What Identification do I need in Costa Rica?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, EX PATS in Costa Rica, Guanacaste Tourism, Residency, Vacation in Costa Rica

What Identification do I need in Costa Rica?

To enter Costa Rica from the USA or Canada, you just need a valid passport, which gives you an automatic 90 day Tourist VISA. You can stay in the country and not have to leave for 3 months. After that time, you must exit the country for up to 72 hours before returning. The passport must be valid for at least 90 days from the date of entry  and is better if it has 6 months before expiring.  So if your passport is expiring 30 days after the start of your trip, there is a very good chance that when you get to the airport, the airline will not let you board. There is also a chance that if you do board, when you arrive in Costa Rica, the immigration officer might not allow you in, and you will have to immediately go back to your home country. So make sure you have plenty of time left before the expiration date, or else go and apply for a new passport prior to your trip. Make sure your passport is SIGNED prior to arriving in Costa Rica. Also you must have a return ticket, OR an onward ticket at the end of your vacation. Costa Rica will not allow you to enter with a One Way Ticket into the country.

Below is a website that shows which countries having a VISA exemption, like the USA and Canada, and which countries require one.


No immunization shots are required. But if you have recently visited Africa, Asia or South America, the immigration agent will want to see a Yellow Fever stamp showing you have received the immunization shot.

The law requires that every single person, foreigner or domestic resident / citizen MUST carry their passport or Cedula (Costa Rica ID) at all time. This means at ALL TIMES. A police officer or immigration office has the legal authority to detain you and even arrest you if you do not have your passport on your possession. What a concept huh? To have to prove you are legally allowed to be in the country.

At the beach, the police tend to be much more lenient than the National Police or Transit Cops, which are similar to the Highway Patrol back home. If you are out around the beach towns, carry a copy of the photo page of your passport AND a copy of the page with your entry stamp. This will allow them to see when you entered the country to be sure you have not surpassed your 90 day legal stay. A photo in your phone, of both of these pages, is also a good idea.

If you are renting a car in Costa Rica, you will need a valid Driver’s License from your home Country / State/ Province and you must carry this also, at all times, while driving. Your DL is NOT a valid ID, and does not replace the Passport. My advice is to make a physical copy of the passport photo and entry stamp, and your Driver’s License front and back, and keep it in the glove box just to be safe. Do not put the photo copy inside your passport, because if you lose it or it is stolen, you have absolutely no record what so ever. If you are driving through the interior of the country, and away from the beaches, it is MANDATORY that you carry the original documents and not copies. Age does not matter. Even small children must have their passports, carried by their parents.  I have heard of many examples where entire families were detained on the side of the road, while the father had to drive 3 hours back to their beach hotel to get their passports. I have also heard stories of people being removed from a local bus, and put into a holding tank with the illegal Nicaraguans for failure to carry their passport.

If your passport is unfortunately lost or stolen, you will need to go to the US EMBASSY in San Jose Costa Rica.


You will need your actual Passport, NOT a photo, if you plan to enter a bank for any type of transaction, and when you use your Credit Card at a restaurant, hotel or store. A Driver’s License again, is NOT considered a legal ID nor is a photo copy. Your signature MUST match EXACTLY the way you signed it on your passport.

Costa Rican Residents and Citizens must always carry their Cedula by law at all times and always have it for ANY transaction, banking, credit card, contract, and entry to National Park, airlines, receipt of certified mail or UPS packages and ALWAYS to vote. Wow, What a concept. I love Costa Rica.

Remember, you are in THEIR country and must always prove you are legally allowed to be here.

How will I make friends in Costa Rica?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in Costa Rica Living, EX PATS in Costa Rica, FAQ's, Papagayo Region, Residency

How will I make friends in Costa Rica?

Making a move to another city or state is big deal. Moving to an entirely different country, with new languages and cultures can seem like a daunting task, especially if you have never traveled much, and are not accustomed to adapting. The biggest question mark for most of my clients, is wondering how they will make new friends. The largest fear, for many of them, is that their relatives, friends, children, grandchildren and family won’t come to visit them. This is a big concern for many people.

Friends in Costa Rica

There are dozens of social activities, groups and websites where you can meet hundreds of others in a very short period of time. The Papagayo area is where the majority of Ex-Pats work, live, vacation and retire. This is the place to be. Everyone was the new guy at one time or another, so the Gringos here go out of their way, when they meet someone, to make them feel welcomed and introduce them to others. They invite you to parties, BBQs and social gatherings, where you can be introduced to so many other people who have decided to move to paradise. They will see your “deer in the headlights” look, and instantly take you under their wing, and bring you into their circles.

All the developments have pot luck dinners and events. Every restaurant and bar in town is packed to the gills, every happy hour, with Americans and Canadians; Europeans as well; all more than happy to let you join their table and make new friends. It is completely different than we were accustomed to back home. There are live bands regularly, pool parties and beach volleyball and many other activities; from zoomba classes and yoga to karaoke and bingo. There are dozens of clubs to join, from bridge to cross fit; language classes to painting lesson; and churches and bible studies to charity events by the wave that bring everyone together. There are Facebook pages that you can join, and mailing lists to sign up to, that will keep you informed of all these events; time, date and place. There are golf courses and tennis clubs; sailing and diving groups; stand up paddle board lessons and sunset sailing tours, that will put you in touch with more people than you can imagine.

When I lived in the USA, I barely knew any of my neighbors. I went to work each day, and when I came home at night, I receded to my living room. My garage door went up, my car went in, and that was the end of it. I might wave hello to a neighbor on the street, while picking up my mail, but that was all. The culture in North America is nothing like it is here in Costa Rica.

This country is very welcoming. The Latin culture and especially the Costa Ricans are some of the friendliest, warmest people you will ever meet, and it rubs off on the rest of us. Besides, it takes a certain kind of person, to have the guts and adventurous spirit, to move here in the first place, so you will be amazed at how many friends you will make in a short period of time.

One of the first things that all my clients tell me is that they made more friends in the first 6 months here, than they did in 20 years back home. While their original concern was that they would be lonely, it turns out to be the exact opposite. Amazing friendships are forged here in paradise.

I was with a new client the other day, showing them around. The wife made a couple of comments about how she was worried that her kids and grandkids would never make the trek to Latin America to visit. As we went into a restaurant for lunch, I bumped into a group of women having a “Ladies Day.” I asked them if they were happy that they made the move, and if they ever missed their families. They all smiled. We would NEVER go back, one said, as the others all agreed. The problem is that my family never wants to LEAVE, and they all laughed out loud. They keep coming and coming, my house is constantly full. Don’t get me wrong, she said, I love my kids and family, but it seems that I just can’t get rid of them. That will be the least of your worries, they told my client.

“What will be my biggest?” she asked the group.

Your problem will be that you won’t have enough hours in your day for all of your social activities. We NEVER get bored in Costa Rica.

Remember; the Liberia airport is only 20 minutes away. You can leave in the morning and be in any US or Canada city by lunch or dinner, as there are almost 100 weekly flights. Prices have dropped substantially in the last few years, with all the airlines competing. So now for only a few hundred dollars, you can get back to see your family anytime you want. So if you are missing something or someone that badly, just jump a flight. It is very convenient. But I can assure you this: you will be missing Costa Rica the moment you get there, and your trip will be very short. This will very quickly become your new home and you won’t ever want to leave either. 

Like the rest of us.

Come on down, and see for yourself.

Pura Vida.

August 2020
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