Visa and Passport Information
The good news is that UK passport holders can enter Costa Rica without a tourist visa and stay for up to 90 days. On arrival, you’ll need to present a valid passport, with at least one blank visa page, and a return ticket. The expiry date of your passport must be greater than 30 days from the date of your entry to Costa Rica. Upon departing Costa Rica, everybody must pay a departure tax of US$28, payable in cash. This money can not be paid in advance. If you own a passport issued by another country, please check with your relevant embassy before travel.
Handy Hint: before departure make copies of your passport, bank cards and insurance documents and leave them with family or friends in the UK. Also keep a copy in your luggage, in a separate place from your original documents. This will make things easy if you lose any paperwork during your visit.
The currency of Costa Rica is the Colón, named after Columbus. There are notes of 10,000, 5,000, 1,000 and coins. Prices are also often listed in US dollars, and cash is accepted everywhere. The most common credit cards are Visa and Mastercard. If you have a debit card that is affiliated with Cirrus or Maestro, you can withdraw cash in Colón or in Dollars. For safety, you can’t withdraw money after 22.00 so keep some in reserve. Nearly all hotels will accept credit and debit cards.
Flying via the USA
Most flights to Costa Rica make a stopover in the US except those by a European carriers such as Iberia. If you’re flying to Costa Rica via the US and want to use the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), you will need to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System Travel Authorization) in advance. All travellers on UK passports (including children and infants) must have an individual machine-readable passport and must complete an ESTA prior to departure. Without an approved ESTA, you could be denied entry into the US and therefore denied boarding your flight(s). Also check with the US embassy ESTA website for current customs regulations, as they change frequently.
Travelling to Nicaragua and Panama from Costa Rica
Cross border travel to Nicaragua and Panama is common for many people visiting Costa Rica. You can move freely across the borders for a small border fee. To enter Panama you will need to show proof of onward travel out of the country by showing either a plane or bus ticket.
Tipping for good service is custom in Costa Rica. You will find service is added to the bill anyway in good restaurants and hotels, but it is expected that you tip your guide or driver if you are happy to do so.