Severity: Critical Alert

Exit/Entry: Authorities in Costa Rica amend international travel restrictions for US travelers as of Sept. 16.

Alert Begins 16 Sep 2020 09:39 PM UTC
Alert Expires 30 Sep 2020 11:59 PM UTC


  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Nationwide (map)
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Travel and business disruptions

As of Sept. 16, authorities in Costa Rica amended international travel restrictions for US travelers in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Under the new directives, US travelers are now required to complete an online health declaration form prior to arrival, and have proof of purchased health insurance and accommodation in Costa Rica in case of quarantine and medical expenses. A negative COVID-19 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test result taken within 72 hours prior to arrival is still required. Residents from the state of California will be allowed to enter the country starting Oct. 1. Face coverings while traveling are required at all times.

Foreign travelers from select countries are allowed to travel to Costa Rica and must have tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours prior to arrival. Travelers from the US states of Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Virginia, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Michigan and Rhode Island are permitted to travel to Costa Rica. Flights are limited. Travel from all other parts of the US will remain banned until further notice. Nonresident foreign nationals from EU countries, Canada, and the UK are permitted to enter Costa Rica via the country's air, maritime, or land borders. Costa Rican citizens and legal residents will be allowed to enter the country but must self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Air, ground, and maritime freight transport and humanitarian operations are not affected by these restrictions.

The Costa Rican government continues to use a four-stage, color-coded alert system based on local disease activity to track COVID-19 risk and manage restrictions in cantons and districts nationwide. The system consists of four levels: green (low risk), yellow (moderate risk), orange (high risk), and red (extreme risk). Since Sept. 9, all cantons in Costa Rica fall under either the yellow or orange classification. No cantons have received the green or red designations. Specific measures vary by location and intensity based on local disease activity. Given their lower incidence of disease activity, yellow zones have fewer movement and business restrictions than orange zones.

Residents of cantons classified as orange and yellow zones may use private vehicles 0500-2200 Monday-Friday and 0500-2000 Saturday-Sunday. Additionally, individuals driving in orange zones are prohibited from driving on certain days of the week, depending on the last digit of the vehicle's license plate number:


  • Monday: 1 and 2


  • Tuesday: 3 and 4


  • Wednesday: 5 and 6


  • Thursday: 7 and 8


  • Friday: 9 and 0


  • Saturday: 0, 2, 4, 6, 8


  • Sunday: 1, 3, 5, 7, 9


The following cantons are orange zones; however, changes to the classification of cantons are possible short notice:


  • Province of San Jose: Alajuelita, parts of Desamparados, Goicoechea, Mora, Tibas, San Jose, Santa Ana, Coronado, and Acosta


  • Province of Alajuela: Parts of Alajuela, and Naranjo, Rio Cuarto, Pital


  • Province of Heredia: Flores, parts of Heredia, San Pablo, Barva, and Santo Domingo


  • Province of Cartago: La Union and Oreamuno


  • Province of Puntarenas: Garabito, Montes de Oro, and parts of Osa


  • Province of Limon: Limon


The rest of the country is classified as yellow zones.

Nonessential businesses can operate nationwide, though some businesses can only operate under strict capacity limits. Restaurants, gyms, and retail stores can operate at 50-percent capacity. Places of worship can conduct services with a maximum of 125 people. Businesses that obtain health sanitary permits from the government may operate Monday through Friday 0500-2200 and 0500-2000 Saturday-Sunday. Lodging businesses can operate without capacity limits. Bars, nightclubs, and casinos must remain closed.

Nationwide, all persons must wear protective face coverings that cover the nose and mouth while in indoor public areas and while using public transportation. Restaurants may continue delivery and pickup services. All businesses may operate with employees working from home.

Authorities could reimpose, extend, further ease, or otherwise amend any restrictions with little-to-no notice depending on disease activity over the coming weeks.

Background and Analysis
The restrictions enforced by the Costa Rican government are similar to actions taken by other governments globally in response to the spread of COVID-19, a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

Back to the COVID-19 Risk Intelligence & Resource Center