Some Americans Can Now Travel To Costa Rica

Filed Under: Travel

There aren’t all that many countries that Americans are allowed to visit right now. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, Costa Rica is one country that is welcoming tourists as of September 2020. However, the country is taking a different approach to what we’ve otherwise seen.

This is a very slow and phased tourism reopening, as there will only be five flights per week from the US to Costa Rica at first, which represents less than 5% of 2019 travel levels.

Costa Rica welcoming Americans from select states

As of September 1, 2020 (today), Costa Rica will only allow Americans who are residents of the following states and territories to visit (they’ll have to provide a driver’s license or other form of state ID to prove they’re from one of these places):

  • Connecticut
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington DC

Then as of September 15, 2020, Costa Rica will welcome Americans from the following three additional states:

  • Colorado
  • Massachusetts
  • Pennsylvania

Costa Rica’s tourism minister has made it clear that these states are being chosen based on having similar or lower coronavirus infection rates to what we’re seeing in Costa Rica. Based on that I don’t really understand why visitors from some states can only come as of September 15.

I expect the number of states from which Costa Rica welcomes visitors will increase over time. Similarly, if there’s a spike in cases, I imagine we could also see certain states removed from the list.

To my knowledge Costa Rica is the first country that only seems to be allowing Americans from certain states, which sure is interesting.

Costa Rica requiring PCR tests within 72 hours of travel

As a further precaution, visitors to Costa Rica will need to show proof of a negative PCR coronavirus test taken within 72 hours of travel to Costa Rica. There will be no option to get tested on arrival.

The requirement to get tested within 72 hours of travel is among the stricter policies we’re seeing, and in many places it can still be tough to get tested and get results in such a short timeframe.

Other requirements to visit Costa Rica

In addition to the state restrictions and PCR testing requirements, there are a couple more requirements for tourists:

  • All people entering Costa Rica will have to complete a digital epidemiological form, known as a “Health Pass”
  • Visitors will have to purchase travel insurance that covers accommodation in the event of quarantine and medical expenses due to coronavirus; this can be purchased from either an international company or an insurance company in Costa Rica

Coronavirus in Costa Rica

Costa Rica has a population of about five million people, and has seen a total of nearly 40,000 coronavirus cases, and 418 coronavirus deaths.

While the country has had some cases going back as far as March, the situation has gotten significantly worse since July. As a matter of fact, the situation is the worst it has been in Costa Rica, and the country is now in some cases seeing over 1,000 new cases per day.

On the surface it’s an odd time to open borders to tourists, but then again, so many countries are struggling to find the right balance between restarting the economy and keeping people safe.

Bottom line

Costa Rica is now open to select American tourists. However, the country is only welcoming visitors from select US states, and a negative PCR test must be shown that was taken within 72 hours of travel.

As is the case with most countries that have reopened, don’t necessarily expect the timeline or current policies to stick. International travel regulations are constantly changing, and we’ve seen a countless number of countries adjust requirements, or backtrack on reopening altogether. There are lots of risks to international travel right now.

Anyone have Costa Rica on their radar for a trip at some point?

  1. Last I checked, we were still the UNITED States of America, as much as idiot politicians try to divide us.

    I hope the state department clamps down on this travesty, fast.

  2. @JMM While individual states are allowed to make their own stupid decisions regarding management of Covid-19, and not a concerted UNITED effort, then I don’t see any problem with this (saying this as someone who doesn’t live in one of those states who will benefit).

  3. Hopefully other countries will follow the lead of Costa Rica and only close off travel to those whose states do not have the situation under control. That being said I am not optimistic Costa Rica will remain low COVID. I see several European countries that they allow people to come from that are currently seeing a resurgence of the virus. I’ll consider going somewhere if its a the same level of COVID risk that I have at home or lower. However, if I am more likely to get COVID by going to a country than I would be if staying home I will just wait. It would be devastating to come down with COVID in a foreign country. The problem with this virus is you dont discover the spread until a few weeks after it happened. Costa Rica’s plan could work, but I think we need more accurate tests for it to be successful. Once false negative super spreader could seed a large population.

  4. @JMM Why? Why would the entire country suffer because some states continue to fail at their response to this? This might be just the incentive needed to get people in high covid states to get their act together. I’m tired of being penalized because parts of this country have issues with science.

  5. What about someone from one of those states who goes to Florida for 2-3 weeks to visit family then goes to Costa Rica? How are they checking travel history? What if you moved 3 months ago from NJ to TX and you didn’t change your license yet?

