Our experience flying from the U.S. to Costa Rica during the pandemic
Costa Rica will welcome visitors from across the world starting November 1.
Tourists wishing to enter Costa Rica must meet a series of requirements, including testing negative for the coronavirus and obtaining travel medical insurance. Citizens and residents have fewer requirements for entry.
We recently flew back to Costa Rica from the United States on Spirit Airlines. Here was our experience and some thoughts:
Flying to Costa Rica during the COVID-19 pandemic
Our flight to Costa Rica began three days before travel with a coronavirus test. Costa Rica requires tourists to obtain a negative result via a PCR test from a sample taken within 72 hours of departure. Depending on where you live, this can be a difficult requirement to meet, but it is non-negotiable for tourists.
Citizens and residents don’t need a negative test, but having one will help them avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine in Costa Rica.
We cannot emphasize this enough: Make sure you understand Costa Rica’s entry requirements. (Click here for the official list.) This is important for two reasons: First and foremost, you will be prohibited from entering Costa Rica if you don’t meet the requirements. Second, you cannot rely on your airline to provide accurate information.
For example, two days before our flight, Spirit Airlines emailed us inaccurately saying all visitors to Costa Rica “will be asked to quarantine for a 14-day period or for the duration of their trip.” (We passed this along to the Tourism Board, who told us they’ll work with the airline to resolve the misinformation. Tourists do not have to quarantine in Costa Rica.)
The problem isn’t limited to Spirit: We’ve received reports of United Airlines denying boarding to passengers who should have been allowed to fly, and of American Airlines allowing boarding to passengers who should not have.
At our departure airport in the U.S., multiple Spirit Airlines employees reviewed our documentation. We were required to have our “Health Pass” epidemiological form completed before boarding our initial flight, even though that one was the domestic leg from Michigan to Fort Lauderdale.
Upon completing the Health Pass (link here), the website will generate a QR Code that you must save and show Costa Rican Immigration Officials upon arrival. Take a screenshot of this code or use the download button to save a copy to your device. A copy will also be emailed to you.
Your onboard experience will vary by airline. Some carriers are still blocking middle seats; others are not. Most airlines require that masks be worn for the duration of the flight.
Costa Rica customs and immigration during the coronavirus pandemic
Upon landing at the San José-area Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO), passengers were instructed to remain seated. An airport worker called for about 10 people by name — presumably, officials had to double-check their documentation.
After that group deplaned, the remaining passengers were all allowed to disembark and proceed to the immigration area. On the way there, we walked on a disinfecting carpet and through a temperature scanner.
In the immigration hall, Tourism Board officials verified that visitors who opted for international travel medical insurance had a policy that met Costa Rica’s requirements. Next, all arriving passengers met with an immigration officer, who scanned the QR Code, reviewed the coronavirus PCR test result (if applicable), and authorized entry into Costa Rica.
Other items of note
- The duty free stores between immigration and baggage claim at SJO are open.
- Staff at SJO will help you fill out the Health Pass; however, your airline will likely require it to be complete before letting you board the plane.
- We cleared immigration in less than 15 minutes. Of course, this can vary greatly, but the quick processing was a pleasant surprise.
- SJO has public WiFi that is accessible from the immigration hall, which is useful for working on the Health Pass.
Once more, we cannot emphasize this enough: Know and fulfill the requirements for entering Costa Rica, and don’t rely on the information provided by your airline. By meeting the requirements, you can have a quick, stress-free arrival into Costa Rica.
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