteering Abroad
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Costa Rica. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: Accessibility and accommodation are limited. Many buildings remain inaccessible and the Costa Rican Ombudsman’s Office has received several noncompliance reports regarding accessibility or malfunctioning of hydraulic wheelchair lifts for public transportation.
Students: See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips .
Residency: United States citizens seeking to live or reside long-term in Costa Rica should consider seeking local legal counsel for guidance on the requirements to obtain legal residency . Local authorities have imposed limited entry permits or deported United States citizens suspected of improperly using their tourist status to live in Costa Rica.
Real Estate: Be extremely cautious when making real estate purchases or investments, consult with reputable legal counsel, and thoroughly review the contract. There is little the United States Embassy can do to assist United States citizens who enter into land or business disputes; you must be prepared to take your case to the local courts.
Civil archives recording land titles are at times incomplete or contradictory. Coastal land within 50 meters of the high tide line is open to the public and therefore closed to development. The next 150 meters inland (“Maritime Zone”) cannot be owned by foreign nationals. Land in this zone is administered by the local municipality. Expropriation of private land by the Costa Rican government without compensation considered adequate or prompt has affected some United States investors.
Property owners are encouraged to maintain security and access controls on any private property. Organized squatter groups have invaded properties, taking advantage of legal provisions that allow people without land to gain title to unused property. Victims of squatters have reported threats, harassment, and violence.
Check the Embassy’s website for a list of local lawyers. Please review the Investment Climate Statement for Costa Rica on the State Department’s website .
Women Travelers: See our travel tips for Women Travelers .
Please visit the Embassy's COVID-19 page for more information on entry/ exit requirements related to COVID-19 in Costa Rica.
For emergency services in Costa Rica, dial 911 .
- Ambulance services are widely available, but training and availability of emergency responders may be below United States standards.
- Medical care in San Jose is generally adequate, but services can be limited in areas outside of San Jose. In remote areas, basic medical equipment may not be available. Ambulances may lack emergency equipment.
- Most prescription and over-the-counter medications are available; however, some United States citizens travel regularly to the United States to fill prescriptions that are unavailable locally. Bring a supply of your medications and carry prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription.
We do not pay medical bills. Be aware that United States Medicare/Medicaid does not apply overseas. Most hospitals and doctors overseas do not accept United States health insurance.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. See our webpage for more information on insurance providers for overseas coverage . Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for more information on types of insurance you should consider before you travel overseas.
- We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation.
- Costa Rican immigration authorities reserve the right to prevent departure of those international travelers with unpaid or disputed medical bills.
- The United States Embassy maintains a list of doctors and hospitals on our Embassy website . We do not endorse or recommend any specific medical provider or clinic.
- Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging, along with your doctor’s prescription. Check with the Costa Rican Ministry of Health to ensure the medication is legal in Costa Rica.
Vaccinations: Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Proof of yellow fever vaccination must be presented upon arrival for all passengers coming from certain countries in South America or Africa .
Medical Tourism: Confirm that:
- Facilities and professionals will be able to provide an acceptable level of care
- Your insurance will cover any associated or emergency costs
- You understand the terms of payment and costs for treatment
For clinics offering alternative medical treatments, thoroughly research these clinics and their providers. The Embassy has received reports of hospitalizations as a result of clients at so-called wellness centers undergoing medically unverified “alternative treatments.”
We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation in the event of unforeseen medical complications. An air ambulance flight can cost $25,000 to $50,000 USD and will often take place only after payment has been received in full.
Further health information:
- World Health Organization
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Air Quality: Visit AirNow Department of State for information on air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates.
Health facilities in general:
- Adequate health facilities are available throughout Costa Rica but health care in rural areas may be below United States standards.
- Hospitals and doctors often require payment “up front” prior to service or admission. Credit card payment is not always available. Most hospitals and medical professionals require cash payment.
- Private hospitals usually require advance payment or proof of adequate insurance before admitting a patient.
- Medical staff may speak little or no English.
- Generally, in public hospitals only minimal staff is available overnight in non-emergency wards. Consider hiring a private nurse or having family spend the night with the patient, especially a minor child.
Medical Tourism and Elective Surgery: United States citizens have suffered serious complications or died during or after having cosmetic or other elective surgery.
- Medical tourism is a rapidly growing industry. People seeking health care overseas should understand that medical systems operate differently from those in the United States and are not subject to the same rules and regulations. Anyone interested in traveling for medical purposes should consult with their local physician before traveling.
- Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for information on Medical Tourism, the risks of medical tourism, and what you can do to prepare before traveling to Costa Rica.
- We strongly recommend supplemental insurance to cover medical evacuation in the event of unforeseen medical complications.
- Your legal options in case of malpractice are very limited in Costa Rica.
- Although Costa Rica has many elective/cosmetic surgery facilities that are on par with those found in the United States, the quality of care varies widely. If you plan to undergo surgery in Costa Rica, make sure that emergency medical facilities are available and professionals are accredited and qualified.
Pharmaceuticals: Exercise caution when purchasing medication overseas. Pharmaceuticals, both over the counter and requiring prescription in the United States, are often readily available for purchase with few controls. Counterfeit medication is common and may prove to be ineffective, be the wrong strength, or contain dangerous ingredients. Medication should be purchased in consultation with a medical professional and from reputable establishments.
- United States Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration are responsible for rules governing the transport of medication back to the United States. Medication purchased abroad must meet their requirements to be legally brought back into the United States. Medication should be for personal use and must be approved for usage in the United States. Please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the Food and Drug Administration websites for more information.
- Costa Rica does not allow the importation of most medications through the mail, even with a prescription. Travelers entering Costa Rica may carry personal medications with them and in suitcases, but also should carry a copy of the prescriptions. Medications should be in original packaging, and quantities should correspond to the prescription. Please review Costa Rica’s rules on importing medication at the Ministry of Health website .
Alcohol: If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill. There have been reports of individuals falling ill or dying after consuming alcohol tainted with methanol. Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health has advised any persons presenting health issues after consuming alcohol, such as severe vomiting, agitation, disorientation, blindness, or any other adverse reactions, to immediately call 911. Ministry of Health authorities are asking people to report any instances of the sale of unregulated alcohol or alcohol adulterated with methanol to the Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) confidential line at 800-8000-645, or by email to [email protected], or by calling the National Center for Intoxicants at 2223-1028 or 800-INTOXICA (4686-9422). Additionally, if you feel you have been the victim of unregulated alcohol or another serious health violation, you should notify the American Citizen Services unit at the U.S. Embassy in San Jose at +506-2519-2000. You may also contact the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
Assisted Reproductive Technology and Surrogacy: If you are considering traveling to Costa Rica to have a child through use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) or surrogacy, please see our ART and Surrogacy Abroad page .
Water Quality: In many areas, tap water is not potable. Bottled water and beverages are generally safe, although you should be aware that many restaurants and hotels serve tap water unless bottled water is specifically requested. Be aware that ice for drinks may be made using tap water.
Adventure Travel: Visit the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Adventure Travel .
General Health Language: The following diseases are prevalent:
- HIV/AIDS: Follow all standard procedures for protection against the spread of HIV/AIDS.
- Visit the UUnited States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for more information about Resources for Travelers regarding specific issues in Costa Rica
Air Quality: The air quality varies considerably and fluctuates with the seasons. People at the greatest risk from particle pollution exposure include:
- Infants, children, and teens
- People over 65 years of age
- People with lung disease such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
- People with heart disease or diabetes
- People who work or are active outdoors
Travel and Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Take extra care when driving. Roads are often in poor condition, lack clearly marked lanes, and have narrow shoulders and large potholes. Signage can be inadequate. Visibility at intersections is often limited by hedges or other obstacles.
- In the event of car trouble or a flat tire, look for a well-lit, populated area such as a gas station to pull over. Be wary of unsolicited offers of assistance from strangers, particularly in less populated areas.
- Main highways and principal roads in the major cities are paved, but some roads to beaches and other rural locations are not. Many destinations are accessible only with four-wheel drive vehicles with high ground clearance.
- Exercise extreme caution when driving across moving water, especially through riverbeds and over hanging bridges. Even a few inches of water could destabilize your vehicle.