    It’s an interesting idea with too many flaws and loopholes

  6. It’s laughable. They are a COVID hot spot themselves but want to discriminate among Americans with a clean COVID test.

    Hard pass on this. I will continue to spend my tourist $ in the US and Europe until all these restrictions and requirements are dropped.

  7. I guess the desperation for some of these countries is starting to show to start opening to Americans

    Hopefully here in Europe we keep the doors shut. Enjoy Mexico!

  8. Not sure what everyone’s definition of “under control” is, but if it’s “cases” I’m not eyeing Costa Rica to go on a vacation. They conducted about 123k tests for a population of 5.1 million. They are 108th in the world for testing. Kind of hard to know that they have it “under control”. Then they are going to let New York residents many of whom have second homes in south FL? Yeah, driver’s license thing going to work real well for CR.

  9. Under “Coronavirus in Costa Rica”, you write “Costa Rica … has seen a total of 30,409 coronavirus cases, and 321 coronavirus tests.”

    Did you mean “deaths” rather than “tests”?

  10. @ jmd001…. that is deaths. What is striking is that they have about a 25% positive rate based on the number of tests they’ve conducted and they really haven’t tested a large percentage of people. If the number of deaths is the measurement of “under control” and not cases then they are good, but I certainly wouldn’t contemplate going there if in a higher risk group.

  11. Sure folks, happy to let individual states set up their own foreign relations, once they sign away all rights to my federal tax money.

    But as long as my taxes can be used to bail out NY City/State’s bloated, soon-to-be-bankrupt pensions, or Hawaii’s inadequate healthcare system, or any other number of stupid decisions made by governors and legislators I had no say in, I’ll be damned if I let myself be treated like a lower-class citizen because of my place of residence.

    Of course you’re welcome to secede if the concept of national unity is too much to swallow.

  12. @JMM

    UNITED? Tell that to Trump who’s second strong point is being divisive, the first being a liar.

    The fact is Trump has failed miserably in handling the virus. Be thankful that Costa Rica is even allowing any American’s into the country because Europe’s, Argentina’s, Africa’s, Canada’s, Australia’s and New Zealand’s (to name a few) doors are CLOSED!

  13. @JMM,

    Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Red states are huge recipients of Federal assistance, whereas blue states often pay more to the Feds than they receive back.

    Why are you accusing the northeastern states of setting up their own foreign relations when they had no part in the decision by the government of Costa Rica?

    As for seceding, the only states that have ever attempted that, or even expressed a desire to do that, are the former slave states.

  14. Makes sense for Costa Rica to take a risk-based approach. I’m an American living in Europe and thankfully most of the travel restrictions to date are for flights from the US, rather than people carrying US passports. I hope Costa Rica would also take a pragmatic approach for US citizens arriving from other, safer countries.

  15. @iv
    “The fact is Trump has failed miserably in handling the virus.”

    I am tired of this garbage. For one thing, he shut down travel from China once this was clearly an issue in Wuhan and other cities. The democrats took time away from their ridiculous impeachment charade to mock him as a xenophobe. He got Fauci, Birx and a team together to come up with strategies to deal with this. They made mistakes, but they also made sure that we had the production of ventilators, PPE and other necessary equipment ramped up. Even blue state governors admit that he got them everything they asked for. And then some.

    OTOH, individual state governors were responsible for things like management of hospital beds/equipment and management of the general handling of the virus. They instituted whatever measures they saw fit. And the real miserable failure here – the standout – was Andrew Cuomo. Numbers don’t lie. Poke fun at Florida, if you will, but the death rate there is a tiny fraction of what it is in NY. Sending Covid patients into nursing homes – by edict. The jerk should be imprisoned for manslaughter. And for being a moron. New Jersey, no better. Michigan, awful. Considering their population base and age, Florida has handled it well by comparison. But some of the best were NH and ME.

    As we are a republic of states, the conditions vary from state to state and the Ticos understand this. What they don’t get is that states aren’t homogeneous either – and many states have hotspots while the rest is pretty safe. Frankly, given the situation there, everything is shuttered and a visit to CR right now would not be very appealing. There wouldn’t be much to do.

  16. I guess there is not a more precise way to enforce than licenses, but people move. You can have a valid license from those states and not live in those states. Or someone in NH could be visiting MA frequently, for example there is a large number of people who commute into Boston from Manchester.

