Costa Rica

Pandemic Travel to Costa Rica

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Last Updated on November 9, 2022 by Carolyn

For updates on 2021 travel restrictions please visit this post.

Can We Go To Costa Rica Now?

Traveling in 2020 the year of the pandemic is a whole new kettle of fish. We have many questions: Will Costa Rica borders be open to Americans? Will flights be safe? What travel restrictions will be in effect?

The days are becoming shorter with the shadows growing lengthy by the middle of the afternoon. The Aspen trees are naked, their leaves having quickly turned golden and then in one windy night stripped from their limbs in a few large gusts. Snow has fallen and slowly melted, a stark warning that winter is just around the corner; it is time to head South to continue our Costa Rica adventure.

Our questions were answered at the end of August when Costa Rica announced that residents of Colorado could travel to Costa Rica albeit with a few restrictions such as a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of travel, completion of an epidemiological health pass online, and the requirement to purchase medical travel insurance that covered Covid-19 care.

In mid-October, Costa Rica announced that tourists would no longer be required to have a Covid-19 test prior to their arrival in the country. This was good and bad news for us: It certainly made travel planning a little less stressful, we no longer had to worry about having a Covid-19 test right before travel, and then praying that the results would be back before it was time to check-in, but it also was worrisome in that someone who was positive could be on the flight.

Flight Cancellations

I had hoped to use some travel credits we have with Southwest Airlines to pay for our return flight to Costa Rica, but disappointingly as of this time, Southwest hasn’t resumed flights to Costa Rica. This was a bit of a blow especially since we had planned to take advantage of Southwest’s liberal bag policy to bring down tools and household items that we need in Costa Rica. I opted to book on Spirit Airlines only to have that flight canceled within a few days. This didn’t bode well for our return. With our normal carriers out of the picture, we opted to book on United Airlines. I avoided luggage fees by applying for a United Explorer Visa Card which allows the cardholder and accompanying travel companion one free checked bag each, and a carry-on for the cardholder. Our flights cost $217 each, one way.

Costa Rica Health Pass and Health Insurance

On the Saturday before our travel, we purchased medical travel insurance via Trawick International which proved very reasonably priced. I opted to buy coverage through the end of March even though I’m planning on returning before Christmas since I do plan on a return trip in February, and buying one policy was cheaper than buying two separate policies for shorter periods. We’ll see in the future how that works out. Sunday morning within the required 48 hours of travel I completed the Costa Rica epidemiological questionnaire which proved to be surprisingly simple (and in English!). I uploaded a copy of my health insurance and waited with bated breath to see if I’d receive the coveted QR code required for travel. Happily, I pressed “submit” and within a minute the QR code was displayed. Yes, success! I downloaded the QR in .pdf form and also printed out a hard copy as I’d heard that some airlines were requiring paper copies.

QR code


Packing for our flight proved to be quite a challenge. We brought with us lots of power tools, but trying to pack them in our three allowed bags and staying within the allowed weight of 50# per checked bag was quite a juggling act. Finally, on Monday night we headed for the airport. We were unable to check-in early via the United Airlines app due to the need for the Airline to verify that we had our QR code, so we had to wait for the United Airlines counter to open in the wee hours of the morning. The airport was very empty and masks were being worn by everyone, with just a few nose danglers visible.

We checked in at 3:00 am and our baggage weighed in at just under 50# a bag so all was good on that front, and then we headed for security. One good thing about flying in the early mornings hours is that there was nary a line to be seen. Of course, our carry-on bag was flagged by security, but unbeknownst to us, we weren’t allowed to fly with cordless power tools (we thought you could as long as the battery and the unit were packed separately). So Wally had to return to the United counter and check that bag ( Thankfully they didn’t weigh that one as it was definitely overweight)!

We soon boarded and had an uneventful flight to Houston. The plane was almost full, with no empty middle seats. We were rather annoyed to have a nose dangler sit beside us, and more annoyingly the man in the seat in front of us didn’t wear a mask for the whole flight. He opened a pack of peanuts and every time a flight attendant would pass by would pop one into his mouth so they’d let him off the hook as he was eating.

We had a quick connection in Houston but were only a few gates down from where we arrived. The United employees once more needed to look at our QR codes before allowing us to board. This plane was probably only at about 40% capacity, and happily, no one was seated beside us.

There were torrential downpours in the area when we approached Juan Santamaria airport to land (remnants from hurricane ETA which had just passed through Nicaragua). We circled round and round for about half an hour before we were cleared to land. Understandably it was a bit of a rough landing but we landed safely and at approximately 2:00 pm we were on Costa Rica soil!

Arriving in Costa Rica

Costa Rica certainly seems to be taking Covid-19 seriously, before we passed into the immigration line there was a gentleman scanning everyone’s temperature. We were also glad to see that the Costa Rica immigration was set up in such a fashion that it enabled 6 feet social distancing. The lines weren’t very long, but it did take longer to clear each person. We had to show proof of our return flight, proof of insurance as well as the QR code once more. We were on pins and needles hoping there’d be known unforeseen issues and were relieved when the immigration officer reached for his stamp and stamped our passports. It’s worth noting that our passport visa stamp was dated only to our return flight date (in my case 50 days) not the customary 90 days.

And that’s it we were through, we retrieved our baggage, went through the final security check, and then we were on our way.

Was traveling in the midst of a pandemic a lot of hassle? Not really. Did we feel safe? For the most part. We carried ample hand sanitizer and used it regularly wiping down the luggage cart and when onboard our seat area, and we wore our masks for the entire flight.


Health Insurance: Trawick International

Costa Rica health form: To be completed within 48 hours of departure: Health Pass CR

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