- Landslides are common. Some roads, even those leading to major population centers, may be temporarily impassable during the rainy season. When staying outside of urban areas, call ahead to hotels regarding the current status of access roads.
- Avoid driving at night outside urban areas.
- Expect traffic jams in and around San Jose.
- Motorcyclists often drive without respect to rules of the road, passing on the right, or weaving in and out without warning. Buses and cars frequently stop in travel lanes, even on expressways.
Bridges: Bridges, even on heavily traveled roads, may be only a single lane. Rural roads sometimes lack bridges, compelling motorists to ford waterways. Do not drive through water.
Traffic Laws: Drivers will need a valid passport and valid United States driver’s license or an international driving permit.
- Fines for routine traffic violations can be upwards of $500 USD.
- Laws and speed limits are often ignored, turn signals are rarely used, passing on dangerous stretches of highway is common, and pedestrians are not given the right of way.
- In the event of a traffic accident, do not move the vehicle. Both the traffic police and an insurance investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles can be moved. Drivers using rental cars should clarify their company’s policy in the event of accidents. Rental companies may levy additional charges on drivers for failing to file a report.
- There is a high fatality rate for pedestrians and those riding bicycles or motorcycles. In the event of a traffic fatality, a judge must arrive at the scene to pronounce a person dead, which could take several hours. If there is an ongoing investigation of a vehicular accident resulting in death or injuries, you may not be allowed to leave the country for several months.
Public Transportation: United States citizens have reported having items stolen while using public transportation across Costa Rica. United States citizens should take care to maintain awareness of their surroundings and avoid displaying signs of wealth, such as wearing expensive watches or jewelry, and should always keep bags and other personal items under their personal control. United States citizens are strongly discouraged from using public buses, where pickpocketing is common. United States citizens should take only licensed taxis or familiar ride share services and should never accept rides from unlicensed or “pirate” vehicles.
See our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of Costa Rica’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety .
Unpaid traffic tickets: United States citizens have occasionally reported to the Embassy that charges for unpaid traffic tickets have appeared on the credit card that was on file with their rental car company. The Embassy cannot intervene in such cases.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Costa Rica’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Costa Rica’s air carrier operations. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page .
Maritime Travel: Mariners planning travel to Costa Rica should also check for U.S. maritime advisories and alerts . Information may also be posted to the U.S. Coast Guard homeport website , and the NGA broadcast warnings .
For additional travel information
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- Call us in Washington, D.C. at 1-888-407-4747 (toll-free in the United States and Canada) or 1-202-501-4444 (from all other countries) from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution and Travel Advisories .
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook .
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
Costa Rica was cited in the State Department’s 2022 Annual Report to Congress on International Child Abduction for demonstrating a pattern of non-compliance with respect to international parental child abduction. Review information about International Parental Child Abduction in Costa Rica . For additional IPCA-related information, please see the International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act ( ICAPRA ) report.
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- Planning Your Trip
- Entry Requirements
Welcome to Costa Rica!
Country entry requirements
Entry to Costa Rica is allowed for tourists from all countries.
Each visitor must comply with the migratory processes established in the General Law of Migration and Immigration. Starting April 1, the temporary migration measures established in the framework of the national health emergency due to COVID-19 are repealed.
During their stay in Costa Rica, tourists must follow the health protocols established by private companies in order to participle in any tourist activity.
Country Entry Requirements
Tourists can verify if they require entry with or without a visa at the following link: https://migracion.go.cr/Paginas/Visas.aspx . The CIRCULAR DG-004-2021-UI-AJ that details the countries in the first, second, third and fourth groups is available at: https://migracion.go.cr/Documentos%20compartidos/Circulares%20y%20Directrices/2021/DIRECTRICES%20GENERALES%20DE%20INGRESO%20Circular%20DG-004-2021-UI-AJFEB%202021.pdf In the framework of the pandemic, the following requirements were also established: (in force until April 1, 2022)
1. Complete the digital form called HEALTH PASS, available at https://salud.go.cr
The Health Pass can only be completed within 72 hours prior to arrival in the country. It must be accessed via updated browsers with the exception of Internet Explorer. One form must be completed per person, including minors. All tourists must complete the Health Pass.
*Important Update (Feb. 23, 2022)* Beginning March 7, 2022, the current Health Pass requirement to enter the country will be eliminated for Costa Ricans, although this requirement will remain for foreigners. Beginning April 1, 2022, the Health Pass and travel insurance policy requirements will be eliminated for all individuals. However, a travel insurance policy is recommended to cover medical expenses and lodging in the event of COVID-19 infection.
2. Travel Policy
Tourists who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and individuals aged 18 and younger (even if unvaccinated) can enter the country without a travel policy. The last dose of the vaccine must have been applied at least 14 days prior to arrival in Costa Rica.
The list of authorized vaccines include: AstraZeneca: Covishield, Vaxzervia, AXD1222, ChAdOx1, ChAdOx1_nCoV19 India Janssen: COVID-19 Vaccine Janssen, Johnson & Johnson y Ad26.COV2.S Moderna: Spikevax, mRNA-1273 Pfizer-BioNTech: Comirnaty, BNT162b2 y Tozinameran Sinovac: COVID-19 Vaccine (vero cell), Coronavac ™ Sinopharm: SARS-CoV-2 Vaccine (vero cell), Inactivated (InCoV) Covaxin: BBV152, Bharat Biotech's COVID-19 vaccine
Vaccinated tourists must attach their vaccination certificate to the Health Pass. As proof, vaccination certificates and vaccination cards that contain at least the following information will be accepted:
- Name of the individual who received the vaccine
- Date of each dose
- Pharmaceutical site
In the case of U.S. travelers, the "COVID-19 Vaccination Record Card" will be accepted.
Documentation must be submitted in English or Spanish. Submitting documentation in a different language will prevent it from being reviewed. The Ministry of Health and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute are exempt from any responsibility in the event that a traveler submits information in a language other than English or Spanish.
Unvaccinated individuals aged 18 and older must purchase a travel policy with a duration equal to the period of stay in the country, with the exception of passengers in transit, whose minimum validity is five days that covers, at least, medical expenses generated by Covid-19 and lodging expenses due to quarantine.
Tourists can select any international insurance company that meets the following requirements: 1. Valid during the entire stay in Costa Rica (coverage dates) 2. $50,000 for medical expenses, including COVID-19 infection 3. $2,000 for lodging expenses in the event of COVID-19 quarantine Travelers must ask their insurance company for a certificate/letter in English or Spanish stating the following information: 1. Name of the individual traveling 2. Validity of the effective policy during the Costa Rica visit (travel dates) 3. Guaranteed coverage for medical expenses in the event of COVID-19 in Costa Rica, valued at least $50,000 4. Minimum coverage of $2,000 for lodging expenses for quarantine or trip interruption for this same amount This certificate must specify that the policy covers COVID-19 and must be uploaded to the HEALTH PASS to be reviewed and approved by Costa Rican authorities.
IMPORTANT : Insurance cards are not accepted. The document must include the verification of the coverage mentioned.
Costa Rican Policies
Tourists can also select any of the following Costa Rican insurance companies, which sell products registered and authorized by the General Superintendency of Insurance of Costa Rica. INS: https://www.grupoins.com/seguros-para-viajero/seguro-viajero-ingreso-costa-rica/ Sagicor: https://tiendasagicor.com/en/ BlueCross BlueShield: https://www.bluecrossblueshieldcr.com/rod
IMPORTANT: The minimum coverage is set at $50,000 for international policies, while the minimum coverage for policies sold by Costa Rican insurers is set at $20,000.
Foreigners in the immigration category with a permanent or temporary residence, or a special category in the latter case (with the exception of the Student Subcategory), must demonstrate the assurance by the Costa Rican Social Security Fund, which is in force and can be verified at the following link: https://sfa.ccss.sa.cr/servMedicos/validarDerechos.do Tourists who are in transit through the country must purchase insurance with a minimum coverage of five days. Costa Rican citizens do not require health insurance. Tourists are requested and warned not to attach unsolicited personal documents, such as copies of credit cards, keys or private passwords or other information in the Health Pass: https://salud.go.cr nor in emails to [email protected] . Only a copy of the insurance policy should be attached.
