Entry Requirements For Costa Rica
When traveling with a passport, citizens of the United States, Canada, and most Latin American and European countries are entitled to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days. They must enter the country with a departure ticket and a valid passport that does not expire within 30 days of their arrival in Costa Rica.
If you don't have a ticket out of the country, you might be prevented from boarding a plane to Costa Rica because airlines can be fined if they let passengers board without the required travel documents.
Citizens of some Latin American, Asian, African, and East European countries must obtain a visa from a Costa Rican consulate and pay a deposit upon entering the country, refundable when they leave. Check with the consulate nearest you for the latest information or see http://www.costarica-embassy.org/consular/visa.
Always carry your ID: While in Costa Rica, if you don't want to carry your passport with you, get a copy of it made. The copy must include the page that was stamped when you entered the country. Don't go anywhere without identification. You can have your passport copy emplasticado (laminated) at bookstores or copy centers. You will need your passport, not a copy, to change money at banks, or to use travelers checks, which can only be cashed at banks. That is one reason why it is easier to change money with a debit card at an ATM.
Passport theft and emergency consular information: Unfortunately, Costa Rica has one of the highest rates of passport theft in the world. U.S. citizens can get their passports replaced at the U.S. Consulate in Pavas, west of San José. Call 2519-2000.
The consular section is open weekdays and closed on Costa Rican and U.S. holidays. For emergencies outside office hours, call 2519-2280 or 2519-2279, fax: 2220-2455. If your passport is stolen, it really helps if you have a copy or know your passport number.
You might also want to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department's travel registration website before you travel abroad.
The Canadian Embassy is in Sabana Sur (2242-4400; after hours call toll-free in Costa Rica: (1-800 015-1161).
The British Embassy is in Centro Colon (2258-2025, emergency pager: 2225-4049).
Exit And Extended Visas In Costa Rica
All tourists must pay an airport tax of $26 when they leave. The airport tax can be paid in dollars, colones, or a combination of the two. It can also be paid with a credit card, but will be charged as a cash advance, for which the interest rate is higher than for regular purchases. If you pay with a card, it's best to use a debit card.
You can stay legally by leaving the country for 72 hours after your first three months and coming back in with a new tourist visa. Most people go by land to Nicaragua or Panamá to fulfill this requirement. Be sure that your passport is stamped as you re-enter Costa Rica. If your passport is not stamped correctly on re-entry, your efforts to renew your visa will have been in vain.
Don't depend on leaving the country every three months as a way to remain in Costa Rica indefinitely. Immigration officials start becoming suspicious after you have done this three times. They could deport you. If you are deported, you can't return to Costa Rica for 10 years. Longer stays are granted only to those applying for student visas or residency.
Be sure to confirm your departure flight 72 hours in advance. Get to the airport three hours ahead of flight time. Flights are often over-booked.
Entry And Exit Requirements For Traveling With Children Under The Age of 18 In Costa Rica
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated special procedures for minors at entry and exit points. These often include requiring documentary evidence of the child's relationship to the accompanying parents and, if one of the parents is not traveling with the child, permission from the non-traveling parent for the child's travel.
For instance, if you are traveling with your child, and the child's other parent is not traveling with you, you need a notarized letter from the absent parent stating that he or she gives permission for the child to travel on certain dates with you.
This can be the case even if both parents have been traveling together but one has to leave Costa Rica earlier than the rest of the family. Getting a signed letter from the absent parent can save you a lot of hassle when you leave the country. This also applies if you are traveling with someone else's children.
Non-Costa Rican parents of minors who obtained Costa Rican citizenship through birth in Costa Rica or to a Costa Rican parent should be aware that these children may only depart Costa Rica upon presentation of an exit permit issued by the Costa Rican immigration office.
Parents of dual-citizen children are advised to consult with the Costa Rican embassy or consulate in the U.S. about entry and exit requirements before travel to Costa Rica.