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What to Know About Costa Rica & COVID-19

Written by Marisol

Coronavirus – COVID-19. The virus that was declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020 by the World Health Organization has rapidly reached all corners of the world, including Costa Rica.

On March 6, 2020, Costa Rica confirmed their first case of COVID-19. It was an imported case by an American woman who had previously visited Italy and Tunisia before entering Costa Rica on February 29th, 2020. On March 7, 2020, Costa Rica had a total of 5 confirmed cases.

Here is what you need to know about the Costa Rica coronavirus situation.

Costa Rica COVID-19 Confirmed Cases

As of March 1, 2021, Costa Rica has 205,086 cases of COVID-19 (37,167 of those are Por Nexo). Por Nexo is Costa Rica’s method of counting cases without a test. They count people as confirmed cases if a person living in the same household of someone else who has tested positive starts experiencing symptoms.

  • 180 new cases today, 34 of those are Por Nexo
  • 2812 fatalities
  • 1763 fatalities were men and 1049 were woman, ages 2 – 101
  • 253 people hospitalized, 145 of those in ICU
  • 20,423 active cases
  • 181,851 recovered
  • 25,313 foreigners and 179,773 Costa Ricans
  • Age range of a newborn baby to 101 years of total cases
  • The first fatality was on March 18, 2020

On December 15th, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination. Seniors that live in nursing homes and first responders received the first vaccine on December 24th. At the end of February, Costa Rica will receive another shipment of the Pfizer vaccine.

Costa Rica Travel Restrictions

Costa Rica closed their borders on March 18, 2020. The Costa Rican border opened on August 1, 2020 at 11:59 PM via air only.

On November 1, 2020, Costa Rica opened the border to all countries in the world via air. 

Costa Rica Coronavirus Requirements to Enter the Country for Tourists

Please read our Costa Rica COVID-19 Travel to read Samantha’s personal experience flying into Costa Rica as a tourist. You can also find out what’s open, what’s closed, restrictions, etc.

Costa Rica requires every visitor to complete an epidemiological survey and purchase a travel insurance that will cover medical care for acute illness and accommodation in case of quarantine.

Additionally, all tourists must follow all sanitary measures for the airport and in the country including mask wearing, hand washing and social distancing.

Tourists do not need to do a 14 day quarantine after arriving in Costa Rica.

As of the moment, Costa Rica is not requiring tourists to get vaccinated. Likewise, the travel insurance requirement is not removed for those who have been vaccinated.*

**As of October 26th, Costa Rica NO longer requires the 72 hour COVID-19 test result for tourists. This requirement has been removed. **

Health Pass Survey

The health pass survey is required for all tourists. It has to be filled out 48 hours before flight and you will be given a QR code which you will scan at immigration.

Negative COVID-19 test

This requirement has been removed as of October 26th.

Insurance

Requirements: The travel insurance must cover a minimum of $50,000 USD for medical expenses in cases of COVID-19 in Costa Rica and a minimum of $2,000 USD for extended lodging expenses due to the pandemic.

Tourists have two options for international travel insurance.

  1. They may purchase a travel insurance policy from INS or Sagicor, two insurances approved by the General Superintendence of Insurance (SUGESE) that covers hospitalizations in a hospital for required time and a minimum of 14 days of lodging.
    1. INS and Sagicor are pre-approved insurance policies and are guaranteed to be accepted.
  2. They may use their own international travel insurance as long as it fulfills the requirements.

For Those Who Plan to Visit…

If you plan to travel to Costa Rica when the border is open again, please check the recommendations for international travel of your home country. Be respectful of all laws, regulations and rules Costa Rica has put in place whether you agree with it or not as you are a guest in the country. It is a privilege to travel during the pandemic, not a right and you have to be a responsible traveler to protect yourself and others.

Rescheduling Your Trip

If you had to reschedule your trip but not sure for when, the following posts will help you decide.

Orange Alert areas

Currently, Costa Rica is classifying areas as Orange or Yellow Alert areas according to the number of confirmed cases. Orange Alert are areas with an increase number of confirmed cases.

Orange Alert Areas are the following cantons:

  • San José: Santa Ana and Tarrazu
  • Puntarenas: Corredores, Coto Brus, Garabito, Golfito, Parrita and Quepos
  • Heredia: Flores
  • Alajuela: Grecia, Los Chiles, Orotina, Sarapiqui, Sarchi
  • Cartago: Turrialba
  • Limón: Guacimo, Matina, Limón, Talamanca and Siquirres
  • Guanacaste: None

Everywhere else is under Yellow Alert.

Costa Rica Coronavirus Driving Restrictions

As of March 1, 2021, the nationawide driving restrictions have been removed. The only restrictions are the one below. These are the exact same driving restrictions that have been in place in downtown San Jose for years before the COVID-19 pandemic, so we are now back to “normal” when it comes to license plate driving restrictions.

Driving is permitted 5 AM to 11 PM every day of the week.

