Traveling can be stressful, particularly so if you’re travel-weary, and just arrived in a foreign country. Fortunately, for most visitors, getting through immigration and customs in Costa Rica is a relatively pain-free experience. Even so, below are some tips to help you breeze through the San Jose airport and on your way to Pura Vida.

Visitors from the United States, Canada and most other countries are not required to obtain a visa to visit Costa Rica. However their stay is limited to 180 consecutive days.

There is only one immigration area in the San Jose airport. For visitors, the lines are located to the right, and citizens are on the left. When you are called forward by the immigration agent, in addition to your passport, they will typically ask for two things:

  1. Proof of a return ticket. They want to make sure you won’t be overstaying the 180 days.
  2. The name of the hotel or location of where you’ll be staying.

For both of these items, I’ve found that taking a screenshot on my phone of the reservations was sufficient for the immigration agent. By taking the screenshots right before I left the United States, it meant that the photos were the very first ones in my phone gallery so they were easy to find (this matters if you’ve had a long travel day) and this was especially important on my first trip to Costa Rica when I realized that my cell phone plan wasn’t working. This meant if I hadn’t taken a screenshot, I would have been unable to pull up my return flight and accommodations.

In addition to taking screenshots of your return ticket and accommodations, it’s always a good idea to take a photo of your passport too.

Once you’re through immigration and have collected your newest passport stamp, you will pass by the baggage claim and then you’ll need to go through customs. These are four X-ray machines that will check your luggage. With how the lines to the X-ray machine are organized, the first and farthest right line is always more crowded than the lines to the left, so I usually try to get into a left line as soon as I can. Sometimes the time difference is significant, other times it’s about the same.

Now that you’re through customs, congratulations, as you’re just about there. Once you exit the airport head to the right where you’ll be met with many people offering shuttles and rides. If you’ve booked with us and have requested an airport pick-up, our driver will be waiting for you with your name or group name on a sheet of paper. They’ll take it from here!