Entry by air or land - By land, the country admits tourists from groups one and two included in the general guidelines for entry and stay visas for non-residents who do not require a visa. Tourists can email [email protected] if they have any questions or concerns about medical insurance requirements.
Entry by sea - On Sept. 1, Costa Rica reactivated cruise tourism for the 2021-2022 season. As a requirement, vessels must guarantee complete vaccination schedules against the COVID-19 virus in all crew members and 95% of passengers who are of age to be vaccinated.
Yacht and sailboat passengers and crew members can email [email protected] if they have any questions or concerns about medical insurance requirements.
Those who fail to comply with these requirements will not be permitted to enter the country.
FAQ about entry requirements for fully vaccinated tourists and minors
FAQ on travel requirements to enter the United States during COVID-19
FAQ about COVID-19 testing sites in Costa Rica
Welcome to Costa Rica! To visit our country there are some requirements which must be met.
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.
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COVID-19: travel health notice for all travellers
Costa Rica travel advice
Latest updates: Editorial change
Last updated: November 14, 2023 10:54 ET
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Safety and security, entry and exit requirements, laws and culture, natural disasters and climate, costa rica - exercise a high degree of caution.
Exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica due to crime.
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Petty crime, such as pickpocketing and purse snatching, occurs frequently. Tourists are common targets for theft because they are perceived as being wealthy.
Crime against property, such as house burglary, theft from cars, and vehicle theft, is frequent. Passport theft is also extremely common and increases in frequency during the peak tourist seasons, from November to May and from July to August.
Thieves often work in teams, in which one thief diverts the victims’ attention while the other snatches their possessions. Thefts commonly occur:
- in popular tourist areas, including viewpoints
- on buses, on trains, in bus and train stations as well as in airports terminals
- in hotel lobbies
- at restaurants, including on patios located near streets
While you’re in Costa Rica:
- ensure that your belongings, including your passport and other travel documents, are secure at all times
- carry your passport, including the Costa Rican entry stamp received at the immigration entry point
- avoid showing signs of affluence or wearing expensive jewellery
- avoid carrying large sums of cash or unnecessary valuables
- avoid isolated or deserted areas
- avoid walking alone at night
- be aware of your surroundings, particularly in crowded and tourist areas
- be extra cautious when withdrawing cash from ATMs
- San José
In San José, high-risk areas for theft include:
- the Coca-Cola bus terminal area, located between El Paso de la Vaca, Calle 12 and the Coca-Cola market
- the inner downtown area, located between the San Juan de Dios Hospital, the National Museum, Avenida 1 and Avenida 14
- the Mercado central areas
- public parks
In Puntarenas province, the following areas are of particular concern for theft:
- Jacó, including the crocodile viewing area along the Tárcoles River
- Manuel Antonio national park
- Cóbano area, including the small seaside towns of Mal País, Montezuma and Santa Teresa, as well as the port of Puntarenas
On the Caribbean coast, the following areas are of particular concern for theft:
- Puerto Limón
- Puerto Viejo
Residential break-ins occur. Burglars may target rental accommodations or houses and apartments owned by foreigners.
- Choose well-secured accommodation
- Make sure you lock doors and windows at night and when you’re away
Car break-ins and theft are very common throughout the country. Rental and luxury vehicles are a target of choice. Theft commonly occurs:
- national parks
If driving in Costa Rica:
- familiarize yourself with your route before starting the trip
- keep your windows and doors locked at all times
- keep your belongings out of reach
- use secure parking facilities, especially overnight
- never leave belongings unattended in a vehicle, even locked or out of sight in the trunk
- don’t stop to change a flat tire in an isolated area, and beware of strangers offering their help
- ensure emergency assistance and car insurance are offered by the rental agency when renting a car
Violent crime, including murders and armed robberies, occurs. Drug trafficking is common, and most incidents are drug-related. The most affected provinces are:
Although not frequent, violent assaults against travellers have occurred on the Caribbean coast in:
- Puerto Limón
If you are threatened, hand over your cash and valuables immediately without resistance.
Credit card and ATM fraud occurs. Be cautious when using debit or credit cards:
- pay careful attention when others are handling your cards
- use ATMs located in well-lit public areas or inside a bank or business
- avoid using card readers with irregular or unusual features
- cover the keypad with one hand when entering your PIN
- check for any unauthorized transactions on your account statements
Spiked food and drinks
Snacks, beverages, gum and cigarettes may contain drugs that could put you at risk of sexual assault and robbery.
- Be wary of accepting these items from new acquaintances
- Never leave food or drinks unattended or in the care of strangers
Some people died after consuming adulterated alcohol in Costa Rica during the summer of 2019. Further incidents occurred in October 2020.
- Be cautious if you choose to drink alcohol
- Be wary of lesser-known or illegal brands
- Avoid buying alcohol from individuals
- Seek medical assistance if you begin to feel sick
Alcohol, drugs and travel
Women travelling alone may be subject to some forms of harassment and verbal abuse. Incidents of sexual assault against foreigners at beach resorts and by taxi drivers in San José have occurred.
Advice for women travellers
Demonstrations take place from time to time, particularly in San José. Even peaceful demonstrations can turn violent at any time. They can also lead to disruptions to traffic and public transportation.
Costa Rican law prohibits political activity by foreigners. Participating in demonstrations or activities may result in you being detained and/or deported.
- Avoid areas where demonstrations and large gatherings are taking place
- Follow the instructions of local authorities
- Monitor local media for information on ongoing demonstrations
Mass gatherings (large-scale events)
Coastal waters can be dangerous. Riptides are common. Several drownings occur each year.
Very few beaches are supervised by lifeguards. There are no warning signs of dangerous conditions.
- Exercise caution when swimming
- Don’t swim alone, after hours or outside marked areas
- Consult residents and tour operators for information on possible hazards and safe swimming areas
- Monitor weather warnings
- Tips for travellers - Costa Rica Tourist Board
- Water safety abroad
Outdoor activities, such as white-water rafting, scuba diving, bungee jumping, canopy touring and other adventure sports can be dangerous if unprepared. Trails are rarely marked, and weather conditions can change rapidly, even in summer.
Safety features on small boats used in river and lake excursions are not always reliable.
Life-threatening fauna such as jaguars, pumas, wild pigs and poisonous snakes are common in the densely wooded areas.
If you intend to practice adventure tourism:
- never do so alone, and don’t part with your expedition companions
- obtain detailed information on your activity and on the environment in which you will be before setting out
- buy travel insurance that includes helicopter rescue and medical evacuation
- ensure that your physical condition is good enough to meet the challenges of your activity
- avoid venturing off marked trails
- don’t camp or sleep overnight on beaches
- ensure that you’re adequately equipped and bring sufficient water
- stay informed of weather and other conditions that may pose a hazard
- know the symptoms of acute altitude sickness, which can be fatal
- inform a family member or friend of your itinerary
- refrain from using facilities or equipment if you have doubts on their safety
You must obtain a permit to access national parks.
Nation Parks – Costa Rica Tourist Board
Road conditions and road safety are generally poor throughout the country. Costa Rica has one of the highest traffic accident rates in the world.
Most roads are not paved and those paved are generally in poor condition. Driving conditions may be hazardous, especially during the rainy season, due to:
- sharp curves
- lack of traffic signs
- narrow or unpaved roads
Drivers don’t respect traffic laws. Motorists often drive without lights at night.
- remain vigilant when stopped at lights or stop signs
- keep doors locked and windows closed at all times
- keep your valuables out of plain sight
- avoid travel at night
Public bus transportation is unreliable. Schedules and routes may not be accurate. Vehicles are often late due to traffic and road conditions. Itineraries may also vary from the ones originally announced.
Pickpockets often target tourists in public buses.
If travelling by public bus:
- keep your ID and valuables with you
- avoid placing your bags in the overhead compartment or under your seat
- avoid sleeping
Police checks of passengers on public transportation also occur. Officers often use those checks to determine if foreigners have overstayed the 90-day visa exemption period.
Always carry your proof of legal stay on your person.
Official taxis are safe. They are orange at the airport and red with a yellow triangle on the side elsewhere in the country.
