Travel Information for Costa Rica
Citizens of most nations are required to have a passport that is valid for at least 30 days beyond the date of your arrival in Costa Rica. (See the Costa Rica Embassy website for specifics.) When you arrive, your passport will be stamped. The law requires
that you carry your passport at all times during your stay in Costa Rica.
Entering the country
A few people arrive in Costa Rica by sea, either on fishing or scuba charters or as part of a brief stop on a cruise. Others travel in by bus from neighboring countries. But the vast majority of travelers land at the airport in San José, with a growing number
arriving in Liberia.
Entering Costa Rica is usually hassle-free (with the exception of some long queues). There are no fees or taxes payable on entering the country, though some foreign nationals will require a visa. Be aware that those who need visas cannot get them at the
International flights arrive at Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría, 17km northwest of San José, in the town of Alajuela. For several years Daniel Oduber airport in Liberia has received international flights. American Airlines, Continental and Delta
fly into Liberia from the USA and recently several other international airlines have started to offer flights in and out of this airport, including some flights direct from Europe (eliminating the layover in Miami or Dallas). Daniel Oduber airport is convenient
for travelers visiting the Península de Nicoya.
Costa Rica is well connected by air to other Central and Latin American countries, as well as the USA. The national airline, Lacsa (part of the Central American Airline consortium Grupo TACA), flies to numerous points in the USA and Latin America, including
Cuba. The Federal Aviation Administration in the USA has assessed Costa Rica’s aviation authorities to be in compliance with international safety standards.
Travelers officially need a ticket out of Costa Rica before they are allowed to enter, but the rules are enforced erratically. Those arriving by land can generally meet this requirement by purchasing an outward ticket from the TICA bus company, which has
offices in Managua (Nicaragua) and Panama City.
To get to most regions, you have to start from San José, which is the hub of public transport. It is often easier to go to one region and then return to San José to find transportation to another area. However depending on what part of the country you are
in there are some local hubs you can travel to get to another city in that same region.
The majority of Costa Ricans do not own cars. Therefore, public transportation is quite good and you can get buses to almost any part of the country. Remote or small towns may be served by only one bus a day, but you can get there. Keep in mind that even
though these buses may seem to run on a relaxed schedule they do leave on time to the minute and they will leave you behind even if you bought a ticket in advance.
Car rental is popular because a car can get you places you can’t get to by public transportation. It also gives you the freedom to travel when you want and to stop wherever you like. Because buses to remote areas are not very frequent, you can cover more
ground in a shorter time with a car. However driving at night especially on mountain roads is quite hazardous, due to large trucks on small roads with a lot of blind corners, and I do not suggest doing this unless absolutely necessary.
The other alternative is flying. This is a great time saver if you have the extra money and don’t necessarily need a car at your final destination. Some of the internal carriers, either Sansa or Nature Air, do offer packages where you can have unlimited
flights for one or two weeks for one flat price. There are about 15 or so airstrips that these airlines fly to and traveling to a remote part of the country it is much better to fly than to drive or endure the 8 – 12 hour bus ride. Depending on where you are
staying you can arrange for a private chartered flight to other more remote airstrips, check with the lodge you are going to stay at for more info.
All the International flights leave from either Aeropuerto Internacional Juan Santamaría close to San Jose or Daniel Oduber Airport in Liberia. Everybody that leaves the country needs to pay a departure tax of $28. You can pay this at the bank at the airport
or, to save time, at every bank in Costa Rica.