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Flying to or from Costa Rica during the coronavirus crisis? What you need to know

May 14, 2020

Costa Rica has enforced a series of border restrictions since mid-March in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Until June 15, and potentially beyond, the following measures apply at Costa Rica’s borders:

  • The only people who can enter the country are: Costa Rican citizens, Costa Rican residents who departed Costa Rica prior to March 24 at 11:59 p.m., those whose residency is in process who departed Costa Rica prior to March 24, minor children of Costa Rican citizens, and foreign diplomats.
  • Citizens and residents who arrive in Costa Rica will be assigned a mandatory 14-day home isolation order. All will be tested for SARS-CoV-2 at the airport.

The Health Ministry has discouraged non-essential international travel during the pandemic. But if you need to fly to or from Costa Rica during the upcoming weeks, here’s what you should know.

Expect to fly to/from SJO

Costa Rica has two international airports that regularly receive commercial service: Juan Santamaría International Airport near San José, and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport in Liberia.

If you’re taking a repatriation flight, expect to fly to/from Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO). The Health Ministry has required that repatriation flights operate from that airport to help ensure sanitary measures are met.

More regular commercial service to Costa Rica could resume in late June, including to Liberia International Airport, but airlines may push back those dates — especially if Costa Rica further extends its border restrictions.

The SJO airport website and foreign embassies are good resources for flight information.

Expect empty airports, but not empty flights

Given the extremely limited number of flights operating to/from Costa Rica at the moment, you shouldn’t anticipate big crowds at the airport.

A Tico Times reader who took a repatriation flight this week told us only one gate at SJO was in use, and most restaurants and shops were closed. The airport says it has installed markers to help passengers remain socially distant while queueing.

That doesn’t necessarily mean your flight will be empty, however. A repatriation flight this week from Spain to Costa Rica carried 290 passengers, and the U.S. Embassy says flights from Costa Rica to North America routinely sell out.

Many airlines now require passengers to wear masks, and United Airlines — which has operated recent flights between Costa Rica and the U.S. — will soon inform passengers if their flight is more than 70% full.

Expect to sign some paperwork

If you are a citizen or resident entering Costa Rica through June 15, you will be issued a 14-day home isolation order.

You must sign that agreement and provide your name, cédula and address as you pass through customs and border control. By signing, you agree to the following:

  • You will remain isolated at the indicated address for a period of 14 calendar days. You must remain separated “from all others, with the exception of the personnel in charge of [your] care.”
  • You will comply with all sanitary recommendations that the health authority considers pertinent for your isolation.
  • You will collaborate immediately with health authorities and provide any requested information related to the coronavirus.

“Imprisonment will be imposed from six months to three years for those who do not comply,” the order reads.

If you are a non-citizen resident who is departing Costa Rica, you will receive a form indicating that you cannot return to the country until further notice. By signing, you agree to the following:

“The Immigration Administration … imposes an entry impediment to the foreigner indicated on the header of this resolution. The term of the impediment will expire at 23:59 on April 12, 2020. Nonetheless, the terms of the measure will be revised and analyzed in conformity with the epidemiological behavior of COVID-19.” [Note that the expiration date has been extended until June 15, 2020, as we indicated above.]

“It is advised to the foreigner that in the case that if he/she enters the country via any method … in spite of the entry impediment ordered here, their legal permanence in the country will be canceled.”

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