Visiting Costa Rica during the pandemic? Here’s what to expect
Costa Rica is reopening its airports to U.S. tourists starting Tuesday, September 1.
We’ve been covering the coronavirus crisis in Costa Rica since mid-February. But if you’re considering visiting Costa Rica, here are the most important things you need to know as you plan your trip.
Requirements for entry
Tourists are welcome from more than 40 countries, plus the following states as of September 1: Maryland, Virginia (and the District of Columbia), New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and Connecticut.
As of September 15, the list will be further expanded with Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Colorado.
Arriving visitors must meet the following requirements:
- All people entering Costa Rica must complete the digital epidemiological form. This is known as the “Health Pass” or “Pase de Salud.” Click here for a link to the form.
- Tourists must obtain a negative PCR coronavirus test. The sample for this test must have been taken at most 72 hours before the flight to Costa Rica.
- Tourists must purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to COVID-19. This policy can be international or purchased from Costa Rican insurers.
- Tourists from the United States must demonstrate, via their driver’s license or State ID, that they live in one of the authorized states.
Two Costa Rican companies sell pre-approved travel insurance plans: The National Insurance Institute (INS) and Sagicor. Tourists opting for a foreign policy must demonstrate proof (in English or Spanish) that their policy:
- Is valid throughout the planned visit to Costa Rica.
- Covers medical expenses in cases of COVID-19 in Costa Rica, for at least $50,000 (fifty thousand United States dollars).
- Includes a minimum coverage of $2,000 for expenses of extended lodging due to the pandemic.
Tourists who meet the requirements to enter Costa Rica do not need to quarantine/self-isolate.
What is open in Costa Rica?
Most common tourist attractions are allowed to operate normally. This includes all open-air activities, such as hiking, ziplining, horseback riding, snorkeling, etc.
Costa Rica’s beaches are open every day from 5 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Most national parks are open. Hotels and other forms of accommodation can operate at 100% capacity. Restaurants can operate at up to 50% capacity.
All essential services, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, health clinics, etc. are operating normally.
What is closed in Costa Rica?
Some national parks haven’t reopened all trails or attractions yet. Bars and nightclubs can’t operate, but restaurants that serve alcohol can. Casinos remain closed.
Mass-gathering events in general remain suspended, though there are exceptions for religious gatherings (and some others) that maintain proper physical distancing.
During certain weeks in specific areas, some additional establishments (e.g. gyms) must remain closed. (If you want specifics, click here.) However, this largely should not affect visitors, as the restrictions don’t impact tourism activities.
The crisis has hit Costa Rica’s economy hard. Unemployment is at a record high, and the tourism sector has been particularly affected. Keep that in mind as you plan your visit; with such low demand, some tour operators and other businesses might remain closed.
What restrictions do I need to be aware of?
There are somewhat complex driving restrictions. However, you are exempt from these restrictions if you are driving a rental car, if you’re driving to/from the airport, or if you are driving to/from a hotel reservation. It’s a good idea to have proof handy in case you’re stopped by traffic police.
Most businesses hours are tied to the driving restrictions. This means businesses will close at 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 p.m. on weekends.
You must wear a mask when inside any public establishment. Exceptions include: While eating at a restaurant and while in your own residence/hotel room. Infants and people with certain disabilities are also exempted. If you do not have a mask, you may be denied entry into an establishment.
Some businesses have also instituted temperature checks (with an infrared thermometer) and/or require that guests wash their hands before entering.
In general, you will be expected to maintain physical distancing (6 feet or greater) between your “social bubble” and others.
Remember to be respectful of local laws and guidelines, even if you do not agree with them.
What happens if I need to quarantine?
If you are suspected of having COVID-19 or test positive for the coronavirus, you will be issued a 14-day home-isolation order. During this time, you will be required to stay in your habitation alone. (There are exceptions for minors and the elderly, among others.)
Costa Rican law describes the quarantine as follows: The isolation of a person or group of people means their separation from all others, with the exception of the personnel in charge of their care.
In other words, you cannot have visitors during this period. You also are not allowed to leave Costa Rica until the sanitary order expires.
Dial 1322 if you believe you may have the coronavirus in Costa Rica. English-speaking operators are available.
What is the coronavirus situation in Costa Rica?
The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 4 travel advisory for Costa Rica due to the coronavirus. The country has confirmed 38,485 cumulative cases and 407 deaths. This corresponds to 753 cases and 7.96 deaths per 100,000 people.
The densely populated Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM), which includes the capital of San José and the cities in its immediate vicinity (Alajuela, Heredia, Cartago), is the country’s epicenter. Outside of the GAM, total known cases are typically much lower.
Costa Rica has fortified its public-health system; at no point has a coronavirus patient been denied a hospital bed or ventilator. The country has currently filled about 50% of its available ICU beds for COVID-19 patients at public hospitals.
What official sources can I follow?
Because both of these sources are in Spanish, The Tico Times publishes daily updates on our website as part of our efforts to keep our English-speaking audience informed.
The Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) has an English-language website detailing the entry requirements. Click here to visit that site.
Anything else you’d like to know?
Let us know on Facebook — we’ll try to answer more common questions!
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