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Costa Rica coronavirus driving, business restrictions for May 2021 (updated)

May 19, 2021

The Costa Rican government continues to adjust driving restrictions in response to an increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.

Below are Costa Rica’s coronavirus measures for May 2021 (as of May 19):

Travel and borders

Costa Rica is welcoming tourists who arrive via flights (commercial or private) or boats (yachts or sailboats). A negative coronavirus test is not required, but visitors are required to purchase insurance covering their stay in Costa Rica.

The land borders reopened to arriving tourists in April. Residents and citizens can also enter via land borders.

There are no quarantine requirements in place for anyone who enters the country who is not exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19.

For more information, visit the Costa Rica Tourism Board’s official site.

Driving restrictions

From May 19 through May 30, there is a nationwide daytime vehicular restriction based on the last digit of the vehicle’s license plate:

Costa Rica coronavirus vehicle restrictions for May 2021.
Costa Rica coronavirus vehicle restrictions for May 2021. via Casa Presidencial.

On dates marked in purple, only vehicles with plates ending in odd numbers can circulate. On dates marked in green, only vehicles with plates ending in even numbers can circulate.

In other words, license plates ending in even numbers can drive on even dates, and license plates ending in odd numbers can drive on odd dates.

The nighttime driving ban (9 p.m. to 5 a.m.) continues unchanged.

The typical list of exceptions — which includes rental vehicles, people driving to/from a hotel reservation, people driving to/from the airport and people driving to/from work — continues to apply. The official list of exceptions can be found here.

In addition, on May 19-21, driving to/from school has been added as a valid exception to the restrictions.

Tourism activities

All outdoor tourism activities are permitted. All national parks can be open, and beaches can remain open daily from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Most national parks are limited to 50% capacity.

Guests are required to wear masks in some outdoors situations, so come prepared. (e.g. You need to wear a mask when purchasing your ticket to a national park, but you can remove the mask when you’re hiking.)

Businesses and activities

The vast majority of businesses can operate (with some capacity restrictions) from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. This includes restaurants and bars.

Activities that are not permitted include: concerts, fairs, nightclubs, large religious processions. The full list of establishments and activities that are not allowed is here.

The permitted capacity of some activities was reduced on May 11:

  • Academic and work events from 300 to 150 people.
  • Social events from 75 to 30 people.
  • Religious events from 300 to 200 people.
  • Bars from 50% to 25% capacity.
  • Hotels that sleep more than 100 people to 75% capacity.
  • National parks to 50% capacity (except for Poas Volcano).
  • Public transport cannot take standing passengers.

As of May 24, public schools will close and private schools will go online.

Covid-19 testing requirements

Costa Rica does not require a negative coronavirus test to enter or exit the country. However, many foreign countries (e.g. the United States, Canada) do require a negative test if flying into or transiting through those nations.

More than 100 private labs across Costa Rica offer PCR and/or antigen coronavirus tests. Click here for a list. Note that antigen tests are accepted by the U.S. but are not valid for entry to many countries.

Starting in mid-May, anyone in Costa Rica who is asymptomatic can purchase an antigen test at a private lab. Prices vary but typically start at about $50.

Samples for PCR and antigen tests in Costa Rica are collected via nasal swabs.

Mask wearing and other measures

Masks are required in all indoor settings except when eating, while alone, or in a private residence. You can be denied entry into an establishment if you are not wearing a mask.

Many businesses require hand washing and/or have implemented temperature checks.

In general, individuals should make every reasonable effort to maintain physical distancing of at least 2 meters from others when in public.

The official site for coronavirus measures in Costa Rica is: https://presidencia.go.cr/alertas.

How to get a vaccine

Costa Rica is vaccinating citizens and residents. The vaccine priority is as follows:

  • First group: Staff and residents at retirement or nursing homes. First responders, including health personnel.
  • Second group: Costa Rica’s older population, defined here as those ages 58 and up. According to the Presidency, this group is required to demonstrate residency with a cédula or DIMEX.
  • Third group: People from 18-58 with risk factors, including hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illness, kidney disease and obesity, among others.
  • Fourth group: Teachers and other staff within the Education Ministry (MEP) or private schools. Imprisoned people and judicial staff. Workers for the 911 service.
  • Fifth group: Health science students and related technicians in clinical fields. People ages 40-57 without any of the aforementioned risk factors but whose work puts them in contact with others. Then, all remaining adults.

Costa Rica is currently vaccinating Groups 1, 2 and 3 in the above list. Group 4 will begin imminently. Vaccines are free through the Social Security System and are not yet available for private purchase.

Vaccinations are administered at EBAIS, which are the public-health clinics that comprise part of Costa Rica’s national healthcare system. Each EBAIS manages a list of people who live in their jurisdiction. This list is used to identify priority individuals and to schedule their vaccine appointments.

If you are in one of the priority groups, contact your local EBAIS, make sure they have your contact information, and confirm you’re on their list.

For EBAIS contact information, and to see what populations your EBAIS is vaccinating, click here.

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