  17. Living in NH, I’m glad I’m here – That being said masks are not mandatory and it’s not that our Governor has done anything special -I mean we’re hosting 20K bikers this week and hosted Nascar a few weeks ago – How Idiotic is that? We’ve just been very lucky – We’re physically spaced out – This state is all about being outdoors and outdoor activities – We’ve had 10-15 cases a day for the last few days which is great – I for one am happy that I can travel somewhere and be safe- But again I’m coming from a safe place.

  18. They should control the virus first…Otherwise who want to go there to catch COVID??? Sounds like a bad place to go.

  19. The travel insurance is like $12/day. So, you spend three weeks, and you’re spending more than the cost of your flight just on the travel insurance. Imagine the expense for a couple or family. For most people, COVID-19 is an asymptomatic or extremely mild respiratory illness that is barely noticed. Countries, especially the developing countries imposing these absurd and expensive barriers to tourism, need to stop, or they’re not going to have any tourists at all.

  20. Honestly, I think the European Union should do something similar for travel to the EU. Allow those with driver’s licenses — or non-driver ID — to visit Europe, which would cover New York/New England and probably California soon. Maybe Florida, given the herd immunity situation emerging. As an airline shareholder, I’d love to see that, and I think it would also be good for trans-Atlantic relations. I have an EU passport, so I’m covered, but if Americans in states with bad SARS-CoV-2 situations want to travel to Europe, they should encourage their governors and fellow citizens to comply with sensible public health policies (i.e. allow the police to break up big house parties, masks indoors, etc.).

  21. As someone who lives and works in Costa Rica, I can say the government has had a very coherent, transparent, data-based approach to the pandemic from the outset. Daily news conferences are our lunch time ritual (7 days a week, without fail).

    As noted, we were in very, very good shape until around early July when cases and deaths began spiking. We are hoping we have peaked, and there’s some indication that may be true. In global terms, Costa Rica is still way down the list (in a good way) in both cases per capita and deaths per capita.

    Testing is focused almost entirely on symptomatic/sick, which accounts for the testing/positivity-rate discrepancy mentioned. We’re also severely lagging in certifying recovered patients, so the active case numbers are also off.

    As everywhere, pandemic fatigue is setting in, and the tourism industry is clamoring for opening (which will inevitably bring COVID spread). The government is trying to be cautious and pragmatic, and I applaud them. By Sept 1, borders will be open to travelers from Canada, UK, European Union, Japan , Thailand, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the 6 US states mentioned.

  22. @stogieguy7

    You are tired of the garbage – you, just like Trump don’t like FACTS.

    Stay on topic – TRAVEL.

    1) The virus entered the US from Europe not China.
    2) Trump did not ban European citizens until a month later.
    3) 95% of the world has CLOSED their borders to The USA.

  23. Global douchebaggery at it’s best. Some left wing chick came up with this, without the slightest scientific basis.

    Those are six states of which some have the absolute worst record.

    Maybe they are a big chunk of the typical clientele.

    It’s as random and stupid as most things about this virus.

  24. So many right wing lunatics seem to enjoy travel. Who knew? And also let me spell this out clearly for you GOP(Greed Over People) deniers: TRUMP AND THE GOP COMPLETELY MISHANDLED THIS VIRUS AND 1000 AMERICANS ARE PAYING FOR THIS DAILY WITH THEIR LIVES!

  25. I think most of Costa Rica’s regulation makes perfect sense, some details not so much: A risk based approach based where travelers have been to, but this should not be based on residency, but on where they spent the last 14 days. And yes, differentiating states makes perfect sense, since the situation is indeed different. A negative test result, but as pointed out by Ben within the 72 not 48 hours.

    I hope we can open the EU and the US (reciprocally) on a similar basis.

  26. @Andy Yes the whole where they were the last 14 day things sounds nice in theory, but we all know what would happen. Some Covidiot from a state where cases are out of control would just take a flight to a state where things are under control and then fly to Costa Rica and flat out lie about where they have been. At least by requiring documentation of residency in a state they can drastically cutdown on the liars. Not a perfect solution but pretty much the best they have to work with given that people can move between states freely here.

  27. We have a week booked end of January for the family.

    The Five flights a week could be an issue.

    The 48hr test is fine – both my daughters have been tested (PRC) after contact with positive individuals, test results next day.

    Which bodes well for a family trip to Alaska for a week next month (fast test turn around) requires PRC within 72hrs.

    The six states could be an issue – I do question criteria –

    Oregon has about 1M less people than CR has had fewer postive tests than CR but slightly higher number of deaths than CR.