- Use official taxis only booked ahead of time
- Never board taxis at taxi stands or flag taxis in the street
- Note the driver’s name and plate number
- Make sure the driver uses the meter
- Never use shared taxis
We do not make assessments on the compliance of foreign domestic airlines with international safety standards.
Information about foreign domestic airlines
Every country or territory decides who can enter or exit through its borders. The Government of Canada cannot intervene on your behalf if you do not meet your destination’s entry or exit requirements.
We have obtained the information on this page from the Costa Rican authorities. It can, however, change at any time.
Verify this information with the Foreign Representatives in Canada .
Entry requirements vary depending on the type of passport you use for travel.
Before you travel, check with your transportation company about passport requirements. Its rules on passport validity may be more stringent than the country’s entry rules.
Regular Canadian passport
Your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay.
Passport for official travel
Different entry rules may apply.
Passport with “X” gender identifier
While the Government of Canada issues passports with an “X” gender identifier, it cannot guarantee your entry or transit through other countries. You might face entry restrictions in countries that do not recognize the “X” gender identifier. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
Other travel documents
Different entry rules may apply when travelling with a temporary passport or an emergency travel document. Before you leave, check with the closest foreign representative for your destination.
- Foreign Representatives in Canada
- Canadian passports
Tourist visa: not required for stays up to 180 days Business visa: required Student visa: required
Length of stay
The immigration officer will determine the permitted length of your stay when you enter Costa Rica. As a tourist, you may be granted a stay up to 180 days.
If you intend to stay for more than 180 days, you must obtain a residency status from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería.
You may face deportation if you overstay the authorized 180-day period. Persons deported from Costa Rica will not be allowed to re-enter the country for 5 to 10 years.
- Immigration department – Costa Rica government (in Spanish)
Other entry requirements
Customs officials will ask you to show them a return or onward ticket and proof of sufficient funds to cover your stay.
Minors with dual citizenship
Costa Rica strictly enforces requirements for the departure of minors with dual citizenship.
The Canadian passport of a dual citizen child must have a Costa Rican departure approval delivered by the immigration authorities. The granted permission may be temporary or permanent and will be recorded in the Costa Rican immigration electronic system.
The approval must be requested jointly by both parents, prior to departure, to either of the following authorities:
- Costa Rica’s immigration department
- the Embassy of Costa Rica in Canada
Several cases of departure denials have occurred due to the lack of proper documentation.
Minors with dual citizenship who are travelling unaccompanied must also have legally certified written consent from both parents.
Children and travel.
Learn more about travelling with children .
Learn about potential entry requirements related to yellow fever (vaccines section).
Relevant Travel Health Notices
- Global Measles Notice - 31 August, 2023
- Zika virus: Advice for travellers - 31 August, 2023
- COVID-19 and International Travel - 31 August, 2023
This section contains information on possible health risks and restrictions regularly found or ongoing in the destination. Follow this advice to lower your risk of becoming ill while travelling. Not all risks are listed below.
Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic preferably 6 weeks before you travel to get personalized health advice and recommendations.
Be sure that your routine vaccinations , as per your province or territory , are up-to-date before travelling, regardless of your destination.
Some of these vaccinations include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, varicella (chickenpox), influenza and others.
Pre-travel vaccines and medications
You may be at risk for preventable diseases while travelling in this destination. Talk to a travel health professional about which medications or vaccines may be right for you, based on your destination and itinerary.
There is a risk of hepatitis A in this destination. It is a disease of the liver. People can get hepatitis A if they ingest contaminated food or water, eat foods prepared by an infectious person, or if they have close physical contact (such as oral-anal sex) with an infectious person, although casual contact among people does not spread the virus.
Practise safe food and water precautions and wash your hands often. Vaccination is recommended for all travellers to areas where hepatitis A is present.
Travellers get vaccinated either because it is required to enter a country or because it is recommended for their protection.
- There is no risk of yellow fever in this country.
- Proof of yellow fever vaccination is required if you are coming from a country where yellow fever occurs , excluding Argentina and Panama, or if you are coming from Tanzania or Zambia.
- Vaccination is not recommended.
- Discuss travel plans, activities, and destinations with a health care provider.
- Contact a designated Yellow Fever Vaccination Centre well in advance of your trip to arrange for vaccination.
About Yellow Fever
Yellow Fever Vaccination Centres in Canada * It is important to note that country entry requirements may not reflect your risk of yellow fever at your destination. It is recommended that you contact the nearest diplomatic or consular office of the destination(s) you will be visiting to verify any additional entry requirements.
Measles is a highly contagious viral disease. It can spread quickly from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
Anyone who is not protected against measles is at risk of being infected with it when travelling internationally.
Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are fully protected against measles.
Hepatitis B is a risk in every destination. It is a viral liver disease that is easily transmitted from one person to another through exposure to blood and body fluids containing the hepatitis B virus. Travellers who may be exposed to blood or other bodily fluids (e.g., through sexual contact, medical treatment, sharing needles, tattooing, acupuncture or occupational exposure) are at higher risk of getting hepatitis B.
Hepatitis B vaccination is recommended for all travellers. Prevent hepatitis B infection by practicing safe sex, only using new and sterile drug equipment, and only getting tattoos and piercings in settings that follow public health regulations and standards.
Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is an infectious viral disease. It can spread from person to person by direct contact and through droplets in the air.
It is recommended that all eligible travellers complete a COVID-19 vaccine series along with any additional recommended doses in Canada before travelling. Evidence shows that vaccines are very effective at preventing severe illness, hospitalization and death from COVID-19. While vaccination provides better protection against serious illness, you may still be at risk of infection from the virus that causes COVID-19. Anyone who has not completed a vaccine series is at increased risk of being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 and is at greater risk for severe disease when travelling internationally.
Before travelling, verify your destination’s COVID-19 vaccination entry/exit requirements. Regardless of where you are going, talk to a health care professional before travelling to make sure you are adequately protected against COVID-19.
Seasonal influenza occurs worldwide. The flu season usually runs from November to April in the northern hemisphere, between April and October in the southern hemisphere and year round in the tropics. Influenza (flu) is caused by a virus spread from person to person when they cough or sneeze or by touching objects and surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus. Get the flu shot.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease that is caused by parasites spread through the bites of mosquitoes. There is a risk of malaria in certain areas and/or during a certain time of year in this destination.
Antimalarial medication may be recommended depending on your itinerary and the time of year you are travelling. Consult a health care professional or visit a travel health clinic before travelling to discuss your options. It is recommended to do this 6 weeks before travel, however, it is still a good idea any time before leaving. Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times: • Cover your skin and use an approved insect repellent on uncovered skin. • Exclude mosquitoes from your living area with screening and/or closed, well-sealed doors and windows. • Use insecticide-treated bed nets if mosquitoes cannot be excluded from your living area. • Wear permethrin-treated clothing. If you develop symptoms similar to malaria when you are travelling or up to a year after you return home, see a health care professional immediately. Tell them where you have been travelling or living.
In this destination, rabies is carried by dogs and some wildlife, including bats. Rabies is a deadly disease that spreads to humans primarily through bites or scratches from an infected animal. While travelling, take precautions , including keeping your distance from animals (including free-roaming dogs), and closely supervising children.
If you are bitten or scratched by an animal while travelling, immediately wash the wound with soap and clean water and see a health care professional. Rabies treatment is often available in this destination.
Before travel, discuss rabies vaccination with a health care professional. It may be recommended for travellers who are at high risk of exposure (e.g., occupational risk such as veterinarians and wildlife workers, children, adventure travellers and spelunkers, and others in close contact with animals).
Safe food and water precautions
Many illnesses can be caused by eating food or drinking beverages contaminated by bacteria, parasites, toxins, or viruses, or by swimming or bathing in contaminated water.
- Learn more about food and water precautions to take to avoid getting sick by visiting our eat and drink safely abroad page. Remember: Boil it, cook it, peel it, or leave it!
- Avoid getting water into your eyes, mouth or nose when swimming or participating in activities in freshwater (streams, canals, lakes), particularly after flooding or heavy rain. Water may look clean but could still be polluted or contaminated.
- Avoid inhaling or swallowing water while bathing, showering, or swimming in pools or hot tubs.
