Do I need a return ticket to come to Costa Rica?

Written by Michael Simons on . Posted in FAQ's, Guanacaste Tourism, Vacation in Costa Rica

Do I need a return ticket to come to Costa Rica?

Many of my clients have purchased one-way tickets to Costa Rica. Some are moving here to live fulltime, and others are just not sure how long they will stay on that particular trip. When they get to the airport, they are amazed that the airline will not let them on the plane without a return ticket. So, they must purchase one, right there, at the airline check-in counter.


Someone coming to Costa Rica from another country, like the USA or Canada, is coming on what is called a tourist Visa. They are automatically allowed to enter the country with just their passport, but can only stay for 90 days. After that, they must leave the country. Costa Rica requires that you have a ticket confirming that you are leaving before your Visa expires. The airline is just checking, and doing their job, to make sure you fulfill this requirement.

Many airlines in the USA, are also very hesitant to allow anyone to board an aircraft with a one-way ticket, as all the September 11 Terrorists boarded this way.

I am a permanent resident of Costa Rica, so in essence I am a Costa Rican. Therefore, I do not need a return ticket to enter paradise. Once a person has started their residency process, they are considered residents by the immigration authorities, and do not need to leave every 90 days. But if you are not a resident, or in process, what do you do if you plan to just wing it in Costa Rica?

For your return ticket, go online to your carrier and purchase a FULLY REFUNDALBLE return ticket. This way, as soon as you land, you can go back online, cancel the ticket with no cancellation penalties or fees.

When you enter Costa Rica, make sure your passport is valid for a minimum of 3 to 6 months after your planned exit date. There is a lot of different information on the internet about how much time left, your passport must have. But I know of individuals who were refused entry to Costa Rica because the immigration officer did not like the small amount of valid time left on the passport. There is no specific amount of time, it is a grey area, and the immigration officer has a lot of leeway in determining whether or not to allow you into the country. So, don’t take any chances. Make sure you have a lot of time left before the expiration date, or go get it renewed prior to your trip. Nothing ruins a good vacation like getting put back on the plane you just arrived on.

For more information on carrying identification in Costa Rica:

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