Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Costa Rica: entry and exit requirements

A valid passport is required to enter Costa Rica. At the discretion of Costa Rican authorities, travelers are routinely admitted with a certified copy of their U.S. birth certificate and a valid photo identification.

The requirements to enter Costa Rica depend on your country of nationality. Generally, citizens of the United States, Canada and European Union countries do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica. With their passport, they can enter Costa Rica and remain in the country for up to a maximum of 90 days. Here is the full list of countries and the corresponding Visa requirements: Costa Rica Visa Requirement List

Depending on your nationality, you may or may not be required to apply for a visa prior to entering Costa Rica. The list breaks down the countries as follows:
Group I - No visa required and up to 90-day stay
Group II - No Visa required and up to 30-day stay
Group III - Visa Required and up to a 30-day stay
Group IV - Restricted Visas - may only enter with pre-approved visa

Extension of legal stay beyond that time requires application to the Costa Rican Department of Migration. Tourists who have overstayed their 90-day limit without receiving a formal extension can expect to be fined at the airport as they depart the country. Those who have overstayed repeatedly, or have overstayed and wish to depart Costa Rica by land, must pay a fine to migration authorities in San Jose before departure. There is a departure tax for short-term visitors.

Minors born in Costa Rica, even if they are citizens of other countries traveling on passports of those other countries, are considered to be citizens of Costa Rica. They are thus required by Costa Rican officials to comply with all laws regarding the international travel of Costa Rican minors. Parents of children born in Costa Rica are encouraged to consult with the Costa Rican Embassy or consulate about entry and exit requirements before initiating travel.

Source: Costa Rica Law.com

Getting around in Costa Rica

San Jose is the main transportation hub, and there are buses from here to most parts of the country.

The system can sometimes be a bit chaotic and buses are not that comfortable, but fares are generally cheap.

Taxis (pictured) are considered a viable form of public transportation for long journeys, and can be hired by the day, half-day or hour. Cars and motorbikes can also be rented in San Jose.

Taking the Bus
This is by far the most economical way to get around Costa Rica. Buses are inexpensive and relatively well maintained, and they go nearly everywhere. There are two types: Local buses are the cheapest and slowest; they stop frequently and are generally a bit dilapidated. Express buses run between San Jose and most beach towns and major cities; these tend to be newer units and more comfortable, although very few are so new or modern as to have bathroom facilities, and they sometimes operate only on weekends and holidays.

Two companies run regular, fixed schedule departures in passenger vans and small buses to most of the major tourist destinations in the country. Gray Line (tel. 220-2126; www.graylinecostarica.com), run by Fantasy Tours, charges between $21 and $38, depending on your final destination.

They have about 10 departures leaving San Jose each morning and heading or connecting to Jacó, Manuel Antonio, Liberia, Playa Hermosa, La Fortuna, Tamarindo, and playas Conchal and Flamingo. There are return trips to San Jose every day from these destinations and a variety of interconnecting routes.

A similar service, Interbus (tel. 283-5573; www.costaricapass.com), runs a sliding scale according to destination, with fares between $17 and $38, but with a slightly more extensive route map and more connections.

Beware: Both of these companies offer pickup and drop-off at a wide range of hotels. This means that if you are the first picked up or last dropped off, you might have to sit through a long period of subsequent stops before finally hitting the road or reaching your destination. Moreover, I've heard some horror stories about both lines, concerning missed or severely delayed connections and rude drivers.

Using the Ferry
Three different ferries operate across the Gulf of Nicoya. Two are car ferries: one from Puntarenas to Playa Naranjo, and one from Puntarenas to Paquera. The third is a passenger ferry that runs between Puntarenas and Paquera.

Source: Frommer's Travel Guide to Costa Rica