Although we are still deep in pandemic times around the world, borders have opened for travel to Costa Rica and people are flying in. There is much precaution being taken but Costa Rica, amongst other tourism-dependent nations, has chosen to reopen borders to help their struggling economy. Cases continue to plateau, remaining concentrated around the greater metropolitan area of San Jose. And those who are not afraid to travel to Costa Rica are taking their chances in the hopes of a much-needed getaway in our quiet corner of the world called the Southern Zone.
What you need before traveling to Costa Rica in November-December 2020
1) Buy travel insurance. You need $50,000 medical, $2000 housing budget in case of quarantine, and Covid-19 must be covered.
2) 48 hours before your trip, fill out the ‘Pase de Salud’ Costa Rican Health Pass. It takes 5 minutes and you will need to upload your insurance policy information. That day or next they will tell you if you need anything else. When you finish applying for your health pass, you will be sent a black QR code. Once your insurance policy is verified to have the correct coverage, you be sent another QR code (now green) which means your policy is acceptable.
3) If your QR code is green, you still may or may not be asked to show insurance at your departure airport so have it printed or saved in your phone just in case. If your QR code is black, you will definitely be expected to show more information about your insurance policy. It is best to get the green QR code before arriving.
Landing in Costa Rica
Those traveling to Costa Rica in November 2020 are reporting that customs are quick and easy with the smaller amount of flights arriving. Airplanes landing at SJO are well-spaced out to avoid a sudden rush of people arriving at the airport.
It is rare that those arriving in Costa Rica have to line up for very long before getting through customs. But if you are worried about landing at a busy airport, check the SJO website before booking your flight so that you can see what other flights are scheduled to arrive around the same time as your planned flight. There are times of the week when multiple planes arrive in close succession and clients have reported some wait times, even for residents of Costa Rica, as well as being asked for their passports, not only cedulas.
Customs agents will ask to check your passport and insurance information multiple times so it helps to keep it handy to speed up the process for everyone. Americans, Canadians and Europeans arriving in Costa Rica are reporting short wait times and very little hassle with customs—as long as all of their paperwork is in order.
Tips for ensuring a smooth customs process
1) The insurance verification process may include questions about what your policy specifically covers.
2) If you received a green QR code, you will likely have a quick and effortless customs process.
3) When you submit the ‘Pase de Salud’ (Health Pass), it will only let you upload one document. Once they email you your black QR code, you can email them back whatever else you want to show, such as a list of what your plan covers, to aid in your process of obtaining the green QR code.
4) You don’t need to buy expensive insurance unless you prefer their policy. Your at-home insurance provider can give you a letter saying they cover Covid-related illness.
5) Some insurance plans do not have accommodations coverage. However, some clients have reported that they had a Costa Rican local sign, date, put their address on, and send a copy of the front and back of their government ID showing that they would allow you to quarantine in their home should the need arise.
6) Almost all insurances are refundable within 15 days of purchase. If by chance you don’t get the green cod,e you can always return that one and buy another. This is all easy to do online and people are reporting that it takes about 5 minutes to accomplish.
7) Read between the lines on policy. Some policies not use “ housing” as a stated benefit. They instead show that they cover “trip interruption” and quarantine should it be ordered by a doctor.
8) Some people collate their insurance coverage proof as screenshots pasted together on one page and upload that to the Ministry of Health’s website when applying for their health pass.
9) Have a screenshot or print-out of your QR code that has your name on it as well.
10) Be prepared to show your QR code at your departure airport as well as on arrival in Costa Rica.
How to purchase insurance and which type to get
Purchasing insurance is an easy process. Choosing your provider is the more involved part. Get onto their website and pay by credit card. It is best for travelers to verify their international policy information information before flying through Costa Rica by making sure that they get a green QR code from their Health Pass entry. If not, they will have to go through a special desk at customs where they will have to prove that their policy meets Costa Rica’s minimum pandemic insurance coverage.
Americans are choosing Travelex and Trawick International for inexpensive options. Travelex and Trawick International have recently changed their policy and now include coverage for accommodations, treating Covid-19 like any other disease in their policy. Purchasing through Travelex, retired couples are paying around $180 for 7 months and singles around 50 years old using Trawick International are paying around $60 for 6 months.
Canadians are using insurance providers like Blue Cross Blue Shield or Sun Life, which are of the few providers that offer $3000 CND of accommodations—enough to cover the requirement. This Covid-acceptable policy is about $60 CND for 3 weeks. Some Canadians are however reporting that they are only able to find more expensive policies—around $150 for two weeks. It is worth investigating to try to find a less expensive provider if you are staying for a longer duration.
The two local Costa Rican insurance options are INS and Sagicor. Both of these providers are able to meet the minimum requirements. Local providers cost about $11 per day and international providers are just over a dollar per day or less if you are getting a longer coverage period.
The above guidelines are based on the personal experiences of our clients visiting during the month of November 2020 and is not official information. Please confirm all details with your country’s embassy in Costa Rica:
Canadian Embassy to Costa Rica
Óscar Suárez Acosta
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