Costa RicaOfficial Name: Republic of Costa Rica
Length of stay
BLANK PASSPORT PAGES:
One page per entry stamp
TOURIST VISA REQUIRED:
Not required for stays less than 90 days, but return ticket required
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR ENTRY:
CURRENCY RESTRICTIONS FOR EXIT:
Embassies and Consulates
Calle 98, Via 104
San José, Costa Rica
Telephone: +(506) 2519-2000
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(506) 2220-3127
Fax: +(506) 2220-2455
See our Fact Sheet on Costa Rica for information on U.S. – Costa Rica relations.
Entry, Exit & Visa Requirements
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 arriving from certain countries in South America or Africa.
- Demonstrated financial capacity of at least $100 USD per month of proposed stay.
See the Embassy of Costa Rica’s website for the most current visa information.
Requirements for Exit:
- 90-Day Stay: Authorities may permit a stay up to 90 days without a visa, but are not required to do so. If you overstay without an extension from Immigration, you may experience departure delays, be subject to deportation and/or fines, and be denied entry to Costa Rica on future visits.
- Exit Tax: Depending on the airline, a departure tax of $29 USD may be levied on departure. For more information, visit the Costa Rican Immigration Agency website.
- Minor Travel: 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. Unless traveling with both parents, legal documentation is required to demonstrate parental consent for the child to leave the country. Parents of minors who obtained Costa Rican citizenship through a parent or through birth in Costa Rica should consult with appropriate Costa Rican authorities prior to travel to Costa Rica.
- Indebtedness: Indviduals in debt to Costa Rican entities may be prevented from departing Costa Rica; for example, vehicular accidents with unsettled injury claims. U.S. citizens owing child support may be required to pay 13 months of support in advance before being allowed to leave Costa Rica.
Documentation Requirements: Visitors are required to carry appropriate documentation at all times. Costa Rican immigration authorities permit tourists to carry photocopies of the data page and entry stamp from the passport to deter theft. However, Costa Rican immigration authorities conduct routine checks for illegal immigrants and a U.S. citizen will be required to produce the original passport. Local authorities have the right to detain U.S. citizens until their identity and immigration status have been verified.
Tourists should carry their passports when taking domestic air flights, driving, planning to use a credit card, traveling overnight or a considerable distance from their hotel, or when they would otherwise be unable to quickly retrieve the actual passport.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Costa Rica.
Safety and Security
Messages regarding demonstrations and strikes, explosive devices/suspicious packages, and weather-related events are posted on Embassy San Jose’s website.
Crime: Crime is a significant concern. The most common crime perpetrated against tourists is theft. While the vast majority of foreign visitors do not become victims of crime, all are potential targets for criminals. If you are a student or a volunteer, ensure that your sending organization will provide safety and security information about the area where you will stay. We have received reports of violent assaults, rapes, and deaths involving students and volunteers. See our Students Abroad page and FBI travel tips.
Victims of Crime: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police in person or by dialing 911.
Police reports should be made to the Investigative Police (Organismo de Investigación Judicial (OIJ), reachable locally via 800-800-3000). The Tourism Police can also take reports in certain major tourist destinations. Please remember that local authorities are responsible for investigating and prosecuting a crime and that a police report with a case number is necessary for follow up.
The Consular section of the U.S. Embassy is available to assist victims of crime. Reach us via phone at 2519-2000, from the U.S.: 011-506-2519-2000, or by email to: email@example.com.
- Replace a lost or stolen passport.
- Help you find medical care if you are the victim of a violent crime.
- Put you in contact with police authorities.
- Contact family members or friends with your consent.
- Help you understand the local criminal justice process.
- Provide a list of local attorneys.
- Provide information on victim’s compensation programs in the U.S.
Should you wish to register a complaint with private or public entities, Costa Rica’s Tourism Commission provides information online via its web site or at 800-TURISMO, from Costa Rica, 011-506-2299-5800, from the United States, or by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Disaster Preparedness: Costa Rica is located in an active earthquake and volcanic zone. Tsunamis can 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. Ashfall due to volcanic eruptions can also disrupt air traffic.
In case of disaster, the U.S. Embassy will pass emergency information via e-mail, text, and/or via Radio Dos (FM 99.5) or Radio Columbia (FM 98.7). General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Civil Disturbances: Demonstrations are generally peaceful. However, in 2015, protesters attacked several U.S. citizens attempting to drive through a demonstration. Furthermore, foreigners are prohibited from participating in such activity and may be subject to detention or deportation.
Beach Conditions: Please exercise extreme caution when swimming in the ocean. Many beaches with dangerous currents or rip tides have neither lifeguards nor warning signs. Since January 2015, 26 U.S. citizens have drowned in Costa Rica.
Hiking: A small incident may become life-threatening due to rugged terrain, remote location, presence of wild animals, and limited ability of first responders to locate missing persons. You must register your entry to a national park, obtain an entry permit, and be accompanied by authorized guides. The Costa Rican Tourism Institute (ICT) has contact information for licensed tour operators.
The 2015 OSAC Annual Crime Report provides a comprehensive overview of crime in Costa Rica.
Domestic Violence: U.S. citizen victims of domestic violence may contact the Embassy for assistance.
For further 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 at 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or 1-202-501-4444 from 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 Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts.
- Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
- See traveling safely abroad for useful travel tips.
