Costa Rica opened their borders back on August 2 so if you plan on visiting Costa Rica during COVID-19, here is what you need to know. Read all about Costa Rica COVID-19 travel, Costa Rica COVID entry requirements and where to get a COVID test in Costa Rica.
I had been in Costa Rica since January 2020 but flew out at the beginning of December 2020. Then I returned at the end of December 2020 as a tourist. Below I document my experience so you know what to expect. I also included information about where to get a COVID test in Costa Rica.
Please keep in mind that Costa Rica is not coronavirus free but they have implemented many safety protocols specifically for tourists and are happily welcoming tourists back.
Also, please be respectful of all laws, rules and regulations that Costa Rica has placed, regardless if you agree with them or not. As a guest in another country, it is necessary to follow regulations and be responsible travelers and tourists, especially during a pandemic.
This post has a ton of information and details the following below (click the section to skip to it).
- Costa Rica COVID Entry Requirements
- Health Pass
- PCR COVID -19 Test
- How to Fill Out Health Pass
- My Personal Experience Entering Costa Rica as a Tourist (American)
- Health Pass
- Travel Insurance
- My Flight
- Costa Rica Immigration
- Where to get a COVID test in Costa Rica
- How Locals Feel About Tourists
- Do I Need to Wear a Mask in Costa Rica?
- Costa Rica COVID Travel Restrictions for Tourists
- Driving Restrictions
- What is Open in Costa Rica?
- What is Closed in Costa Rica?
- If You Get COVID-19 in Costa Rica as a Tourist
- Our Personal Tips for Traveling Costa Rica During COVID
Current Costa Rica Coronavirus Situation
Please click on this link, Costa Rica coronavirus to read the latest updates and statistics. Currently, the area with the most cases is the Greater Metropolitan Area, the GAM which includes Alajuela, Heredia, San José and Cartago.
Covid-19 Costa Rica Travel Restrictions and Border Opening
On November 1, Costa Rica opened their borders to all countries in the world via air.
Via sea, passengers fulfilling the entry requirements can enter Costa Rica at five marinas: Los Sueños, Papagayo, Bahia Golfito, Pez vela and Bahia Banana.
Costa Rica COVID-19 Entry Requirements
Costa Rica COVID entry requirements are that every tourist must complete a health pass and purchase a travel insurance that covers a minimum of $50,000 USD for medical expenses and a minimum of $2,000 USD for extended lodging expenses.
**As of October 26th, Costa Rica NO longer requires the 72 hour COVID-19 test result for tourists. This requirement has been removed. Tourists do not need to quarantine in Costa Rica. Currently, Costa Rica is not requiring tourists to get vaccinated to enter the country. Likewise, they are not planning to remove the insurance requirement for those who have been vaccinated.**
Please note face masks are required in and outside the airports at all times. Tourists must also comply with social distancing, hand washing, sanitizing and wearing the face masks as part of the requirements.
The health pass will be available for you to fill out 48 hours prior to your flight. When you fill out the health pass, it will present you an option to purchase health insurance through the Costa Rican companies if you haven’t already.
Once you finish filling the health pass, you will be given a QR code that Costa Rica will require at immigration. The Costa Rican immigration official will scan the QR code as it will have all your ID and insurance information.
Tourists can purchase their own international insurance or from either of these two Costa Rican companies: INS and Sagicor. These are two pre-approved policies that are guaranteed to fulfill requirements and be accepted.
If you already have medial insurance but need the accommodation portion, Sagicor sells insurance covering just the accommodation. If you purchase international insurance, you must have a certification from the company issued in English or Spanish.
Please continue reading below as I go into this travel insurance in specific detail.
RT-PCR COVID-19 Test
**Costa Rica no longer requires a COVID test to enter the country as of October 26th.**
Steps to Fill Out Health Pass and Fulfill Insurance Requirement
This is how I fulfilled the Costa Rica COVID entry requirements. I do NOT recommend doing this last minute. When traveling during a pandemic, it is better to have everything ready to go beforehand. I filled out my health pass in the US, two days before my flight as the health pass opens up 48 hours before your flight.