Travellers' diarrhea is the most common illness affecting travellers. It is spread from eating or drinking contaminated food or water.
Risk of developing travellers' diarrhea increases when travelling in regions with poor standards of hygiene and sanitation. Practise safe food and water precautions.
The most important treatment for travellers' diarrhea is rehydration (drinking lots of fluids). Carry oral rehydration salts when travelling.
Typhoid is a bacterial infection spread by contaminated food or water. Risk is higher among children, travellers going to rural areas, travellers visiting friends and relatives or those travelling for a long period of time.
Travellers visiting regions with a risk of typhoid, especially those exposed to places with poor sanitation, should speak to a health care professional about vaccination.
Insect bite prevention
Many diseases are spread by the bites of infected insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, fleas or flies. When travelling to areas where infected insects may be present:
- Use insect repellent (bug spray) on exposed skin
- Cover up with light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester
- Minimize exposure to insects
- Use mosquito netting when sleeping outdoors or in buildings that are not fully enclosed
To learn more about how you can reduce your risk of infection and disease caused by bites, both at home and abroad, visit our insect bite prevention page.
Find out what types of insects are present where you’re travelling, when they’re most active, and the symptoms of the diseases they spread.
There is a risk of chikungunya in this country. The risk may vary between regions of a country. Chikungunya is a virus spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. Chikungunya can cause a viral disease that typically causes fever and pain in the joints. In some cases, the joint pain can be severe and last for months or years.
Protect yourself from mosquito bites at all times. There is no vaccine available for chikungunya.
- In this country, dengue is a risk to travellers. It is a viral disease spread to humans by mosquito bites.
- Dengue can cause flu-like symptoms. In some cases, it can lead to severe dengue, which can be fatal.
- The level of risk of dengue changes seasonally, and varies from year to year. The level of risk also varies between regions in a country and can depend on the elevation in the region.
- Mosquitoes carrying dengue typically bite during the daytime, particularly around sunrise and sunset.
- Protect yourself from mosquito bites . There is no vaccine or medication that protects against dengue.
Zika virus is a risk in this country.
Zika virus is primarily spread through the bite of an infected mosquito. It can also be sexually transmitted. Zika virus can cause serious birth defects .
Pregnant women and women planning a pregnancy should visit a health care professional before travelling to discuss the potential risks of travelling to this country. Pregnant women may choose to avoid or postpone travel to this country.
- Prevent mosquito bites at all times.
- If you are pregnant, always use condoms correctly or avoid sexual contact with anyone who has travelled to this country for the duration of your pregnancy.
- Women: Wait 2 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy. If your male partner travelled with you, wait 3 months after travel or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer).
- Men: Wait 3 months after travel to this country or after onset of illness due to Zika virus (whichever is longer) before trying for a pregnancy.
For more travel recommendations, see the travel health notice: Zika virus: Advice for travellers
American trypanosomiasis (Chagas disease) is a risk in this country. It is caused by a parasite spread by infected triatomine bugs. The infection can be inactive for decades, but humans can eventually develop complications causing disability and even death.
Risk is generally low for most travellers. Protect yourself from triatomine bugs, which are active at night, by using mosquito nets if staying in poorly-constructed housing. There is no vaccine available for Chagas disease.
Some infections, such as rabies and influenza, can be shared between humans and animals. Certain types of activities may increase your chance of contact with animals, such as travelling in rural or forested areas, camping, hiking, and visiting wet markets (places where live animals are slaughtered and sold) or caves.
Travellers are cautioned to avoid contact with animals, including dogs, livestock (pigs, cows), monkeys, snakes, rodents, birds, and bats, and to avoid eating undercooked wild game.
Closely supervise children, as they are more likely to come in contact with animals.
Mpox (monkeypox) is a risk in this country. It is a viral disease that can cause serious illness in some circumstances. Risk is generally low for most travellers.
Mpox spreads in 3 ways:
- from animals to humans through direct contact or by eating or preparing undercooked meat of infected animals or coming into contact with an infected animal's body fluids
- from person to person through close contact, including direct contact with the skin lesions, blood, body fluids, or mucosal surfaces (such as eyes, mouth, throat, genitalia, anus, or rectum) of an infected person
- through direct contact with contaminated objects such as bedding and towels, or by sharing personal objects used by an infected person
Follow recommended public health measures and avoid contact with animals such as rodents and primates to help prevent getting or spreading the infection.
Stay home if you’re sick and practise proper cough and sneeze etiquette , which includes coughing or sneezing into a tissue or the bend of your arm, not your hand. Reduce your risk of colds, the flu and other illnesses by:
- washing your hands often
- avoiding or limiting the amount of time spent in closed spaces, crowded places, or at large-scale events (concerts, sporting events, rallies)
- avoiding close physical contact with people who may be showing symptoms of illness
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) , HIV , and mpox are spread through blood and bodily fluids; use condoms, practise safe sex, and limit your number of sexual partners. Check with your local public health authority pre-travel to determine your eligibility for mpox vaccine.
Medical services and facilities
Health care is very good.
Public hospitals offer very good services throughout the country but waiting times may be long. Doctors rarely speak English or French.
Private clinics and hospitals provide excellent health care. They are mainly located in San José. Services may be expensive. Doctors and hospitals typically require upfront payment.
Emergency services may be limited in rural areas.
Medical evacuation can be very expensive and may be necessary in case of serious illness or injury.
Make sure you get travel insurance that includes coverage for medical evacuation and hospital stays.
Travel health and safety
Some prescription medication may not be available in Costa Rica.
If you take prescription medication, you’re responsible for determining its legality in the country.
- Bring sufficient quantities of your medication with you
- Always keep your medication in the original container
- Pack your medication in your carry-on luggage
- Carry a paper and an electronic copy of your prescriptions
Canadian citizens have had serious health complications following cosmetic or other elective surgeries abroad.
Before leaving for medical travel:
- make sure you’ve done your research
- use reputable health-care providers only
Receiving medical care outside Canada
Keep in Mind...
The decision to travel is the sole responsibility of the traveller. The traveller is also responsible for his or her own personal safety.
Be prepared. Do not expect medical services to be the same as in Canada. Pack a travel health kit , especially if you will be travelling away from major city centres.
You must abide by local laws.
Learn about what you should do and how we can help if you are arrested or detained abroad .
Transfer to a Canadian prison
Canada and Costa Rica are signatories to the Convention on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. This enables a Canadian imprisoned in Costa Rica to request a transfer to a Canadian prison to complete a sentence. The transfer requires the agreement of both Canadian and Costa Rican authorities.
This process can take a long time, and there is no guarantee that the transfer will be approved by either or both sides.
If you violate Costa Rica’s laws, even unknowingly, you may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Overview of the criminal law system in Costa Rica
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking of illegal drugs are severe. Convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences or heavy fines.
- Drugs, alcohol and travel
Child sex tourism
It's a serious criminal offence to have sex with minors in Costa Rica.
Conviction may result in a lengthy prison sentence.
Child Sex Tourism: It’s a Crime
Authorities may request to see your ID at any time.
- Carry valid identification at all times
- Keep a photocopy of your passport and entry stamp in case it’s lost or seized
- Keep a digital copy of your ID and travel documents
It is illegal to photograph official buildings.
Check with local authorities before taking photos.
Disputes related to property acquisition or other investments are costly and take time to resolve.
If you plan on buying property, or making other investments in Costa Rica:
- seek legal advice in Canada and in Costa Rica before making commitments
- choose your own lawyer
- avoid hiring a lawyer recommended by a seller
Dual citizenship is legally recognized in Costa Rica.
If you are a Canadian citizen, but also a citizen of Costa Rica, our ability to offer you consular services may be limited while you're there. You may also be subject to different entry/exit requirements .
Travellers with dual citizenship
International Child Abduction
The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction is an international treaty. It can help parents with the return of children who have been removed to or retained in certain countries in violation of custody rights. The convention applies between Canada and Costa Rica.
If your child was wrongfully taken to, or is being held in Costa Rica, and if the applicable conditions are met, you may apply for the return of your child to the Costa Rican court.
