Costa Rica visa runs during Covid-19

The current policies make border runs more difficult.

As part of its coronavirus measures, Costa Rica is keeping its land borders closed to tourists in March.

The Immigration Administration also says it won’t further extend the grace period for visitors. Any tourist who entered Costa Rica before December 2020 has had their visa extended until March 2, but no further.

This poses a complicated situation for people who reside in Costa Rica as tourists. In non-Covid times, they could exit Costa Rica by land into Panama or Nicaragua, turn around, and receive a new 90-day tourist stamp. But with the current policies, the “visa run” isn’t as straightforward.

In short, because the incoming land borders are closed, the easiest visa run for perpetual tourists is a round-trip flight. Let’s take a look at the details:

If a tourist overstays his visa, Costa Rica may impose penalties that include forbidding the individual from re-entering for three times as long as the overstayed period. An irregular immigration record can also jeopardize future residency applications. Expired visas also complicate driving in Costa Rica.

Any tourist entering the country must meet Costa Rica’s entry requirements. We detailed them here; the official documentation is here. Tourists who want a 90-day visa should purchase health insurance for 90 days. Tourists must have proof of an outbound flight when they enter Costa Rica.

Tourists do not need to remain out of Costa Rica for 72 hours before returning.

Now, where to fly before March 2? Here are some options:

  • SJO to Fort Lauderdale (FLL):

    Round-trip tickets with direct flights are under $200 on Spirit airlines in February.

    Pros: This is the cheapest flight option.

    Cons: The U.S. requires a negative test, adding at least $50 to the trip. Many nationalities cannot enter the United States without a prior visa. It’s Spirit.

  • SJO to Panama City (PTY):

    Round-trip tickets with direct flights are $450 on Copa in February.

    Pros: This is the quickest nonstop flight, booked at less than 90 minutes.

    Cons: Panama also requires a negative test for entry, with a sample taken within 48 hours of travel. (Passengers can instead opt for a $50 coronavirus test after landing at PTY, but if they test positive, then they must quarantine at a designated hotel.)

    Note: You don’t need a negative test to transit through PTY, but you may face difficulties trying to re-enter Costa Rica if you never went through customs/immigration in Panama.

  • SJO to Mexico City (MEX):

    Round-trip tickets with one stop are $490 on Copa in February.

    Pros: Mexico doesn’t require a negative test for entry.

    Cons: These flights are either significantly more time consuming (with a layover) or significantly more expensive (for a direct flight).

    Options to Mexico improve significantly in early March. Volaris and Aeromexico, for example, have direct flights Mexico City for under $300 round-trip … but not until after March 2. The same goes for Cancún.

  • LIR to Los Angeles (LAX):

    Round-trip tickets with direct flights are $290 on Alaska in February.

    Pros: $290 is relatively cheap, it’s a direct flight, and Alaska Airlines is a more comfortable ride than, say, Spirit.

    Cons: The U.S. requires a negative test, adding at least $50 to the trip. Many nationalities cannot enter the United States without a prior visa. The flight is a long one.

How to find more flights: Flights listed above were the cheapest/fastest routes we found as of late Thursday night. Things may have changed by the time you read this.

We recommending searching for flights by using Kayak or Google Flights. With either site, you can set your departure airport and a budget, and see what options are available.

If you’re flying soon, safe travels! We hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to Costa Rica.

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