- Purchase your travel insurance. I recommend to start researching at least 2 weeks before. If you’re American like me, you can read below for my personal experience, who I purchased insurance from and how much it cost me. For other nationalities, I apologize but I don’t have recommendations. I have heard that Westjet is offering a COVID insurance and you can check to see if your personal health insurance covers any of the requirements.
- 48 hours before your flight, the health pass will be available to you to fill out. They have it in English.
- Fill out the form (I recommend doing it on your phone). You will need to enter details like passport, flight, trip length, etc.
- Upload your travel insurance on the health pass in PDF form. They will check mark it to signify it has been accepted.
- Once your health pass is filled out and accepted, they will email you a PDF of your QR code. Download the PDF onto your phone and then take a screenshot of the QR code page (I have my example below so you can see what you need a screenshot of).
- You can print the QR code but it’s a waste of paper since the phone screenshot works perfectly. Taking a screenshot is super easy because the photo saves to your phone gallery, making it easy to pull up when you need to show it to the agent.
- Show the QR code whenever you are asked. I was asked at the Alaska Airlines gate and at Costa Rica immigration.
My Experience Flying into Liberia International Airport December 29, 2020
I flew into Liberia International Airport on December 29, 2020 with Alaska Airlines and here was my experience. As for other airlines, I don’t know how they work but this is how it was with Alaska Airlines. Also fyi, I’m American and used my US passport.
I flew from SEA – LAX – LIR. Checking in at SeaTac was super easy like pre-COVID times and the Alaska Airlines agent didn’t ask me about the Costa Rican insurance or QR code at SeaTac.
When I got to LAX, around 30 minutes before boarding time, the Alaska Airlines’ agents started doing the announcements over the loudspeaker about the QR code and insurance. I was very pleased with how knowledgeable Alaska Airlines was. They knew that all travelers needed to have the travel insurance, the amount the insurance had to cover and about the QR code.
They said that if you don’t have insurance, don’t have your QR code or don’t know what a QR code is, to please go up to the agent and ask for assistance. The agents repeated this announcement several times before boarding.
The next part kind of surprised me. I would say about half the people waiting at the gate got up to get help with the QR code. I overheard some people saying they didn’t know about the required insurance or that they had to fill out a health pass. So then one Alaska Airline agent began helping them fill out the pass and get the insurance.
My flight was Tuesday and the health pass opened 48 hours before my flight so I filled out my health pass on my phone and got my QR code on Sunday. All I had to do was get my QR code verified by the Alaska Airlines agent at the gate and I was ready to go.
Health Pass and QR Code
For the health pass, it is best to do it on your phone. It is very simple and straight forward. You will have to enter your passport number, your country, travel dates, flight departure details and other information
Then you will upload the PDF of your travel insurance to get certified. Once it’s all approved, they will email you the PDF confirmation of your QR code. I downloaded the PDF on my phone and saved it as a screenshot which worked perfectly.
You can also print it out but to save paper, I recommend to take a screenshot and have it on your phone. The QR code is required per person.
Again, I highly highly highly recommend to fill out the health pass BEFORE you get to the airport to save time and stress, especially if you are doing it for a family or groups as it has to be filled out per person.
I purchased Trawick International which actually offers a travel insurance specifically for Costa Rica. It was SO much cheaper than INS and Sagicor. For 66 days, I paid $40.95 USD total with Trawick (Safe Travels Voyager). With INS, they quoted me $9 USD a day!
So if I went with INS, I would have paid $594 USD compared to the $40.95 USD I paid to Trawick. (Please note that the cost of my quote will be different to yours as the cost of insurance depends on traveler’s age, length of trip, cost of trip, US state of residence, etc. )
This is why it’s SO important to do your research about the Costa Rica COVID-19 entry requirements because all those people who had to purchase INS/Sagicor the day of the flight paid way more money. I even saw people filling out the health pass and buying insurance while going through immigration at Liberia International Airport.