If you are in this situation:
- act as quickly as you can
- contact the Central Authority for your province or territory of residence for information on starting an application under The Hague Convention
- consult a lawyer in Canada and in Costa Rica to explore all the legal options for the return of your child
- report the situation to the nearest Canadian government office abroad or to the Vulnerable Children’s Consular Unit at Global Affairs Canada by calling the Emergency Watch and Response Centre
If your child was removed from a country other than Canada, consult a lawyer to determine if The Hague Convention applies.
Be aware that Canadian consular officials cannot interfere in private legal matters or in another country’s judicial affairs.
- List of Canadian Central Authorities for the Hague Convention
- International Child Abduction: A Guidebook for Left-Behind Parents
- Travelling with children
- The Hague Convention - Hague Conference on Private International Law
- Canadian embassies and consulates by destination
- Emergency Watch and Response Centre
You can drive with your valid Canadian driver’s licence in Costa Rica for up to 90 days from your arrival. Even if you have been granted a longer stay, you will not be able to drive legally after the first 90 days.
You must also carry your passport when driving in the country. Photocopies are not acceptable. You may face a fine if you fail to provide proper documentation when stopped by a traffic officer.
The Costa Rican government may prevent you from leaving the country until all injury claims have been settled if you are involved in a road accident, regardless of which party is at fault or insurance coverage. Local judicial resolution process may take several months.
In the event of a car accident:
- don’t move your vehicle until the authorities arrive
- remain at the scene
- call 911 to report the accident
There are camera monitoring systems in various locations. You may receive a speeding ticket by mail if you exceed the speed limit.
Traffic fines don’t have to be paid on the spot. You can pay a fine:
- at COSEVI (Costa Rican Road Safety Council)
If a police officer asks you for money, you may make a complaint to the Costa Rican Tourism Bureau.
- Costa Rican Tourism Bureau
- COSEVI - Costa Rican Road Safety Council (in Spanish)
- International Driving Permit
The currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colón (CRC).
Credit cards are generally accepted.
It’s extremely difficult to exchange Canadian dollars in Costa Rica. U.S. dollars are more easily exchanged.
Cash withdrawals are possible with a 4-digit PIN only.
Hurricanes usually occur from mid-May to the end of November. During this period, even small tropical storms can quickly develop into major hurricanes.
These severe storms can put you at risk and hamper the provision of essential services.
If you decide to travel to a coastal area during the hurricane season:
- know that you expose yourself to serious safety risks
- be prepared to change your travel plans on short notice, including cutting short or cancelling your trip
- stay informed of the latest regional weather forecasts
- carry emergency contact information for your airline or tour operator
- follow the advice and instructions of local authorities
- Tornadoes, cyclones, hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons
- Large-scale emergencies abroad
- Active storm tracking and hurricane watches and warnings - United States’ National Hurricane Center
The rainy season extends from May to November, which sometimes extends into January.
Torrential rains and landslides occur frequently in the lowlands and mountainous areas along the Caribbean and in the Central Valley.
Seasonal flooding often causes power outages. It can also hamper overland travel and reduce the delivery of other essential services. Roads may become impassable and bridges damaged.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
Costa Rica is located in an active seismic zone. Earthquakes and tremors occur regularly. Tsunamis are possible.
A tsunami can occur within minutes of a nearby earthquake. However, the risk of tsunami can remain for several hours following the first tremor. If you’re staying on the coast, familiarize yourself with the region’s evacuation plans in the event of a tsunami warning.
There are several active and potentially active volcanoes in the country, including:
- Rincón de la Vieja
Eruptions may occur at any time. They sometimes lead to evacuations of surrounding areas on short notice.
In the event of an earthquake or volcanic eruption:
- pay careful attention to all warnings issued for national parks
- monitor local media to stay informed of the evolving situation
- follow the instructions of local authorities, including evacuation orders
- Earthquakes - What to Do?
- Latest earthquakes - U.S. Geological Survey
- Tsunami alerts - U.S. Tsunami Warning System
- National Commission for Risk Prevention and Emergency Response (in Spanish)
- Volcanological and Seismological Observatory of Costa Rica (in Spanish)
In case of an emergency, dial 911.
Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua
For emergency consular assistance, call the Embassy of Canada to Costa Rica, in San José, and follow the instructions. At any time, you may also contact the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa.
The decision to travel is your choice and you are responsible for your personal safety abroad. We take the safety and security of Canadians abroad very seriously and provide credible and timely information in our Travel Advice to enable you to make well-informed decisions regarding your travel abroad.
The content on this page is provided for information only. While we make every effort to give you correct information, it is provided on an "as is" basis without warranty of any kind, expressed or implied. The Government of Canada does not assume responsibility and will not be liable for any damages in connection to the information provided.
If you need consular assistance while abroad, we will make every effort to help you. However, there may be constraints that will limit the ability of the Government of Canada to provide services.
Learn more about consular services .
take normal security precautions.
Take similar precautions to those you would take in Canada.
Exercise a high degree of caution
There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities.
IMPORTANT: The two levels below are official Government of Canada Travel Advisories and are issued when the safety and security of Canadians travelling or living in the country or region may be at risk.
Avoid non-essential travel
Your safety and security could be at risk. You should think about your need to travel to this country, territory or region based on family or business requirements, knowledge of or familiarity with the region, and other factors. If you are already there, think about whether you really need to be there. If you do not need to be there, you should think about leaving.
Avoid all travel
You should not travel to this country, territory or region. Your personal safety and security are at great risk. If you are already there, you should think about leaving if it is safe to do so.
U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica
Social / search, alerts and messages, level 2: reissued with obsolete covid-19 page links removed. read more.
- Security Alert: Areas of Increased Caution (17 August, 2023)
- Welcome to the Quarterly U.S. Citizen Newsletter (1 August, 2023)
- Health Alert: U.S. Embassy, San Jose (31 July, 2023)
- Weather Alert for U.S. Citizens – Hurricane Season 2023 (13 June, 2023)
Footer Disclaimer This is the official website of the U.S. Embassy in Costa Rica. External links to other Internet sites should not be construed as an endorsement of the views or privacy policies contained therein.
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- Passports, travel and living abroad
- Travel abroad
- Foreign travel advice
Warnings and insurance
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office ( FCDO ) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice .
Before you travel
No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide and see support for British nationals abroad for information about specific travel topics.
Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter , Facebook and Instagram . You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance . Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
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We now advise:
Exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica due to high levels of violent crime.
Costa Rica (PDF 710.16 KB)
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Local emergency contacts
Fire and rescue services.
Call 911 or 118.
Call 911 or 128.
Exercise a high degree of caution in Costa Rica.
- Violent crime, including carjackings and 'express kidnappings', is increasingly common in Costa Rica. Criminals often target tourist areas, resorts, transport hubs and public transport. Drink spiking with methanol is common and has killed people. Be aware of your surroundings. Plan to arrive or leave the airport during daylight hours. Don't leave your drinks unattended, especially in stores or bars.
- Petty crime is common. Avoid carrying valuables where possible. Use established tour operators and officially registered taxis.
- Credit card fraud is a risk. Street money changers often pass fake currency. Only change money at banks or official exchanges.
- Nationwide strikes and roadblocks have occurred. Public gatherings sometimes turn violent. Don't attempt to cross roadblocks or protests. Make alternative transport plans in case of disruptions.
Full travel advice: Safety
- Malaria is a serious risk in Limon and Puntarenas, including near the border with Panama. Consider taking anti-malarial medication if you're travelling to these areas.
- There's been cases of Zika virus reported. If you're pregnant, talk to your doctor about your travel plans.
- The risk of mosquito-borne illnesses increases during the wet season from April to November. Make sure your accommodation is insect-proof. Use insect repellent.
- Common waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases include tuberculosis, typhoid, hepatitis and rabies. Boil drinking water or drink bottled water. Get your vaccinations up to date before you travel.
Full travel advice: Health
- Don't use or carry illegal drugs. Penalties for drug offences are severe. They include long sentences in local jails.
- It's illegal to photograph public buildings in Costa Rica. Ask an official before you take photos if you're unsure about a site.
- Get permission before photographing anyone, especially women and children.
Full travel advice: Local laws
- Entry and exit conditions can change at short notice. You should contact your nearest Embassy of Costa Rica for the latest details.
