How to Enter Costa Rica

Do I need a passport or visa to enter?

Visit the Embassy of Costa Rica in the United States website for the most current visa information. For entry into Costa Rica, you must present both a valid passport and either a round-trip ticket or proof of onward travel to another country. Because of possible fines levied by Costa Rican Immigration, many airlines will not permit passengers without proof of return or onward travel to board flights to Costa Rica unless they have Costa Rican citizenship, residency, or a visa. Costa Rican Immigration now also requires that you be able to demonstrate financial capacity of at least $100 per month while you are in Costa Rica as a tourist. When you leave Costa Rica, you will have to pay a departure tax of $29 USD.

Passports should be in good condition; Costa Rican Immigration may deny entry if a passport is damaged in any way. Costa Rican authorities may permit U.S. citizen tourists to stay up to ninety (90) days, but shorter time periods of thirty (30) to forty-five (45) days are also common. To extend the period you are given, you must submit an application for an extension to the Office of Temporary Permits in the Costa Rican Department of Immigration. Extension requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Tourists who overstay the period of stay authorized by Costa Rican authorities without receiving an extension may experience a delay at the airport when departing, are subject to deportation and/or a fine of $100 for each month of overstay, and may be denied entry to Costa Rica on future visits.

Most Costa Rican educational institutions will assist individuals planning to study in Costa Rica to apply for a student visa, if a visa is necessary. Individuals with round-trip tickets who plan to study for less than three months do not need a visa and may enter for up to 90 days as a tourist. Individuals who plan to study for longer than three months and will be attending an educational institution that does not provide assistance to obtain a visa should verify documentary requirements in advance with the nearest Costa Rican Embassy/Consulate as well as with the pertinent airline.

All persons – including U.S. citizens – traveling to Costa Rica from certain countries in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa must provide evidence of a valid yellow fever vaccination prior to entry. The countries considered at risk are: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana and Venezuela. You can travel to Costa Rica no sooner than 10 days after receiving the vaccination. See “SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES” for information on requirements to carry identity documentation within Costa Rica and on travel by minors who are dual nationals or legal residents.

The most authoritative and up-to-date information on Costa Rican entry and exit requirements may be obtained from the Consular Section of the Embassy of Costa Rica at 2114 “S” Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 480-2200, fax (202) 265-4795. You may visit the Embassy of Costa Rica’s website or contact the Embassy via email. You may also obtain information from the Costa Rican consulates in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, or the honorary consulates in Minnesota and Arizona. Please also see the Costa Rican Immigration Agency website. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington or one of Costa Rica's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements before shipping any items.

Visitors who plan to drive and/or rent an automobile in Costa Rica should be aware that the Costa Rican government may prevent any driver involved in a vehicular accident from departing Costa Rica until any/all injury claims have been settled. This is true regardless of whether the driver is covered by insurance and/or considered to have been negligent in the accident. Because the courts often delay imposing a settlement until any/all injured parties have fully recovered and the definitive costs are known, a prohibition on travel could be imposed for months, or even years, until a local judicial resolution is reached. Visitors should carefully consider the hardships such an extended stay in Costa Rica could impose on themselves and their families before deciding to drive in Costa Rica.

Special Travel Circumstances in Costa Rica

Land Ownership and Shoreline Property: U.S. citizens are urged to use extreme caution when making real estate purchases or investments, to consult with reputable legal counsel, and to investigate thoroughly all aspects before entering into a contract. Civil archives recording land title are at times incomplete or contradictory. Check the U.S.Embassy website for a list of local lawyers. You also are encouraged to review the Investment Climate Statement for Costa Rica on the State Department’s website. Coastal land within 50 meters of the high tide line is open to the public and therefore closed to development, and construction on the next 150 meters inland is possible only with the approval of the local municipality. Expropriation of private land by the government without compensation considered adequate or prompt has hurt some U.S. investors.

Squatters: Organized squatter groups have invaded properties in various parts of the country. These squatter groups take advantage of legal provisions that allow people without land to gain title to unused property. The Costa Rican police and judicial system have at times failed to deter or to peacefully resolve such invasions. Victims of squatters have reported threats, harassment, and violence. There is very little that the U.S. Embassy can do to assist U.S. citizens who enter into land or business disputes in Costa Rica; you must be prepared to take your case to the local courts, which is often a very long and expensive process.

Delays in Judicial Process: The legal system in Costa Rica is backlogged, and civil suits take over five years on average from start to finish. Some U.S. 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.

Documentation Requirements: Visitors are required to carry appropriate documentation at all times. However, due to the high incidence of passport theft, Costa Rican immigration authorities permit tourists to carry photocopies of the data page and entry stamp from the passport, leaving the passport in a hotel safe or other secure place. However, as noted under the CRIME section of this report, Costa Rican immigration authorities conduct routine checks for illegal immigrants, especially in bars located in downtown San Jose and in beach communities. A U.S. citizen questioned during one of these checks and carrying only the copy of the passport will be required to produce the original passport. In addition, tourists should carry their actual passports when taking domestic air flights, when driving, when planning to use a credit card, when traveling overnight, when traveling a considerable distance from their hotel, or when they would otherwise be unable to quickly retrieve the actual passport. Local authorities have the right to detain U.S. citizens until their identity and immigration status have been verified. Tourists who carry passports are urged to place them securely in an inside pocket.

Exit Procedures for Costa Rican citizens and legal residents: All children born in Costa Rica acquire Costa Rican citizenship at birth, and may only depart the country upon presentation of an exit permit issued by immigration authorities. This includes children born in Costa Rica to U.S. citizens. Unless the child is traveling with both parents, legal documentation is required to demonstrate that both parents grant permission for the child to leave the country. This policy, designed to prevent international child abduction, applies to dual national U.S./Costa Rican citizens as well as U.S. citizens who are legal residents in Costa Rica. Parents of minors who obtained Costa Rican citizenship through a parent or through birth in Costa Rica are advised to consult with appropriate Costa Rican authorities prior to travel to Costa Rica, especially if one (or both) parent(s) is not accompanying the child.

Disaster Preparedness: Costa Rica is located in an active earthquake and volcanic zone. When planning travel to the area, you should consider that such a disaster may strike without warning. Tsunamis may result from significant earthquakes occurring nearby or across the ocean. Serious flooding occurs annually in the Caribbean Province of Limon and the Pacific Province of Puntarenas, and flash floods and severe landslides occur in many parts of Costa Rica, depending on the time of year and rainfall.


You are responsible for ensuring that you meet and comply with foreign entry requirements, health requirements and that you possess the appropriate travel documents. Information provided is subject to change without notice. One should confirm content prior to traveling from other reliable sources. Information published on this website may contain errors. You travel at your own risk and no warranties or guarantees are provided by us.

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