With Trawick, they will email you a visa letter, certificate and ID card once you purchase the insurance. You upload the certificate to the health pass. Trawick is only available for Americans so for other nationalities, it won’t apply unfortunately.
I printed out all three of those documents but nobody asked me for it, only the QR code.
Alaska Airlines is still blocking middle seats and there were only about 75 people on the plane. I personally love Alaska Airlines and think they’re doing an excellent job. And all the passengers on the 4 Alaska Airlines flights I took the last month were super respectful of wearing face masks at all times and not crowding bathroom areas.
Nobody threw a fit about wearing a mask, nobody got mad when the flight attendants would politely remind them to pull the mask over their nose, nobody got kicked off. Even the kids were all super well behaved.
The Airport and Immigration
It took me about 30 minutes to get through immigration and customs. My flight was the only one.
Liberia International Airport is about the same. Upon arrival, they put some “please social distance” stickers in the jetway. At immigration, they put stickers on the floor for the social distancing. I saw one hand sanitizer station and there were a lot of officers in immigration.
We were greeted by like 5 officers and then all of the immigration stalls were open. Some officers helped tourists fill out the health pass, the others just stood around.
During immigration, the officer had me scan my QR code. Then he asked me where I was staying and how long I would be in Costa Rica for. It is important to note that even though Costa Rica tourist visas are for 90 days, officers are now giving you the exact number of days you purchased insurance. In my case, I am flying out on March 4 and purchased 66 days of insurance so he gave me exactly 66 days.
From what I have read, if you wish to extend your stay (limit 90 days), you will need to contact a lawyer to help you purchase insurance for the extra days and get the right legal documents so you can legally stay in the country past the number of days given on your visa. You can edit an existing health pass on the website.
At 730 PM, the duty free store was still open. No SIM card stand.
Baggage claim is exactly the same as well as customs, nothing has changed there. After leaving customs, I met Yeison outside the airport. They only allow a few resort stands (Four Seasons and Westin I believe) right outside the exit area and I saw one taxi guy but everyone else (car rentals, shuttles, etc.) waited outside.
I flew out of Costa Rica in December. Liberia International Airport also set up social distancing markers and plexiglass for departures. Every other seat was blocked off in the terminal but I didn’t see too many hand sanitizing stations. The duty free store, all souvenir stores and cafes were open.
Where to Get a COVID test in Costa Rica
Many countries such as Canada and the US (beginning January 26th) are now requiring a COVID test in order to enter the country so if you need to get a COVID test in Costa Rica, here is the information we found. Remember, if you are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or been directly exposed, call 1322 which is the government COVID-19 hotline (English available). They will direct you to a testing facility to get tested free of charge.
Cost and Turnaround Time
The cost of a COVID test in Costa Rica is around $100 USD per test. COVID tests aren’t free to tourists unless they are experiencing symptoms. Some hospitals or clinics may give special rates for seniors over 60 years of age, around 37,000 CRC (~$60 USD).
Most private hospitals and clinics can do a RT-PCR COVID-19 test (nasal swab) and provide results within 24-72 hours. Some places can give you a same day result. San Jose and Liberia International Airport do not offer COVID-19 tests.
Your results will be emailed to you in Spanish by default but you can ask your testing site to give you results in English.
Getting Your Test: Make an Appointment
The best way to get a COVID test in Costa Rica at the following places is to call or contact them via Whatsapp/Facebook and make an appointment. Some places like CIMA may allow walk ins but it is best to schedule an appointment due to COVID protocols.
We recommend to make your appointment earlier than later as there can be long waiting times, especially now with the US now requiring the test. Costa Rica is working to get more tests available due to these new rules but number of tests are still limited.
As of January 2021, we don’t know of any hospitals, clinics or labs that provide COVID testing in Santa Teresa, Montezuma, Monteverde, Tortuguero or Golfito.
