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COVID-19 Test Costa Rica / Photo from Flickr courtesy of the Virginia National Guard

A Few Words About COVID-19 Testing to Enter Costa Rica

We’ve seen some confusion on social media over these past few days about the COVID-19 test requirements to enter Costa Rica. Let’s try to break it down and make it easy to know who exactly needs a test and who does not.

As is the norm with many of our Costa Rica articles, it was a post on social media that was the catalyst.

The Gringo Expats in Costa Rica Facebook group had a post where someone created a poll. The question in the poll was rather weird:

“Would you fly on a plane into CR KNOWING that there will be CR national/citizens on it that HAVE COVID-19 as they don’t require a negative COVID-19 test? (though at least they will have to self-quarantine)”

Aside from the basic question of how on earth could anyone KNOW that someone on the same plane as them has COVID-19, this poll question threw up a bunch of confusion over exactly who needs a test and who doesn’t.

The question itself conjures up an image of healthy foreigners and sickly Ticos mixing together on planes coming into Costa Rica. Maybe it’s clumsy wording. But it kind of implies that.

It also implies that the poster thinks its unfair for Costa Ricans to enter their own country without a COVID-19 test.

And many of the comments underneath the poll supported that implication.

But here’s the thing. Costa Ricans CANNOT be excluded from their own country. Not for any reason.    

This is why Costa Rican citizens don’t need to show proof of their yellow fever vaccination when returning from, say, Colombia and everyone else does. It is a Costa Rican citizen’s birthright to enter his or her country.

So, no, you can’t expect Costa Ricans have a negative COVID-19 test to get on a plane and enter their own country.

It’s the same with residents. Foreign residents in Costa Rica don’t need a COVID-19 test either. The Facebook post we’re talking about here had many people seemingly believing that it’s only Costa Ricans exempt from testing. 

Technically, residents and citizens have the same rights under the constitution, although it never entirely plays out that way. For example, with the yellow fever thing, residents need to show proof of vaccination the same as tourists do, while citizens don’t.

Now back to COVID-19 testing.

Here are the people who actually NEED a negative COVID-19 test to enter Costa Rica. Are you ready? It’s a large group…

Basically, everyone without citizenship or residency needs a negative COVID-19, taken 48-hours at most before they arrive. Who is “everyone”? Who does that include?

  1. Tourists (that means tourists in the traditional sense, coming to Costa Rica on vacation)
  2. Perpetual tourists (the same as tourists, but for the sake of this article, everyone in Costa Rica knows that many foreigners live here without residency – this is what we mean by perpetual tourists)
  3. Snowbirds (tourists who come here for a few months a years)
  4. People who’ve applied for residency, who are en tramite (if you’re waiting to receive your DIMEX card, you still count as a tourist)

Now here are the people who DON’T NEED a negative COVID-19 test to enter Costa Rica…

It’s a simple-enough-to-understand group of people. It’s people who live here in Costa Rica full-time, legally, paying into the Caja:

  1. Costa Rican citizens (both natural-born and naturalized)
  2. Foreign residents with a valid DIMEX card

If you have a cedula (a Costa Rican ID card) or a DIMEX (a Costa Rican ID card for foreign residents), you do not need to take a COVID-19 test before arriving in Costa Rica.

What you need instead is to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival. You’ll need to provide Immigration with an address and contact details and stay inside for two weeks. You can’t go out for a walk, or to the store, or anything like that. You’re in quarantine.

Citizens/residents caught breaking their quarantine can be fined or even jailed.

Back to the poll question in Gringo Expats in Costa Rica. What it should say, to avoid any confusion, is this:

“Would you fly on a plane into CR KNOWING that there will be CR national/citizens or foreign legal residents on it that may HAVE COVID-19 as they don’t require a negative COVID-19 test? (though at least they will have to self-quarantine)”

The more eagle-eyed among you might see that we added the word may in there, too. As we said, it’s impossible to KNOW that anyone will have COVID-19 on a plane or anywhere else. In fact, anyone who had a test 48 hours before arrival in Costa Rica could also have COVID-19. 

The whole point of this article is to say that it’s unfair to label Costa Ricans on planes coming back to their own country as potential “virus-carriers” because they haven’t had a COVID-19 test.

There could be plenty of legal residents on the same plane who also weren’t tested. That’s the rules and they’re fair.

Surely, one of the perks of jumping through all the hoops to get residency is that you don’t need to have an extra-long stick shoved up your nose before entering the country.

If you’re a tourist, it makes perfect sense to get the test. Most tourists come to Costa Rica for a week or two. So how on earth can we expect them to quarantine for a time longer than their vacation? That’s why they’re tested instead.

If you’re a citizen or resident, the assumption is you have a home. That’s why you’re quarantined. 

And remember, upon returning to their home countries, they’ll more than likely have to do the same two-week quarantine as well. They won’t need a negative COVID-19 test to enter their home countries any more than Costa Ricans do.

So please, the next time anyone feels afraid to be on the same plane as a Tico, pull yourself in. Any number of gringos sitting around you might well have no COVID-19 test results in their pocket either.

Remember this if we hear stories later on about untested people entering Costa Rica on today’s Lufthansa flight. If they’re not Ticos, they’re probably residents.


A Complete List of Who Can Visit Costa Rica as Tourists from August 1

James Dyde is the editor of He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.

James Dyde

James Dyde

James Dyde is a British immigrant to Costa Rica and the editor of this website. He has lived in Central America since 2000 and retains a deep love for the region. He lives in Escazu, Costa Rica.