7 days a week: the following driving restrictions only apply to downtown San Jose. Rental cars are exempt.

  • Monday – Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 1 and 2 can’t drive.
  • Tuesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 3 and 4 can’t drive.
  • Wednesday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 5 and 6 can’t drive.
  • Thursday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 7 and 8 can’t drive.
  • Friday: Vehicles with last license plate digit ending in 9 and 0 can’t drive.

Costa Rica Coronavirus Cases Locations

See the map here.

There are confirmed coronavirus cases in all seven provinces in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica has a population of roughly 5.09 million.

Costa Rica Coronavirus Timeline

  • The first confirmed coronavirus case in Costa Rica was on March 6, 2020.
  • Costa Rica declared a state of emergency on March 16, 2020.
  • The first coronavirus fatality was on March 18th.
  • On March 18, 2020, Costa Rica closed their borders to all foreigners, applying to land, sea and air. Only citizens and residents were allowed to enter.
  • On August 2, 2020, Costa Rica opened their international borders via air to certain authorized countries.
  • On November 1, 2020, Costa Rica opened their international borders via to all countries in the world.
  • Costa Rica created a hospital called CEACO specifically for COVID-19 patients a couple weeks after the first confirmed case.

Is There a Lockdown or Mandatory Quarantine in Costa Rica?

No. Since the beginning, there has never been a country wide lock down in Costa Rica. Costa Rica can’t put something like that in place so the government implements driving restrictions, closures and sanitary measures instead. They also stressed the importance of staying at home and social distancing in the beginning.

Police will give tickets for breaking any sanitary restriction.

Since November, Costa Rica has operated like normal, pretty much before the pandemic except for the few regulations put in place such as masks indoors and maximum capacity limits.

Where to Get Information About Coronavirus in Costa Rica

The government gives a press conferences on Tuesdays, reporting the number of confirmed cases and new updates.

Please check the Ministerio de Salud’s (ministry of health) website for the latest up to date information about coronavirus in Costa Rica. They have also created a website specifically for COVID-19 in Costa Rica (covid19.go.cr). For news updates and reports in English, check Tico TImes.

We also update this post frequently to reflect new major changes and statistics.

Do You Need to Wear a Mask in Costa Rica?

Yes. Costa Rica requires masks for the general public when inside closed spaces (except at home or in hotel room), in supermarkets, convenience stores, stores, airports, public buses, shuttles, trains, theaters, movie theaters, churches, banks, offices and for all public and commercial workers. You also need to wear a mask inside public buses, taxis and at the bus stop.

Likewise, establishments may prohibit anyone from entering if not wearing a masks. You don’t have to wear a mask when walking outside on the street as long as you are 1.8 meters (6 feet) apart from other people but if you are waiting at a bus stop, you do need to wear a mask.

This applies to everyone in Costa Rica, tourist or local.

Face shields are no longer accepted as the only form for indoor protection. If a face shield is worn, a mask must also be worn.

What It’s Been Like Where We Live (Tamarindo area)

Tamarindo is pretty much like normal now and has been since around September or so since restrictions were lifted. Since the border became completely open in November, we’ve definitely noticed a great increase of tourists, both local and foreign.

Costa Rica coronavirus - Tamarindo in November 2020
Tamarindo November 2020 on a weekday

Nowadays, it’s packed in Tamarindo on the weekends. It is not quite as busy as December and January since school is back in session but weekends are very busy.

A lot of tourists go to Tamarindo since it’s a popular tourist town and to be honest, it’s quite COVID lax. We see places with 100% maximum capacity with full indoor and outdoor dining all right next to each other, tourists not keeping to their social bubbles, no masks for tourists and employees not wearing masks correctly.

There’s also quite a bit of nightlife going on such as beach parties, live music, etc. so Tamarindo is definitely very lively and has a lot going on.

The businesses owned by Costa Ricans in Villarreal, the small town outside Tamarindo are better about it though. They are more vigilant about wearing masks correctly and spacing out tables/spaces.

We still don’t go into town that much. We surf at Tamarindo and sometimes walk our dogs on the beach, but we don’t really go out anyways since we’re not party people and not have been.

We prefer to stay at home, barbecue, surf, walk the dogs, visit more hidden beaches and cook at home. And hang out with friends and family in small groups.

We have started doing our own camping and doggie trips instead, finding more local, off the beaten path places to visit. That has become our preferred way to travel and we’re trying to find the best places to go and things to do for tourists who are interested in the same to publish on the blog.

So we’ve outfitted our truck for overlanding and are exploring more off the beaten path destinations. If you’d like to follow along our adventures, follow our Facebook and Instagram to see photos and videos of our travels in Costa Rica!

Let’s All Do Our Part to Stay Safe and Healthy

Wherever you are in the world, let’s all do our part to stay safe and healthy. We hope to see you in Costa Rica soon though and we greatly appreciate everyone who has rescheduled their trip.




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