Some resorts do have the option of calling you an ambulance to go to the resort and do your test there. Then they will email you your results. However, this is quite expensive, around ~$400 USD for an ambulance coming from 2 hours away and then you have to pay the cost of the test on top of that ~$100 USD per person.
San Jose COVID Testing
COVID-19 testing is available at the following hospitals, labs and clinics in San Jose.
- Hospital La Católica 506 2246 3000
- Cima Hospital (506) 2208-1000
- Hospital Metropolitano 506 2521-9595
- Hospital Clinica Biblica (506) 8529 2100
These labs provide COVID-19 testing in San Jose: LABIN (they have a drive through center in Barrio Pinto, Zapote and can provide same day results), Echandi, Laboratorio Páez, Laboratorios San José.
Liberia COVID Testing
COVID Testing Tamarindo/Flamingo/Conchal/Grande/Brasilito/Langosta/Potrero
- Beachside Clinic in Huacas. Results within 36 hours. 506 2653 9911 or 506 2653 5053
- Hospital Metropolitano Turnaround time is 36 – 48 hours. Phone 506 4000 3822 Whatsapp: 506 8465-7484. Can make appointment 4-5 days in advance. Test costs 70,720 CRC with credit card, 68,000 CRC in cash.
Playas del Coco (Gulf of Papagayo, Ocotal, Hermosa, Panama) COVID Testing
- Coco Medical and Dental Center 506 2670 1234
- Centro Medico Dr. Freddy Soto, 506 2656 0992
Nosara COVID Testing
- Paradise Medical Services (takes 72 business hours, not including Sundays) 506 2682 1212
Quepos COVID Testing
In Jaco, private clinic MMI offers testing. +506 4020 2200
San Isidro del General COVID Testing
Laboratorio Biotest (48 hours results) 506 2772 0909
Puerto Viejo de Talamanca (Limon) COVID Testing
Laboratorio Bioclinic: Cost is 80,000 CRC + tax. 48 hour turnaround. Email: email@example.com or Whatsapp 506 8950 9101
La Fortuna COVID Testing
- Unimed Urgent Care. Takes 48 hours, +506 2479 1903
- Lab Echanid in Ciudad Quesada (1 hour from La Fortuna).506 2250 1871. Test costs 59,000 CRC + taxes
How Do Locals Feels About Tourists During COVID-19 in Costa Rica?
As the tourism industry has suffered greatly due to the 5 month border closure, the locals are eager to reactivate the tourism sector again. The Minister of Tourism strongly advocated for the border opening back in June/July.
However, the reality is that international travel won’t go back to how it was pre-pandemic for a couple years at least. It’s something the Costa Rican government needs to understand, that even if they open the borders 100% and remove the negative test requirement, it won’t go back to normal right away. Millions of people around the world lost their jobs, have been or have family directly affected by COVID or don’t feel comfortable traveling internationally yet.
So Costa Rica’s putting a lot of emphasis on local tourism which has helped a lot of businesses and has been a lifeline since March. But they really do depend on international tourism (particularly the US) so we’re just waiting and hoping things get better. Especially now since countries like the US and countries in Europe are getting hit hard with COVID-19 and going into lockdown or have restrictions again. And Costa Rica is certainly not COVID-19 free either.
As of now, the locals that work in tourism are happy for every tourist that comes and the majority of them are working their hardest to accommodate all the new regulations and make their guests feel as safe as possible.
And as much as we want international tourists again, we hope that they follow all the sanitary measures and be responsible travelers. So please be respectful and responsible tourists if you plan to visit. Costa Rica wants you to enjoy the country to the fullest and for everyone to have a fun and safe experience.
Do I Need to Wear a Mask in Costa Rica?
Yes, masks are required in Costa Rica for citizens and tourists. You must wear a mask when indoors (except at home or hotel room), at the supermarket, convenience store, malls, pharmacies, clinics, hospitals, stores, airports, theaters, movie theaters, churches, banks, offices and for all public and commercial workers. You also need to wear a mask in trains, shuttles, public buses and taxis and at the bus stop. Persons with certain disabilities and infants do not need to wear a mask.