- If you travel via the US , ensure you meet US entry or transit requirements.
- Check travel requirements for children. You may need extra documents if only one parent or guardian is travelling with a child. Children with dual Australian and Costa Rican nationality need notarised written consent from both parents to leave the country.
Full travel advice: Travel
- The Consular Services Charter tells you what the Australian Government can and can’t do to help when you're overseas.
- Australia has a consulate in San José, headed by an honorary consul. This consulate provides limited assistance to Australians in Costa Rica.
- You can get full consular help from the Australian Embassy in Mexico City .
- To stay up to date with local information, follow the embassy's social media accounts.
Full travel advice: Local contacts
Violent crime is common in Costa Rica, including:
- armed robberies
- home invasions
- gang muggings
' Express kidnappings ' also happen, where criminals force you to withdraw funds from ATMs.
Travellers have been the target of armed robberies or drug-related crimes.
Criminals often target:
- tourist attractions
- bus stations and public transport
- harbours, especially Limon and Puntarenas ports
If you use an unofficial taxi, there's a risk of robbery and assault .
Women are at risk of sexual harassment and assault , particularly when alone on a beach or in a taxi.
Be alert to drink spiking with any drink bought in a store or bar. Don't leave drinks unattended. Make sure the brand is known, and watch your drinks being made. Drink spiking with methanol is common and has killed people.
Take care in San José, particularly after dark. High-risk areas for theft include:
- the Coca-Cola bus station
- inner downtown areas
- public parks
- roads leading to the San José International Airport
Take care in other areas of Costa Rica, including:
- Manuel Antonio
- Tarcoles River
- Puerto Viejo, Puerto Limónand Cahuita
To protect yourself from violent crime:
- plan to arrive or depart San José airport during daylight hours
- don't camp on beaches
- only use officially-registered taxi
Petty crime is common, particularly pickpocketing and bag snatching. Thieves often target overhead compartments on buses.
Unattended vehicles are targeted:
- in downtown San José
- near beaches
- in national parks
- around tourist areas
To keep your belongings safe:
- use established tour operators and registered taxis
- be aware of your surroundings and personal security
Road-based crime is common. Criminals who target vehicles may:
- stage accidents and rob you when your car stops
- slash your car tyres and offer to help with repairs while a partner steals from the car
Carjackings happen, often at gunpoint. Criminals target stationary cars and rental vehicles for robberies.
In tourist areas, you can get help from the tourist police. See Local contacts
Scams and fraud
Credit card fraud is a risk.
Street money changers often pass counterfeit Costa Rican and US currency.
To protect your money:
- keep your card in view when conducting transactions
- check your accounts for unauthorised purchases
- only change money at banks or official exchanges
You may be at risk of cyber-based threats during overseas travel to any country. Digital identity theft is a growing concern. Your devices and personal data can be compromised, especially if you're connecting to Wi-Fi, using or connecting to shared or public computers, or to Bluetooth.
Social media can also be risky in destinations where there are social or political tensions or laws that may seem unreasonable by Australian standards. Travellers have been arrested for things they have said on social media. Don't comment on local or political events on your social media.
- Cyber security when travelling overseas
Civil unrest and political tension
Demonstrations and protests
Nationwide strikes and roadblocks have occurred.
Public protests and events that draw large groups of people can turn violent.
Civil disturbances may happen, including strikes. This can disrupt local public services, which may stop work.
To protect yourself during periods of unrest:
- don't attempt to cross roadblocks or other protest actions
- be prepared for delays or disruptions to your travel plans
- have an alternative transport plan in case of public service disruption
- Demonstrations and civil unrest
Terrorism is a threat worldwide.
Strong coastal currents and rip tides occur on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts. These can make swimming dangerous.
You may not find lifeguards on public beaches. You also may not see warning signs for dangerous conditions.
Crocodile attacks have been reported on the Pacific Coast.
Get local advice before swimming.
Climate and natural disasters
Costa Rica can experience natural disasters and severe weather , such as:
- hurricanes and severe storms
- landslides and mudslides
- volcanic activity
To protect yourself in case of a natural disaster:
- know your hotel or cruise ship's evacuation plans
- identify your local shelter
- secure your passport in a safe, waterproof location
- monitor local media and other sources
- contact your tour operator or airline
- keep in contact with family and friends
- National Hurricane Center
- Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency
Hurricanes and severe weather
The hurricane season is from June to November, although tropical storms and hurricanes can happen in other months. The direction and strength of hurricanes can change suddenly.
Landslides, mudslides and flooding can also occur, especially during heavy rainfall in the rainy season from May to November. The rainy season can sometimes extend to January.
If there's a hurricane or severe storm:
- you may get stuck in the area
- flights could be delayed or suspended
- available flights may fill quickly
- adequate shelter may not be available in some areas
Severe weather may also affect:
- access to ports
- road travel
- essential services, such as water and electricity
Monitor weather reports if you're travelling to Costa Rica during hurricane season or after a natural disaster.
If you choose to stay when a hurricane approaches, adequate shelter may not be available.
Earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes
Costa Rica is in an active earthquake zone. Earthquakes and tsunamis can happen.
Costa Rica has several active volcanoes. Eruptions may occur at any time and can cause ash fall and vapours. Air travel may be disrupted.
- US Geological Survey
- Tsunami Warning System
Get comprehensive travel insurance before you leave.
Your policy needs to cover all overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation: the Australian Government won't pay for these costs.
If you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. This applies to everyone, no matter how healthy and fit you are.
If you're not insured, you may have to pay many thousands of dollars up-front for medical care.
Physical and mental health
Consider your physical and mental health before you travel, especially if you have an existing medical condition.
See your doctor or travel clinic to:
- have a basic health check-up
- ask if your travel plans may affect your health
- plan any vaccinations you need
Do this at least 8 weeks before you leave.
If you have immediate concerns for your welfare or the welfare of another Australian, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or contact your nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate to discuss counselling hotlines and services available in your location.
- General health advice
- Healthy holiday tips (Healthdirect Australia)
Not all medication available over the counter or by prescription in Australia is available in other countries. Some may even be considered illegal or a controlled substance, even if prescribed by an Australian doctor.
If you plan to bring medication, check if it's legal in Costa Rica. Take enough legal medication for your trip.
Carry a copy of your prescription or a letter from your doctor stating:
- what the medication is
- your required dosage
- that it's for personal use
Malaria is a serious risk in Limon and Puntarenas, including near the border with Panama.
Preventative anti-malaria medication can help protect you.
The risk of contracting other insect-borne illnesses increases in the wet season from April to November. These include:
- Chagas disease
To protect yourself from insect-borne diseases:
- make sure your accommodation is insect-proof
- use insect repellent
- wear long, loose, light-coloured clothing
Get medical advice if you have a fever, muscle pain, rash or severe headache.
Zika virus is widespread in Costa Rica.
If you're pregnant, the Australian Department of Health and Aged Care recommends that you:
- discuss travel plans with your doctor
- consider deferring non-essential travel to affected areas
Other health risks
Waterborne, foodborne and other infectious diseases are common. These include:
Serious outbreaks sometimes occur.
- Infectious diseases
Public medical facilities are reasonable in San José but limited in smaller towns and rural areas.
Private medical facilities are available and well-equipped but expensive.
You'll usually need to pay cash upfront before doctors and hospitals will treat you, even in an emergency. Doctors rarely agree to work with your travel insurer, meaning you may need to ask for reimbursement after paying cash for your treatment.
Decompression chambers are available in Liberia and Samara.
If you become seriously ill or injured, you may need to be evacuated to a place with suitable facilities. Medical evacuation can be very expensive.
You're subject to all local laws and penalties, including those that may appear harsh by Australian standards. Research local laws before travelling.
If you're arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you under our Consular Services Charter . But we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail.
Penalties for drug offences are severe and can include lengthy prison sentences in local jails.
- Carrying or using drugs
It's illegal to photograph official buildings in Costa Rica.
Strict laws protect native animals and plants.
To avoid inadvertently breaking the law:
- check with local authorities before taking photos
- speak with your tour guide to understand local laws
Some Australian criminal laws still apply when you’re overseas. If you break these laws, you may face prosecution in Australia.
