Why your driver’s license is better than a passport for this tropical escape

Aug 31, 2020

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Editor’s Note: As the travel industry reopens following COVID-19 shutdowns, TPG suggests that you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We will be here to help you prepare, whether it is next month or next year.

Americans will once again be allowed to travel to Costa Rica in September 2020 — but only if you have a driver’s license proving you live in one of 12 select regions.

Costa Rica’s Tourism Minister Gustavo Segura initially announced that the Central American country would allow U.S. travelers from just six states: Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York and Vermont. Visitors would need to provide a driver’s license or equivalent government-issued ID in order to verify that they live in one of the approved states.

However, that approved list has since been expanded to 12 total regions. Residents of Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. can also now enter Costa Rica, while travelers from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Colorado will be allowed in beginning Sept. 15.

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“The entry of travelers from these 12 states is allowed because they currently have an epidemiological condition similar or lower levels of contagion to those of Costa Rica,” Segura said on Aug. 27.

While private flights and yachts will also be allowed into the country starting Sept. 1, those will be approved entry on a case-by-case basis.

Of course, you’ll still need a passport to enter and proof of onward travel to exit Costa Rica like usual. But without an accompanying driver’s license or accepted government-issued ID, you won’t be permitted to enter the country.

Andaz Costa Rica (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)
If you live in one of the approved states, you could plan a trip to Costa Rica’s Andaz Costa Rica hotel starting Sept. 1, 2020. (Photo by Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

This means you can expect more flights to open back up between the U.S. and Costa Rica, including potentially four flights per week from New York City’s three major airports — La Guardia (LGA), John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR), according to the Costa Rica tourism board. Flights will operate routes to Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) near San José and Daniel Oduber Quirós International Airport (LIR) in Liberia, Guanacaste. These flights will be the first commercial flights to LIR since boarder restrictions were originally imposed at the beginning of the pandemic.

Related reading: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery

Other requirements for entry

Travelers are also required to test negative for COVID-19 within 48 hours of arrival, fill out an online health form and purchase traveler’s medical insurance. You can purchase an insurance plan through approved Costa Rica providers, or you can choose an international provider so long as you can provide a certificate stating your policy meets these qualifications:

  • Effectiveness of the policy during the visit to Costa Rica.
  • Guaranteed coverage of medical expenses in the event of becoming ill with the pandemic COVID-19 disease while in Costa Rica, for at least USD $50,000.
  • Includes minimum coverage of USD $2,000 for lodging expenses issues due to the pandemic.

Note that any emergency medical or dental coverage provided by credit cards such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve will not meet this requirement.

Bottom line

In Segura’s statement, passengers were reminded that masks are required upon landing in Costa Rican territory, and you must “comply with the strict protocols of the air terminal with regard to physical distancing, disinfection of carpets, taking temperature readings, and any other sanitary instructions.” While Costa Rica is currently allowing all “open air” tourist activities, it’s also important to continue being diligent while you are there. Wear your masks when you’re indoors (which is required in most places in Costa Rica right now) or in groups of people, practice social distancing whenever possible and bring hand sanitizer.

While it’s great to start seeing more countries open to U.S. tourists, especially in beautiful tropical destinations perfect for summertime escapes, how long these places remain open to Americans will depend on how well we continue to stop the spread of COVID-19 both at home and while we travel.

Related reading: TPG’s destination guide to Costa Rica

Additional reporting by Katherine Fan.

Featured image by b7 Kryssia Campos/Getty Images

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