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. If you break local laws in Costa Rica, your U.S. passport will not help you avoid arrest or prosecution.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could land you immediately in jail. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking illegal drugs into Costa Rica are severe. Convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Arrest Notification: If you are arrested in Costa Rica, authorities are required to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. If you are concerned that the Department of State may not be aware of your situation, you should request the police or prison officials to notify the U.S. Embassy of your arrest. The law permits pre-trial detention of persons accused of serious crimes.
Judicial Process: Due to case backlogs, judicial processes can take years to complete and civil suits on average can take over five years to resolve. 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.
Faith-Based Travelers: See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report.
LGBTI Travelers: There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or the organization of LGBTI events in Costa Rica. The LGBTI community is protected by anti-discrimination laws. See our LGBTI Travel Information page and section 6 of our Human Rights report for further details.
Travelers Who Require Accessibility Assistance: While in Costa Rica, individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation limited. Costa Rica mandates access to transportation, communication and public buildings for persons with disabilities, but laws may not be effectively enforced. 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: For periods of study under 90 days with a round-trip ticket, no visa is required. Most Costa Rican educational institutions assist individuals planning to study longer than three months to obtain a student visa. You should verify requirements with your nearest Costa Rican embassy or consulate and with your airline.
Real Estate: 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. 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.
Please note 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, and the next 150 meters inland generally are administered as Maritime Zones by the local municipality. Expropriation of private land by the government without compensation considered adequate or prompt has hurt some U.S. investors.
Property owners are encouraged to maintain security and access controls on any private property. Organized squatter groups have invaded properties in various parts of the country, 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.
Women Travelers: If you are a woman traveling abroad, please review our travel tips on the Women Travelers page.
Medical care in San Jose is generally adequate, but space and availability of services can be limited in areas outside of San Jose. In more remote areas, basic medical equipment may not be available. An ambulance may be summoned by calling 911, but some may not have emergency equipment and can sometimes offer nothing more than transport.
Most prescription and over-the-counter medications are available throughout Costa Rica; however, some U.S. citizens travel regularly to the United States to fill prescriptions that are unavailable in Costa Rica. Always carry your prescription medication in original packaging with your doctor’s prescription.
The U.S. Embassy does not pay medical bills. Be aware that U.S. Medicare and Medicaid do not apply overseas.
Medical Insurance: Make sure your health insurance plan provides coverage overseas. Most care providers overseas only accept cash payments. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. U.S. Embassy San Jose maintains a list of local doctors and medical facilities here.
The following diseases are found in Costa Rica:
- Zika virus
- Travellers Diarrhea
Vaccinations: Proof of yellow fever vaccination must be presented upon arrival for all passengers coming from certain countries in South America or Africa. Be up-to-date on all vaccinations recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Medical Tourism: Medical tourists should confirm that facilities and professionals are accredited, have an acceptable level of care, that their insurance will cover any associated costs, and that the cost and payment for treatment is clearly understood. Individuals considering visits to clinics offering alternative medicine cures for diseases or addictions should research these clinics and their providers thoroughly. Persons with unpaid or disputed debts in Costa Rica may be legally prevented from leaving the country.
In the event of unforeseen medical complications or malpractice, medical tourists may not be covered by their personal insurance, and malpractice lawsuits are less likely to be successful than in the United States. Although many hospitals and clinics have medical malpractice insurance, seeking compensation can prove to be difficult because insurance laws and legal options may not exist.
Should you need or wish to be transferred to a hospital in the United States and do not have medical evacuation insurance, an air ambulance flight can cost upwards of $20,000 to $40,000 USD and will often take place only after it has been paid for.
Further health information:
Travel & Transportation
Road Conditions and Safety: Costa Rican road conditions can significantly differ from those in the United States. Traffic is heavy in the San Jose metropolitan area and traffic jams should be expected. Roads are often in poor condition and large potholes with the potential to cause significant damage to vehicles are commonplace.
Signage can be inadequate and few roads have clearly marked lanes. Shoulders are narrow or consist of drainage ditches. Visibility at intersections is often limited by hedges or other obstacles. Bridges, even on heavily traveled roads, may be only a single lane, requiring drivers to cede the right of way to oncoming vehicles.
The fatality rate for pedestrians and those riding bicycles and motorcycles is disproportionately high and farm animals are common sights along or on main roads. Buses and cars frequently stop in travel lanes, even on expressways. Motorcyclists often drive without respect to rules of the road, passing on the right, or weaving in and out without warning.
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. When staying outside of urban areas, travelers should call ahead to their hotels to ask about the current status of access roads. Landslides are common in the rainy season.
Rural roads sometimes lack bridges, compelling motorists to ford waterways. Exercise extreme caution in driving across moving water, as even a few inches of moving water may be sufficient to float your vehicle and the riverbed may not be stable.
Travelers should also minimize driving at night, especially outside of urban areas.
Traffic Laws: Drivers need to show a valid U.S. 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, vehicles should not be moved from where the accident occurred. Both the traffic police and an insurance investigator must make accident reports before the vehicles can be moved.
In the case of a traffic fatality, a judge must arrive at the scene to pronounce a person dead, which could take several hours. Visitors contemplating driving in Costa Rica should carefully consider the implications of not being allowed to depart the country for many months or longer in the event of an investigation into a vehicular accident resulting in injuries or death.
U.S. citizens have occasionally reported to the Embassy that charges for unpaid traffic tickets have appeared on the credit card that was on file with the rental car company. The Embassy cannot intervene in such cases.
Aviation Safety Oversight: The U.S. 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.