- Staying within the law and respecting customs
- Advice for dual nationals
Locals may be suspicious if you photograph children and women or talk to children.
To avoid giving offence:
- ask the child's parents for permission before you photograph children or talk to them
- ask women for permission before you take their photograph
Visas and border measures
Every country or territory decides who can enter or leave through its borders. For specific information about the evidence you'll need to enter a foreign destination, check with the nearest embassy, consulate or immigration department of the destination you're entering.
Visa-free travel for short stays
On an Australian passport, you don't need a visa for a tourist visit of less than 90 days.
You might be refused entry if you can't show that you'll return home or travel onwards.
Entry and exit conditions can change. Contact the Embassy of Costa Rica for details about visas, currency, customs and quarantine rules.
Travel via the United States
If you're travelling through the US , ensure you meet all US entry or transit requirements, even if you're only transiting through Hawaii. Passengers arriving in or transiting through the US will need to show onward flight tickets from the US and any country that borders the US (i.e. Mexico and Canada).
- Travel advice for the US
Travel via Canada
If you're travelling via Canada, you'll need an eTA (Electronic Travel Authorisation) for Canada.
- Travel advice for Canada
Travel via Chile
If you’re travelling via Chile , ensure you meet all current entry or transit requirements.
- Travel advice for Chile
Travel with children
You may require extra documents if only one parent or guardian is travelling with a child.
Dual-national Australian and Costa Rican children need notarised written consent from both parents to leave the country. Contact the Embassy of Costa Rica to confirm this.
- Advice for people travelling with children
Yellow fever vaccination
Depending on which countries you have visited, you may need a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate to enter Costa Rica. Airlines may require you to show this certificate before departure.
- C ountries with a risk of yellow fever (PDF 151KB)
- Returning to Australia after exposure to yellow fever .
You must pay a departure tax to leave Costa Rica. This might be included in your airline ticket.
At airports, you can pay with US dollars or Costa Rican Colones (CRC), in cash or by credit card.
At other border crossings, you can pay at Bancredito kiosks.
Some countries won’t let you enter unless your passport is valid for 6 months after you plan to leave that country. This can apply even if you’re just transiting or stopping over.
Some foreign governments and airlines apply the rule inconsistently. Travellers can receive conflicting advice from different sources.
You can end up stranded if your passport is not valid for more than 6 months.
The Australian Government does not set these rules. Check your passport’s expiry date before you travel. If you’re not sure it’ll be valid for long enough, consider getting a new passport .
Lost or stolen passport
Your passport is a valuable document. It's attractive to people who may try to use your identity to commit crimes.
Some people may try to trick you into giving them your passport. Always keep it in a safe place.
If your passport is lost or stolen, tell the Australian Government as soon as possible:
- In Australia, contact the Australian Passport Information Service .
- If you're overseas, contact the nearest Australian embassy or consulate .
Passport with ‘X’ gender identifier
Although Australian passports comply with international standards for sex and gender, we can’t guarantee that a passport showing 'X' in the sex field will be accepted for entry or transit by another country. Contact the nearest embassy, high commission or consulate of your destination before you arrive at the border to confirm if authorities will accept passports with 'X' gender markers.
The local currency is the Costa Rican Colon (CRC).
You can't exchange Australian money in Costa Rica but you can exchange US dollars.
Credit cards are widely accepted.
Tours and adventure activities.
Take care if you're taking part in adventure activities , such as:
- whitewater rafting
- bungee jumping
- scuba diving
- jungle canopy tours
Adventure tour operators may not maintain safety gear or follow recommended safety standards.
If you plan to do an adventure activity:
- check if your travel insurance policy covers it
- ask about and insist on minimum safety requirements
- always use available safety gear, such as life jackets or seatbelts
If proper safety equipment isn't available, use another provider.
You can drive for up to 3 months with your Australian driver's licence. If your Australian licence allows, you can drive a car and motorcycle.
Driving in Costa Rica can be dangerous. Hazards include:
- poorly maintained roads and vehicles
- local driving practices
- poor street lighting
- poor signage
- potholes and landslides
- serious traffic accidents
Serious traffic accidents are common.
If you plan to drive in Costa Rica:
- check you have adequate travel and car theft insurance
- avoid driving at night
- keep doors locked, windows up and valuables out of sight
- be aware of your surroundings when your car stops
- park in secured car parks where possible
- don't leave valuables in the vehicle
If you're in an accident, you must stay with the vehicle. Don't move it until the traffic police allow you to. You may be unable to leave Costa Rica until you settle any injury or insurance claims, even if you weren't at fault and have insurance.
- Driving or riding
Official taxis are red and have a yellow triangle on their side panels.
Official airport taxis are orange. You can buy prepaid vouchers for airport taxis in front of the San José airport terminal.
If you use an unofficial taxi, there's a risk of robbery and assault.
To protect yourself and your money when taking a taxi:
- use official taxis
- don't ride in the front seat of a taxi
If you're female, don't travel alone in a taxi.
- Advice for women
Travelling via public transport puts you at risk of theft. Don't put your passport and other valuables in luggage racks or under your seat.
- Transport and getting around safely
DFAT doesn't provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths.
Check Costa Rica's air safety profile with the Aviation Safety Network.
Depending on what you need, contact your:
- family and friends
- travel agent
- insurance provider
Tourist police operate in many tourist areas. You can contact them by calling 911.
Always get a police report when you report a crime.
Your insurer should have a 24-hour emergency number.
Read the Consular Services Charter for what the Australian Government can and can't do to help you overseas.
Australia has a consulate in San José , headed by an Honorary Consul. The consulate provides limited consular assistance to Australians in Costa Rica. The Consulate can conduct passport interviews and provide provisional travel documents for emergency travel to the nearest Australian embassy. The Consulate can’t issue Australian passports. You can get full consular assistance from the Australian Embassy in Mexico City.
Australian Consulate, San José
Grupo Nueva, 1st floor
Avenida 5, General Cañas,
San José, Costa Rica
Phone: (+506) 40818008
Email: [email protected]
Australian Embassy, Mexico City
Ruben Dario No 55 (Polanco) Col Bosque de Chapultepec., C.P. 11580 Mexico D.F. Mexico Phone: +52 55 1101 2200 Email: cons[email protected] Website: mexico.embassy.gov.au
Facebook: Australian Embassy Mexico
See the Embassy website for details of opening hours and any temporary closures.
24-hour Consular Emergency Centre
In a consular emergency, if you can't contact an embassy, call the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on:
- +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas
- 1300 555 135 in Australia
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- North America
Self-isolation at own accommodation- subject to categorisation. Beginning April 1, 2022, the Health Pass and travel insurance policy requirements will be eliminated for all individuals, meaning there will be no COVID-19 related entry requirements for Costa Rica after this date. However, the authorities in Costa Rica may restrict travel or bring in new rules at short notice, for example due to a new COVID-19 variant. Check with your travel company, airline and the Costa Rica tourism board website for any changes at short notice. A travel insurance policy is recommended to cover medical expenses and lodging in the event of COVID-19 infection.
Self-isolation at own accommodation- subject to categorisation. Costa Rican Nationals and Legal Residents who enter the country may be required to self-isolate for 14-days. They should complete the epidemiological information form which will specify the exact actions to be taken. Tourists entering from 1 August, under the amended restrictions stated above, will not be required to self-isolate.
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Can I travel to Costa Rica from the United States?
Most visitors from the United States, regardless of vaccination status, can enter Costa Rica.
Can I travel to Costa Rica if I am vaccinated?
Fully vaccinated visitors from the United States can enter Costa Rica without restrictions.
Can I travel to Costa Rica without being vaccinated?
Unvaccinated visitors from the United States can enter Costa Rica without restrictions.
Do I need a COVID test to enter Costa Rica?
Visitors from the United States are not required to present a negative COVID-19 PCR test or antigen result upon entering Costa Rica.
Can I travel to Costa Rica without quarantine?
Travelers from the United States are not required to quarantine.
Do I need to wear a mask in Costa Rica?
Mask usage in Costa Rica is not required in public spaces, enclosed environments and public transportation.
Are the restaurants and bars open in Costa Rica?
Restaurants in Costa Rica are open. Bars in Costa Rica are .