Now that Costa Rica opened their borders on August 2 and authorized 44 countries and several US states to enter, we thought it was time to write a post about traveling in Costa Rica during the coronavirus pandemic. So if you plan on visiting Costa Rica during the pandemic, here is what you need to know. Costa Rica is not coronavirus free but they have one of the lowest fatality rates on the American continent.
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, especially during a pandemic, it is necessary to be responsible travelers and tourists.
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. The government has been doing monthly regulations for the re-opening of the economy so we will update this post once any of this information has changed.
Authorized Countries to Enter Costa Rica
As of September 2020, there are 44 countries authorized to enter Costa Rica and by September 15, 12 US states will be allowed to enter Costa Rica. These are the authorized countries.
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- South Korea
- United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
- United States: New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Vermont and Connecticut. On Sept 15: Colorado, Pennsylvania, Washington, Oregon, Michigan, Rhode Island, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Massachusetts. October 1st: California
- Vatican State
Traveling to Costa Rica During the Pandemic: Requirements for Foreigners to Enter Costa Rica
Costa Rica requires every tourist to complete an epidemiological survey, bring proof of a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test result within 72 hours prior to the trip 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. Tourists can purchase international insurance or from either of these two Costa Rican companies: INS and Sagicor.
Costa Rica will check for all of these requirements at the airport, they are not lax about their rules. They have turned away tourists who did not have a negative COVID-19 test result and did not fulfill all the requirements.
For US tourists: they must present their drivers license or equivalent of a state issued ID proving they are a resident of one of the authorized states. Minors are exempt from this requirement if traveling with a parent.
Also, tourists can now layover from a non-authorized US state. For example, a Vermont resident can fly to Miami, have a layover and then fly to Costa Rica as long as they do not leave the airport. The longest they can layover is 18 hours.
Tourists can now upload their driver’s license/state ID and the insurance to the epidemiological survey website for pre-approval.
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 masks. 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 Restrictions Tourists Need to Know
- 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.
- There are driving restrictions throughout the country but rental cars are exempt from them. There are also exemptions for those driving to/from airports and to/from hotels. It is recommended to always have a printed copy of your flight ticket itinerary and hotel reservation with you when driving just in case.
What Is Open in Costa Rica Right Now?
Due to the driving restrictions and alert areas, most businesses close at 10 PM on weekdays and 8 PM on the weekends. Banks are open and ATM’s are available. Stores like clothing, souvenirs and shoes are open with maximum 50% capacity.
Costa Rica has divided the country up in two areas: Orange and Yellow Alert. Orange Alert areas are under stricter restrictions for having more confirmed coronavirus cases so make sure to check our Costa Rica coronavirus post because the government changes regulations at the end of the month for each zone.
Accommodation and Lodging
All hotels may now 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, taverns and cantinas have a temporary permit to be allowed to operate as a soda (a traditional Costa Rican restaurant), cafeteria or restaurant with 50% maximum capacity throughout September.
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 any driving restriction 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.
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.
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.
As 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 must inquire with the tour company regarding availability before coming.
Beaches, Lakes and National Parks
All national parks are allowed to open and all beaches and lakes are open from 5 AM to 230 PM everyday throughout the country for the whole month of September. However, like above, 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.
The central canton of Limon has decided to close their beaches for a month starting in September (only in Limon). In the Caribbean South, Sector Manzanillo is open 8 AM to 10 AM and Cahuita National Park beaches are open 8 to 10 AM as well until September 29th. The other Caribbean South beaches are open 5 AM to 10 AM.
What is Closed in Costa Rica Right Now?
Casinos and other mass gathering events like concerts, sports with an audience, night clubs and Parque Diversion Theme Park may not open. 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 Recommendations, Advice and Tips
I just have to reiterate one more time. Be respectful and follow all of Costa Rica’s rules and regulations. Even if you don’t agree with them, you are a guest in another country and traveling, especially during a pandemic is a privilege, not a right. It is your responsibility to stay safe and protect yourself and others.
- We do not recommend “winging it”. Create an itinerary, make reservations, buy park tickets and check entrance requirements for every place you want to visit before you arrive. Many, if not most places are not allowing walk-ins.
- Some tour companies are still not operating or they are only operating certain tours. They require a minimum number of people so this is not a good time to be a solo traveler relying only on public transportation and tours.
- For everything you prepay, ask for the cancellation policy in case anything changes with the pandemic.
- Don’t expect crazy discounts and cheap prices. Even though tourism has been closed for many months, prices have not really changed for international tourists. You may find some hotels, stores or attractions are offering limited time promos until November. 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.
- Avoid hand shaking and cheek kisses (cheek kisses are the normal form of greeting in Costa Rica).
- 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 and keep it up to date with the latest information as much as possible. Please remember that the decision to travel is up to you. Make sure to check the recommendations of your country when it comes to international travel.