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Traveling to Costa Rica During the Pandemic

Costa Rica Pride in San Jose 2018

Editor's note: Coronavirus cases are in flux across the globe. Health officials caution that staying home is the best way to stem transmission until you're fully vaccinated. Below is information on what to know if you still plan to travel, last updated on August 5.

(CNN) -- If you're planning to travel to Costa Rica, here's what you'll need to know and expect if you want to visit during the global coronavirus pandemic.

The basics

Costa Rica was one of the first countries to open back up for tourism, which it did in November 2020. Around 1 million travelers visited the country in 2021 -- back to almost 70% of pre-pandemic levels.

However, the Delta variant hit the country hard in 2021, with hospitals "dangerously full" at the peak, and Costa Rica ending high up on the board of the most new cases globally. Cases then dropped to some of the lowest levels seen in months, but are currently at an all-time high because of the Omicron variant.

On January 24, the US CDC moved Costa Rica to its Level 4 risk -- or "do not travel" list. However, with the CDC revising its listings, Costa Rica is now classified as Level 3, classed as high risk.

Since March 2022, the country has been implementing a "responsible and gradual opening," as restrictions begin to relax.

The government says that Costa Rica has one of the lowest death rates per million of population in the world.

What's on offer

Costa Rica is known for its "pura vida" (pure life), and, pandemic aside, the vida is still pura here. This is a country for nature lovers, with both a Caribbean and Pacific coast, and jungle covering about a quarter of the country.

Whether you're here for the cloud forests, the volcanoes or the incredible nature and wildlife, your shoulders will definitely drop a few inches.

Most visitors pass through capital San José as a mere routing point, but it's a beautiful city, with stunning architecture, public art and museums.

Who can go

Everyone. Costa Rica opened back up -- even for tourism -- on November 1, 2020. However, there are of course restrictions. And standard visa regulations still apply.

Since January 2022, many activities are restricted to those who've been vaccinated. Although entry rules aren't set to change, restrictions on the ground will make it less attractive for the unvaccinated. You now cannot enter a hotel, restaurant, bar or museum without proof of vaccination.

In August, Costa Rica's president signed a law that allows "digital nomads" to remain in the country for up to two years. To qualify, individuals must earn at least $3,000 a year, and families must make at least $5,000. Benefits include the ability to open a Costa Rican bank account and their local US driver's licenses being honored locally.

What are the restrictions?

There's no need for a negative Covid-19 PCR test result as there was initially, and the country dropped the requirement of filling out a Health Pass before arrival on March 1.

The requirement for non-vaccinated arrivals to have travel insurance covering Covid-19 treatment was dropped on April 1. Free vaccinations are now on offer to tourists at San Jose's airport, if they so wish.

Residents and Costa Rican nationals may be subject to self-isolation on arrival.

The land borders, which had been closed to nonresidents, reopened April 2020 to visitors not needing a visa.

American Airlines launched flights from Chicago and Austin to San Jose on November 2, 2021. Avianca launched flights from Cancún on December 2. British Airways returned after a pandemic break on December 15.

What can visitors expect?

All commercial spaces -- whether restaurants, bars or entertainment venues -- can now operate at full capacity.

There is some confusion around face masks. A recent government ruling suggests they are no longer mandatory, but local media reports that individual business can still mandate the use of masks on their premises. The UK government states that masks are mandatory at health establishments such as doctor's surgeries and hospitals, while private businesses can require you wear one, too.

Over 1 million cases have been registered as of August 5, with 8,740 deaths.

Useful links

Visit Costa Rica

CNE

The Tico Times

Additional coverage

Back in August, Costa Rica was one of the first countries to allow Americans in, opening to visitors from six US states. Or read about this reforestation project for the great green macaws. Ready to book? Check out what to do in San José.

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