  28. @James
    Your post is quite contradictory. You mention herd immunity in Florida but talk about other states with large numbers that should ban outdoor block parties, etc. Isn’t that the only way to quickly achieve herd immunity? When one looks at the graph of cases in the US it is obvious that the BLM protests caused a huge spike but not in those states that already had a large numbers of cases like New York. New York locked down much too late when the virus had already spread wide and far. I live in northern Mexico and our first cases were tracked to concerts in NYC.
    I can see how Costa Rica would prefer to only allow Americans from states with few active cases but if you’re going to require a test anyway I’m not so sure it makes that much difference.

  29. Very smart CR! I wish I could visit, but I am from a bad state! Let’s hope other countries allow this!

  30. The whole state thing would be hard to enforce. Say if I lived in NY for a year but my ID is still Florida or vice versa? May they don’t realize that there is free movement between our states?

  31. I live in Costa Rica in winter (their summer). I also read the news in Costa Rica everyday regarding the coronavirus. The country did a marvelous job in the beginning controlling the virus, but unfortunately due in large part to the influx of Nicaraguans entering the country to the north, the situation deteriorated. Like most countries, they are weighing the health risks as against the economic and psychological impacts. Certainly, not an easy challenge. I have many friends in the CR tourism industry who are and have gotten crushed, if not virtually starving now. Alternative employment is scarce, at best. So, it appears to me, this is a reasonable step in the right direction, albeit not perfect. My New Jersey driver’s license allows me access to a place that presumably is no more or less dangerous than where I live now, although traveling with people who tested negative in the last 48 hours, presumably masked, gives me solace. ( I might add for reasons already articulated, the specific state allowances seem a little silly although it does limit the number of arriving tourists). My ultimate destination in CR is in a provence with an extremely low rate of infection. Given all the circumstances, I feel reasonably confident and also am hopeful that the their local economy will get some kind of jump start and that people there can survive.

  32. Costa Rica is hardly “safe” compared to the US currently.

    Recent Costa Rica per capita COVID cases currently above the US avg, deaths below the US avg.

    per million, daily avg over the past week

    COVID Cases
    Costa Rica 192.7
    US 126.1

    COVID Deaths
    Costa Rica 2.09
    US 2.78

  33. “Tell that to Trump who’s second strong point is being divisive, the first being a liar”

    “you, just like Trump don’t like FACTS”

    “So many right wing LUNATICS seem to enjoy travel”

    So much for no comments “generally derogatory towards any individual or group”, not to mention “hurtful, or overly-personal”.

  34. How will Costa Rica check which state travelers are from? A passport doesn’t list your residence and if you leave your license at home there is no way for them to check your home state or am I missing something?

  35. I’m sorry folks, but this is the future for the time being. Other countries watched in absolute horror the complete lack of federal plan in the US and still no plan. This is why I keep telling everyone, NY will be fine long term. Our image internationally has been completely destroyed the last 4 years and governments and corporations looking to do business in America are going to look to states that have a science based plan and some sort of government that isn’t being run like a zoo. This constant open/close/open/close, people shooting others over a mask, put kids in school one week and then take them out abruptly later, etc is absolute chaos. NY and the northeast have strict measures now but companies can invest knowing there will be a stable business environment – no matter the rules. But people and companies can’t invest long term if they have no idea what the state is doing. Don’t be mad at CR for being proactive, be mad at your local state leaders. If this is successful, I see this being implemented with many other countries where they partner with states that meet their criteria. The federal government doing a complete hands off approach has left the United States a muddle mess of uncertainty and chaos and any state that is run by right-wing coocoo’s (not moderates leaning right but the crazy right) is going to be left behind from global recovery.

  36. Gotta love how poorly some of these recycled comments have aged. It ain’t over til it’s over, folks. FYI, there are currently 5 European countries ahead of the USA on per-capita covid deaths.

  37. Honestly I never heard such an outburst of whining when Trump disallowed New York residents from re-aplying for Global Entry. I applaud this decision because the states and DC listed here have made a concerted and effective effort to flatten the curve. Both residents and Government working together. For the rest of, just go to Florida.

  38. Aruba effectively *almost* does this too. While any U.S. citizen can travel there, those from higher-risk states have to have a negative PCR test within 72 hours of the last flight leg to AUA. Based on discussions I’ve seen on travel boards, that’s effectively impossible to do.

  39. The decision by the Costa Rican government does not make any sense. Since they require a negative Covid19 test, it should not make any difference from which state you are traveling from.
    I live permanently in Florida and have a German passport and can travel to Costa Rica based on this,
    On another note, it is sad to see that so many of you use this as a political platform!

