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Central America entry requirements

A Country-by-Country Guide to the Central America Entry Requirements for Tourists

Immigration expert Brandon Miller offers a brief, country-by-country synopsis of the Central America entry requirements for tourists from the most “popular” countries. 

If you want a unique travel experience, consider visiting Central America. Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Guatemala, Belize, and Nicaragua all offer unforgettable adventures for travelers and potential immigrants/expats.

Central America boasts numerous archaeological sites, natural beauty, amazing beaches, and so much more. It’s an ideal destination for any traveler.

Before you can enter the region, though, it’s essential to be aware of the entry requirements for each country. This is especially important if you’re living in the region as a perpetual tourist, something many people do before applying for residency. This is a sensible; a “try before you buy” approach, if you will. Whatever kind of eventual residency you seek, whether it’s as a retiree, investor, or other kind, it makes sense to spend at least a few months as a tourist first, to determine whether you want to stay long-term or not.

The following entry requirements for Central America apply to travelers from the US, Canada, the EU, and the UK, with slight variations depending on your specific country of origin. If you hold a passport from elsewhere, consult the embassy of the country you plan to visit for specific entry requirements.

It’s important to note that all Central American countries aim to remain yellow fever-free. If you’re entering the region from a country on the World Health Organization’s yellow fever list, you must provide proof of vaccination against the disease.

Entry Requirements for Belize:

  • To enter Belize, your passport must be valid for the duration of your stay.
  • Initially, you’ll receive up to 30 days in-country. You can renew for an additional 30 days at $100 (US) per month for six months or apply for a Long Stay Permit at a cost of $500 per person, subject to specific conditions.
  • Upon entry, you may be asked for an onward ticket and proof of funds (approximately $75 per day).

Entry Requirements for Costa Rica:

  • Tourists from the mentioned countries can stay for up to 180 days, and the immigration officer will determine the duration.
  • If you plan to stay longer, you must exit and re-enter for another up-to-180-day stamp.
  • Foreign driving licenses are valid for 90 days only, requiring re-entry every 90 days.
  • A onward or return ticket is essential for entry into Costa Rica.

Entry Requirements for Honduras:

  • Your passport must be valid for at least three months from your entry date.
  • An onward or return ticket is necessary.
  • You can stay in Honduras for up to 90 days.
  • Honduras is part of the CA-4 group of countries (Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador), with shared 90-day limits. You cannot renew your tourist status by visiting another CA-4 country. Most people go to Belize to renew.

Entry Requirements for El Salvador:

  • You’ll receive up to 90 days visa-free and a one-time option to extend an additional 30 days at an immigration office.
  • A valid passport with a blank page is required.
  • You’ll pay $12 for a tourist card upon entry.
  • Renewing your tourist visa requires leaving and re-entering the CA-4 region.

Entry Requirements for Guatemala:

  • You’ll receive up to 90 days visa-free.
  • A valid passport for the time you’ll spend in the country.
  • Visa extension is possible, but leaving the country and returning is often more convenient (again, don’t leave for a fellow CA-4 country – go to Belize or Mexico).

Entry Requirements for Nicaragua:

  • Nicaragua offers 90 days upon entry.
  • You can extend by leaving and re-entering, often done in Costa Rica as it isn’t a CA-4 country.
  • Entry fees apply for air ($10) and land ($12) arrivals.
  • A valid passport with at least six months validity is required.
  • “Non-tourist” visitors (for example, volunteer groups) must pre-register online before arrival.

Entry Requirements for Panama:

  • Panama allows entry for up to 180 days without a visa.
  • After 180 days, you must leave the country for at least 30 days before returning.
  • Proof of onward travel and funds (at least $500) is required for entry.
  • Your passport must be valid for at least three months.
  • Like Costa Rica, Panama permits driving for 90 days with a foreign license.


Central America offers plenty of opportunities for adventure and exploration. If you’re planning for longer stays, though, you need to know the entry requirements for each country. We hope the above info offers some insight before you apply for residency.

Brandon Miller is a Canadian immigration consultant and the founder of Maple Immigration Services. He is married and lives in Toronto with his wife and two daughters.

Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller

Brandon Miller is a Canadian immigration consultant who re-settled in Canada with his family after traveling the world for over a decade. His traveling experience has given him a deeper understanding of the world and himself. Brandon is passionate about everything immigration and is the founder of Maple Immigration Services. He is married and lives in Toronto with his wife and two daughters.