• Entering Costa Rica is mostly free of hassle, with the exception of some long queues at the airport.
  • The vast majority of travelers enter the country by plane, and most international flights arrive at Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría, outside San José.
  • Liberia is a growing destination for international flights; it is in the Guanacaste province and serves travelers heading to the Península de Nicoya.
  • Overland border crossings are straightforward and travelers can move freely between Panama to the south and Nicaragua to the north.
  • Some foreign nationals will require a visa. Be aware that you cannot get a visa at the border.

Customs Regulations

  • All travelers over the age of 18 are allowed to enter the country with 5L of wine or spirits and 500g of processed tobacco (roughly 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars).
  • Camera gear, binoculars, and camping, snorkeling and other sporting equipment are readily allowed into the country.
  • Dogs and cats are permitted entry providing they have obtained both general-health and rabies-vaccination certificates.
  • Pornography and illicit drugs are prohibited.


  • Citizens of all nations are required to have a passport that is valid for at least six months beyond the dates of their trip.
  • The law requires that you carry your passport at all times; if you’re driving, you must have your passport handy, but otherwise the law is seldom enforced.

Onward Tickets

  • Officially, travelers are required to have a ticket out of Costa Rica before they are allowed to enter. This is rarely and erratically enforced.
  • Those arriving overland with no onward ticket can purchase one from international bus companies in Managua (Nicaragua) and Panama City (Panama).


Most nationalities do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days. Check the visa requirements for your country at www.costarica-embassy.org.


Passport-carrying nationals of the following countries are allowed 90 days’ stay with no visa: Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Panama, South Africa, USA and most Western European countries.

Most other visitors require a visa from a Costa Rican embassy or consulate.

For the latest info on visas, check the websites of the ICT (www.ict.go.cr/en) or the Costa Rican Embassy (www.costarica-embassy.org).


  • Extending your stay beyond the authorized 30 or 90 days is time-consuming; it’s easier to leave the country for 72 hours and then re-enter.
  • Extensions can be handled by migración offices.
  • Requirements for extensions change, so allow several working days.