HOW TO TRAVEL TO COSTA RICA DURING THE PANDEMIC (updated June 3rd 2021)
This is a basic primer for people confused by all the various and conflicting data floating around on the subject and/or have trouble with Spanish language. No the photo is not spike protein on a covid, it is a lovely amapola flowering in the Pura Vida garden all year round, one of over 200 hibiscus species.
For starters all travel you book must have the ability to reschedule - flights should be flexible (many airlines have removed their reschedulining fees) and accommodations and other travel that you book like car rentals or tours should be easily cancel-able with no deposits or refundable deposits. If you get stuck just email me at the hotel or post a question on the Costa Rica Tripadvisor Forum - hopefully this will be useful. Come on down when you are comfortable traveling again, you will be very welcome back in Costa Rica,
WHEN YOU EXIT COSTA RICA: Some countries need PCR testing to occur withing 72 hours of your exit flight. Other countries notably the US of A allows rapid/antigen testing. Currently our guests are getting PCR tests back by email within 24 hours and rapid testing within 2 hours (currently coming in in about an hour).
There is a Labin testing lab within 1km of the hotel - open 6:30am to 4pm now only take walk-ins. They shoot for 24 to 36 hour results for PCR tests and 2 hours on rapid/antigen tests. We also recommend Clinica Biblica on highway 27 in Santa Ana - they have a drive in (needs appointment but will accept drive-ins) and are shooting for 24 hour results by email for PCR tests and under 2 hours for rapid tests. As a point of reference here's a few things that we can get creative about:
- Make an appointment for the wrong lab - should not be a problem anymore with Labin Lab as they wont take appointments (Costa Rica solves things in their own way)
- Leave an email address for your results that you do not have access to - that was fun at 4:30 as the lab had just closed (after a race by taxi banging on the window worked)
- Arrive at test lab without a pasport (won't work as ONLY travelers are allowed to use rapid/antigen test)
Now we have a good Plan B. As of Mid May 2021 Echandi opened a lab at SJO - they ask you show up 4 hours ahead of your flight for your rapid test. They are open 24/7.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN COSTA RICA: To get into the country you need 4 things (beyond a passport valid for at least 6 months).
- A very good sense of humor and a tolerance of bureaucracy (if lacking in either of these you may want to stay home or have a partner who can make up for your personal limitations on bureaucracy as I do).
- You need travel insurance from INS or SAGICOR covering up to $20,000 in medical expenses and $2,000 in accommodation in case you are quarantined. If you do not want to use INS or SAGICOR and if you have international insurance you need $50,000 Covid-19 coverage, $2,000 in accomodation in case you are quarantined and a letter from your insurance company showing Covid coverage. Many guests are now using TRAWICK insurance as it is cheaper than the local options.
- No more than 48 hours prior to entry in the country you need to fill out the Costa Rican government Health Pass online - you will need to have stayed for more than 14 days in a country or territory to which Costa Rica has opened its air borders. You also need to have no Covid-19 symptoms on arrival.
SOME NOTES ON INSURANCE ISSUES
This insurance needs to cover medical expenses for Covid-19 as well as accommodation in the event of illness. This insurance can be obtained from 2 local companies - INS (the Costa Rican national insurance company). INS insurance can be acquired online here: INS HERE . If you want to speak to an English speaking INS agent you can whatapp Juan Carlos Calero at ARCR (residents association) +506-8338-1297 or email Juan Carlos directly for a quote firstname.lastname@example.org
Such insurance is also available at Sagicor insurance (another local company) at this link: SAGICOR INSURANCE. Both these companies insurance will be accepted on arrival in Costa Rica. You should note that both companies will provide 100% refund if the policy is canceled before the coverage starts.
The accomodation part of the insuarnce requirement has been a bit tricky if you do not use the recommended INS or SAGICOR insurance. One company referred to most on the message boards is TRAWICK. You can find detailed discussion on the topic here. TRAWICK also offers just the accomodation part of the insurance if you already have the international coverage you need.
The costs of this insurance vary from about $9/day to $25/day depending on duration of trip, your age etc.
If you do not buy the insurance from the approved Costa Rican companies above, on arrival in Costa Rica you must have a document from your insurance company confirming the amounts covered (medical expenses and quarantine) and validity of the insurance for travel dates as well as specific Covid-19 coverage, with a document in English or Spanish. When entering, this document can be verified and approved by the ICT (the Costa Rican tourism office) at the airport.
SOME NOTES ON THE "HEALTH PASS"
48 hours prior to arrival you will need to fill out the government Health Pass for each traveler here: COSTA RICAN GOVERNMENT HEALTH PASS - be careful the first part of this form (5 questions) must be entered using the Spanish language page not in google translation or the page may crash. Also the form will crash if you try to fill it out ahead of time so it is hard to prep for the form. Please do not argue with the form as I did the first few times I crashed it - it is an inanimate object and immune to your wrath.
You will also need to include your accommodation info on arrival in Costa Rica as well as your travel insurance policy number. When you fill it out online you’re going to receive a QR code and a check mark which will flash green meaning you’re good to go, flash yellow meaning authorities need to check your paperwork or flash red meaning you’re not allowed in.You NEED this QR code to get you in the country.
SOME NOTES CURRENT COSTA RICA SITUATION
From the ICT Costa Rican Tourist Board https://www.visitcostarica.com/en/costa-rica/planning-your-trip/entry-requirements. This also has a good updated list of locations that can travel to Costa Rica. For a current local situation from our Ministry of Health on Covid-19 you can find all the details (but only in Spanish) here: https://www.ministeriodesalud.go.cr/index.php/centro-de-prensa/noticias/741-noticias-2020/1725-situacion-nacional-covid-19
SOME NOTES ON WHO CAN TRAVEL TO COSTA RICA - "AIR BORDERS"
We highly recommend this web page for an updated list of countries and areas as well as a host of other useful info: TWO WEEKS IN COSTA RICA
SOME NOTES ON RENTAL CARS AND TOURISM VANS
Travel within Costa Rica for normal (non tourism) traffic contains various restrictions that vary based on the state of the pandemic from province to province. Rental cars and tourism vans are however exempt from these restrictions - if you are stopped by the police in a rental car you will only need to show your rental contract. For Rental cars we work only with Alamo and for private tourism vans we work with Everywhere Costa Rica - both companies are committed to very high standards of hygiene and protection for their vehicles and employees.