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 and find out the exact Costa Rica COVID entry requirements to plan your trip.
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.
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 (GAM) which includes San Jose, Alajuela, Cartago and Heredia. Costa Rica has divided the country up in two areas: Orange and Yellow Alert. Orange is for areas with more confirmed coronavirus cases.
Covid-19 Costa Rica Travel: Border Reopening
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.**
The Costa Rica COVID entry requirements are strict. They will check for all of them at immigration and turn people away who do not fulfill them so please be thorough. Airlines will check as well before boarding.
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.
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.
As for the insurance, the tourists I know who have entered Costa Rica have purchased it directly from INS/Sagicor or from a Costa Rican broker due to the accommodation requirement which not all insurances cover. As more travel insurance companies cover COVID-19, we have found that Trawick is accepted.
If you purchase international insurance, you must have a certification from the company issued in English or Spanish.
RT-PCR COVID-19 Test
**Costa Rica no longer requires a COVID test to enter the country as of October 26th.**
Important Things to Know About the Costa Rica COVID-19 Travel Entry Requirements
- Bring a hard copy of your insurance. Airlines will look at it.
- Highlight names of passengers and dates on the documents for ease at airport.
- You will upload your health insurance to the health pass website to get the QR code.
- QR code: The Costa Rican immigration officials will ask for the QR code. Make sure to fill out the health pass and get the QR code before you depart to save time at immigration. Otherwise, you’ll have to do all of it at the Costa Rican immigration in the airport, this will hold up the line and take you longer to get through immigration.
The San Jose International Airport and government made a super useful video for what visitors should expect when going through San Jose Airport and Liberia International Airport. You can see what safety protocols they’ve implemented and what checks they will do such as temperature, hand washing and more.
It has been taking on average around 45 minutes to pass through immigration and customs at San Jose International Airport for those with all their paperwork ready. Of course, this could change depending on flights, passengers, your paperwork, etc.
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. In touristic areas such as the Guanacaste coast, unemployment has climbed up to over 30% at one point. The Minister of Tourism strongly advocated for the border opening back in June/July and repeatedly implored the government to open the border to the entire US instead of by individual states.
So I would say that the tourism sector is very excited about tourists coming back as they’ve been out of work for months. Although many European countries went back into lockdown in November, the US hasn’t gone into any COVID lockdown so most of the tourism sector is counting on US tourists to boost the industry, especially with the upcoming holiday season. And in 2021, hopefully more Canadians and Europeans will be able to visit.
However, 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.
They allow surgical masks and homemade cloth masks. The masks with filters and valves should not be used.
Other Costa Rica COVID-19 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 but rental cars are exempt from Costa Rica driving restrictions during COVID-19. Other exemptions are for those driving to/from airports and to/from hotels and non traditional lodging like Airbnb. It is recommended to always have a printed copy of your flight ticket itinerary and hotel reservation with you when driving just in case.
- Driving is restricted to 5 AM to 10 PM Mon – Fri and 5 AM to 9 PM Saturday and Sunday. No license plate restrictions on weekends. On weekdays, there are license plate restrictions.
- 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.
What Is Open in Costa Rica Right Now During COVID-19?
Pretty much everything is open in Costa Rica or allowed to open. As far as we can see, nearly all hotels, tour companies, parks and restaurants have opened but we recommend to check each place you want to go first before showing up.
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 50%. 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
Rental cars are exempt from Costa Rica COVID-19 driving restrictions and 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
Back on October 15th, all beaches in Costa Rica opened from 5 AM to 10 PM Monday through Friday and 5 AM to 9 PM Saturday and Sunday. 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. However, not all national parks are open fully. 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.
Remember, all tourists must purchase a travel health insurance to cover medical costs and accommodation due to COVID-19 to enter Costa Rica.
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. This pandemic has been hard on everyone. 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, make reservations and check entrance 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.
- Some tour companies are not operating or only operating certain tours on specific days. Many companies also require a minimum of 2 people to run tours so this is not a great time to be a very frugal solo traveler relying only on public transportation and tours. Hopefully volume will go up in December and it will get easier for solo travelers to book tours.
- For everything you prepay, ask for the cancellation policy in case anything changes with the pandemic.
- Don’t expect super crazy discounts and cheap prices. Prices have not really changed for international tourists despite the border closure but some hotels, stores, tours and attractions are offering limited time promos until November or so (but some may only be for Costa Rican nationals). To find them, check the Instagram account of the hotel/tour company.
- Read our Costa Rica cost of traveling post for more information
- Bring as much of your own gear you can. These are face masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning wipes, water bottle, reusable shopping bags, rash guards, binoculars, 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.