Establishments may prohibit anyone from entering if not wearing a mask. You don’t have to wear a mask when walking outside on the street as long as you are 1.8 meters (6 feet) apart from other people. Face shields are no longer accepted as the only form of indoor protection and if a face shield is used, a mask must also be used.
Other Costa Rica COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Tourists Need to Know About
There are very little restrictions for tourists in Costa Rica but here are some things to know.
- There are driving restrictions throughout the country. However, rental cars are exempt from Costa Rica driving restrictions during COVID-19 when going to/from airports and to/from hotels and non traditional lodging like Airbnb. Have a printed copy of your flight ticket itinerary and hotel reservations with you when driving in case you get stopped so you can show the officer.
- Driving is restricted to 5 AM to 10 PM Mon – Fri and 5 AM to 9 PM Saturday and Sunday. License plate restrictions 7 days a week.
- All tourists must follow sanitary measures and regulations including but not limited to mask wearing, hand washing, social distancing, etc.
- Masks are required as mentioned above and establishments may prohibit anyone from entering if not wearing a mask. Some establishments may also do a temperature check and/or require hand washing or use of hand sanitizer before entering.
- Tourists must stay in their “social bubble” and stay at least 6 feet (1.8 meters) apart from others social bubbles.
The following restrictions are for January 4 – 31, 2021. Rental cars are exempt from driving restrictions for those going to/from tourism activities, the airport and hotels/lodging.
Driving is allowed 5 AM to 10 PM Monday through Friday and 5 AM to 9 PM on Saturday and Sunday with the following restrictions:
- Monday – Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 1 and 2 can’t drive.
- Tuesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 3 and 4 can’t drive.
- Wednesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 5 and 6 can’t drive.
- Thursday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 7 and 8 can’t drive.
- Friday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 9 and 0 can’t drive.
- Saturday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 can’t drive.
- Sunday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 0, 2, 4, 6, 8 can’t drive.
What Is Open in Costa Rica Right Now During COVID-19?
The government has implemented some restrictions in January. Supermarkets, pharmacies and essential services can stay open. Here are the January restrictions.
- January 4- 17, national parks limited to 50%
- No big celebrations in hotels and public places
- January 4- 31, beaches open 5 AM to 6 PM
- January 4 – 17, bars and casinos limited to 25%
Due to the driving restrictions, most businesses close at 10 PM on weekdays and 8-9 PM on the weekends. Banks are open and ATM’s are available. Stores like clothing, souvenirs and shoes are open with maximum 50% capacity and mandatory masks.
Accommodation and Lodging
All hotels can operate at 100% with a 50% maximum capacity in common areas like restaurants and swimming pool.
Restaurants and Bars
Restaurants are all allowed to operate at a 50% maximum capacity seven days a week. Some places may still only offer take out or delivery, it varies from establishment to establishment but majority are open for dining in.
Bars and casinos are now allowed to open with strict protocols, regulations and a maximum capacity of 25% for January. Only casinos located inside hotels may re-open and guests have to pass a temperature check. Alcoholic beverages won’t be allowed.
For bars, they won’t be allowed to play music above a certain decimal level and dancing is not permitted. They must close at 10 PM on weekdays and 9 PM on weekends in accordance to the driving restrictions.
Supermarkets, Grocery Stores, Convenience Stores
All supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores (called pulperia in Costa Rica) and pharmacies are open as normal hours. Some supermarket parking lots may only allow every other space and some supermarkets may allow just 1 person per household to enter (minors can go with a parent).
Renting a Car
As mentioned earlier, rental cars are exempt from driving restrictions for those going to/from airports, hotels and tourism activities. Most car rental agencies are operating. Our partner, Adobe Rent a Car is operating (get our car rental discount and reader benefits in the link). Some agencies may only be operating select office locations.
Public buses are running throughout the country and masks are required at all times when inside the bus and when waiting at a bus stop. All long routes are operating like normal. Buses are not allowed to have passengers on foot, they only allow seated passengers.