  40. I live in Delaware. Here in this state, unlike NJ,NY,PA, MD & DC we had 0 positive cases of covid this weekend. That’s right, 0. But we aren’t on that list because we aren’t well known or important. These kinds of nonsensical requirements leave a bad taste in the mouths of many Americans like myself. This is one country, not 50 different countries

  41. Costa Rica is 123rd in the world as far as tests performed per million people. The US is 18th. They have 42k positive cases out of 150k tests. Very high positive rate. The US has tested far more than Costa Rica. They are at 3% of their population in tests and the US about 25%. So is cases are the barometer (and that seems to be the case with most people) they have barely touched the surfaces to see what they have present. If you don’t test (or test minimally) then you won’t have cases – bottom line.

  42. @Mayank

    Your state didn’t have 0 new cases over the weekend. This is simple to fact check. And the issue isn’t whether you had a low case count for 1 particular weekend, it’s your state’s per capita new case rate over a period of time. Delaware is hardly doing much better than the US average in that sense.

  43. Travel to Costa Rica anytime soon? No thanks, not until all the nonsensical restrictions and irrational fear surrounding COVID-19 are a distant memory.

    I think people underestimate the ease with which SARS-CoV-2 is able to spread, perhaps forgetting that it all started with just a single person. So, yes, let’s take ridiculously invasive and disruptive precautions to avoid getting the virus today…only to become infected anyway a few months down the road.

  44. I feel terrible for countries that depend heavily on tourism and often have no choice but open up their country so they can earn dollars/ euros. I hope this is a lesson for them that putting your most of your eggs on tourism basket isn’t the way to go. Invest in computer, science, engineering education is better in the long term. Hope they pull through this pandemic.

  45. @ David, I meant to say Delaware had 0 cases yesterday, and they average around about 20-60 per day which per capita is lower than half the states on this list. Either way, you can’t randomly decide which residents of which states can travel, it has to be all or nothing. This will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of many people who may have done all the right things this year except for the ill fate of their home address.

  46. Seriously is this a joke. Why would Costa Rica not allow me based on where I live in the US. This is ridiculous. It should probably test me before allowing me into the country. Anyway you are right Kevin depending on tourism as your only source of income is really bad economics. But then being in sports, hotels, restaurants business, schools, fitness and more also doesn’t seem to help in this pandemic situation.

  47. @JMM: you say “hope the state department clamps down on this travesty, fast.” Huh? That’s not how this works…Costa Rica can set whatever entrance requirements it wants. The State Department can’t “clamp down” other than by setting reciprocal or stricter polices for Costa Ricans entering the US.

    (the fact that this Costa Rican policy is stupid and unworkable is besides the point)

    @Lucky: you say “The requirement to get tested within 72 hours of travel is among the stricter policies we’re seeing” What? That policy is among the more common policies we are seeing.

  48. @JMM
    Then I would like the tax dollars back that you and your red state have taken from the federal pot. As a proud MA taxpayer I’m happy to subsidize your benefits but not your ignorance.
    Oh the irony…

  49. @Bob

    You are so right and if Costa Rica forced Americans to require a tourist visa like their citizens need to visit the US very few Americans would even bother to try and visit. Those of you complaining should be lucky you do not first have to fly to DC, stand in long lines, be interviewed for less than 90 seconds and in many cases be denied a visa, not given an explanation apart from a sheet of paper showing you have been denied under section 214b of the INA.

  50. Why worry about CR at all, if you can’t go from your state then don’t go. If you can from your state and you want to go then go. If it’s neither one of those then shut up. CR has their rules and that’s that, good or bad right or wrong it’s their choice get over it. I for one am trying to be safe and nice to all people from where ever they live or have lived, we all need to be safe and kind not worry about who did what and what country is right or wrong, it is about you doing the right thing as much as you can to try and control what you can, NOT WHAT OTHERS DO. As far as the politics go they are going to do what they do so lets not just be cattle to the slaughter by thinking they know what’s best just try to do your part to be safe in your country and your home and your life to help protect others. No matter what any movement may or may not say (ALL) lives matter and science tells us that large gathers is not good so don’t do it, it also says masks help so wear them, and it has been proven to show that travel outside the country should be avoided if possible, and the travel is controlled by those country’s by what ever means they prefer NOT YOU or your opinion of how they should do it. We all have the right to opinion’s but that is all it is (your opinion) just as this is mine, take care of you and yours, try to help others if you can ,be kind, be safe, spread happiness not corona-19, unless it is in a bottle of beer as a toast to living your life as kind safe and caring as you can.

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