Private shuttles with tourism licenses and taxis are allowed to operate. Uber and Didi can also operate. Masks must be worn by driver and passengers inside Ubers and taxis at all times.
Tours and Activities
All open air activities are allowed to operate including activities like ziplining, hiking and horseback riding. However, not all private reserves or parks may have opened all their trails or activities. Some places are only opening one trail or certain parts of the property. Additionally, places must follow maximum capacity rules.
Be aware that some establishments may require previous reservations or pre-purchased tickets. Some tours may only operate on certain days so it is important to contact tour companies for the latest information to plan your trip.
Since most tour companies in Costa Rica rely on international tourism which is quite low, they may not be operating all tours yet, or only certain tours on some days with a minimum amount of people. You should inquire with the tour company regarding availability before coming, never assume there will be tours available.
Beaches, Lakes and National Parks
For January 4-31, beaches are open 5 AM to 6 PM. Individual municipalities have the power to open and close beaches as they see fit.
As for national parks, all parks may open regardless of location and open to a maximum capacity of 50%. However, not all national parks are fully open. Some national parks have only opened one sector or a select number of trails or beaches for visitors.
At the beach, visitors must stick to their social bubble and be at least 1.8 meters (6 feet) apart from other bubbles. You can surf, walk, run, play volleyball, walk dogs, swim, sunbathe and stay on the beach.
What is Closed in Costa Rica Right Now During COVID-19?
Mass gathering events like concerts, sports with an audience, night clubs and Parque Diversion Theme Park are not open yet in Costa Rica during COVID-19. Here is the full list on the government site.
What Happens If I Get Coronavirus in Costa Rica as a Tourist?
First, isolate yourself and call 1322 (English options available and available 24 hours) if you believe you have coronavirus or exhibit any symptoms. You will be placed under a 14 day quarantine if you test positive or are suspected of having it. This 14 day quarantine period is an isolated quarantine period (exceptions for minors, seniors, persons with disabilities). If you need hospitalization, you will be taken to a hospital and placed under medical care. Costa Rica has not yet had to deny any COVID-19 patient a hospital or ICU bed.
Our Personal Tips for Visiting Costa Rica During COVID-19
- Avoid hand shaking and cheek kisses (cheek kisses are the normal form of greeting in Costa Rica).
- Please be kind and tread lightly to locals. The locals are eager to receive tourists again and they are trying their best to work with the restrictions, regulations and low volume.
- We do not recommend “winging it”. Create an itinerary and check requirements for every place you want to visit before you arrive. Many, if not most places are not allowing walk-ins.
- Be aware that things may change in a blink of an eye. Always check, never assume.
- Right now is a difficult time to be a solo traveler relying on booking tours. Many tour companies require a minimum of 2 people to operate and due to low volume, there aren’t many tours available. If you can, rent a car and DIY. Don’t rely on booking tours, even in touristic areas like San Jose, La Fortuna, Guanacaste and Manuel Antonio.
- Another tip for solo travelers is to stay at a popular hostel. Don’t stay at an Airbnb or hotel far away from the town center as there will be less people. Many hostels offer tour services and if there are more other guests, you have more chances to joining a tour.
- For everything you prepay, ask for the cancellation policy.
- Don’t expect super crazy discounted prices. Prices have not really changed for international tourists.
- Read our Costa Rica cost of traveling post for more information
- Bring as much of your own gear you can like face masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, water bottles, reusable shopping bags, rash guards and beach towels. To go even further as a sustainable traveler, bring your own cutlery and reusable straws.
- If you a person of high risk, avoid activities and places that put you in close direct contact with others.
Had to Reschedule Your Trip? Here Are Some Helpful Resources
Disclaimer: Costa Rica border openings, travel restrictions and entry requirements are ever changing. We do our best to update this post with the latest information as much as possible. Please remember that the decision to travel is up to you and it is your responsibility to stay safe. Make sure to check the recommendations of your country when it comes to international travel.