Costa Rica-Borders and Roads

Read more about crossing Costa Rica's borders, roads and driving, and camping and hotels. 

Basic Facts

  • Population: 4,133,884
  • Capital: San Jose
  • Fun fact: Óscar Rafael de Jesús Arias Sánchez was President of Costa Rica, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his efforts to end civil wars then raging in several Central American countries.

Border Crossing Information

Entry Requirements

Necessary documents

  • Passport
  • Drivers License
  • Vehicle Title
  • Several photocopies of each

    Costs

  • $36 for obligatory insurance
  • $4.50 USD (2175 colones) for fumigation
  • Miscellaneous photocopying fees (can vary)

    Procedure

After having your car fumigated (make sure to get a receipt), head to the immigration building. After presenting your passport, you will need to fill out an immigration form, present the filled out form with your passport, and have your passport stamped. You will then need to purchase 'obligatory insurance' for 7,890 colones (about $12 US) even if your car is already insured. You will need a xerox of your freshly stamped passport with the receipt for the insurance payment for the next step in the process. For every person driving the car, make similar xeroxes. At the aduana present the xeroxes, your passports, and vehicle title. You will then fill out another form from the aduana. The official will take the form over to your car to make sure the numbers match, after which he will stamp the paperwork. This paperwork will need to be further processed before you are given your final vehicle import documents. You should only pay for the insurance, and shouldn't have to pay for any other paperwork.

Exit Requirements

Necessary documents

  • Passport
  • Vehicle import permit

    Procedure

To leave Costa Rica, you will need to fill out a tourist form or tarjeta de ingreso/egreso and have your passport scanned at the migracion window. After completing the form and checking it with your passport at immigration, you can proceed to the aduana window with your processed paperwork, passport, and vehicle import permit. To cancel the vehicle import permit, fill out the provided form, and the aduana officials will briefly inspect your vehicle to make sure the forms and vehicle license plate match. They will return your canceled vehicle import permit, and you can proceed to the immigration station of the country you are entering. You should not have to pay any fees.

Suspending Vehicle Permit

If for any reason you need to leave Costa Rica but don't want to take your car with you, you are allowed to suspend the temporary vehicle import paper if your car is stored in a registered govenment storage facility (Almacen Fiscal) These are run privately, and there are many by the San Jose airport. We shopped around and found one for 3$/ day. It seems pretty legit. So first, you store the vehicle, then you go to the customs office at the airport (aduana), and suspend the permit (this is free). Then you are allowed to leave the country. When you return, you go to the customs office to reinstate the remainder of the time you had left, then you pick up your vehicle and pay the storage warehouse. Seems pretty straightforward.  (Thanks to sjmiller for this information)

Extensions

In January 2010 we were told by the Aduana (Customs) that it was technically possible to extend your importation if you wrote a letter 2 weeks before your 90 day passport visa expired but we didn't test this. Travelling to the border merely puts the permit on hold and it is not possible to extend it that way. However, you can put the car into storage for 3 months which then lets you renew it for another 3 months. We did this with Mundanzas Mundiales near Multiplaze El Oeste, but I'm not sure I can recommend them. Our car was opened and several things were stolen. However it only cost $1 a day after the inital $15 charge and the car wasn't damaged. Aduana gave us a list of people who could store the car and provide the paperwork to freeze our permit.

Individual Experiences

People's experiences vary depending on crowds at the border, corrupt or honest border officials, and rules can also change. People's individual experiences are included on the page for Additional Costa Rica Border Crossing Information.

Roads and Driving

A tourist may drive in Costa Rica with a valid license from their country and a passport. Seat belts are required for drivers and front-seat passengers. The use of helmets for motorcycle conductors is required.
According to the US State Department, Costa Rica is has one of the highest vehicle accident rates in the world. See general tips on driving in Latin America on the Roads and Driving Page

Gas Prices

June 2012- Premium Unleaded is $5.66 per gallon.

Car Rentals

A few people on Thorn Tree Forums said that Vamos Rent a Car company was very inexpensive. The cars were a bit older but reliable and some people had problems w/reserving cars or getting picked up at the airport.
If you are tired of dealing with the large rental companies, you may want to check out Rush Rent a Car. This Costa Rican family owned business will pick you up right at the airport, no need to get to the rental car location.

Resources

YourTravelmap.com: Detailed driving directions and driving times for Costa Rica- just put in two cities and you will get a driving route and estimated time of arrival. Additional information about national parks and towns, as well as references to hotels and tours.
 

Wed, 08/21/2013 - 17:24

Costa Rica, Penas Blancas Border

Nicaragua-Costa Rica, Penas Blancas Border: Crossed 22/9/12.

Usual Pan Am heavy traffic jam coming up to border. Also about 10 helpers rushed out at me to get business as I entered the Nicaraguan exit, nearly hit them. Definitely be cautious. Bit more of a run around than other borders, as there are 4 different buildings which you have to go to several times to get everything done. I would have preferred to go to the more mellow Los Chiles border but I was pressed for time, you also have to drive a fair way into Costa Rica to get insurance and back to that border to get properly stamped in.

Exit Nicaragua:

Aduana and immigration in same building. Showed tourist permit paper and passport to immigration who stamped out passport and also tourist form. Cost USD$1.85 or 44NIO. Make sure you go to the exit side of immigration (2 separate offices) and not the entry, as they think you have just entered and try to get the entry fee again off you. Then you get directed to take your vehicle to across the parking lot to a policeman who checks your papers and is supposed to search your vehicle and signs them. He didn't search my bike, just signed them and directed me back to the Aduana where you hand over all the paperwork. They didn't seem to care too much about the SAT paperwork or sticker from Guatemala. Just took the Nicaraguan paperwork, signed, stamped it and kept it.

 

Enter Costa Rica:

No fumigation necessary, just waved me through. Waited in line behind about 100 tourists for about 50 mins and got stamped in (no cost). Next ride 2 mins away from the immigration building where all the trucks are parked up. This is where the insurance office and Aduana #2 is located, to get necessary insurance - cost USD$17. Get a photocopy of this and also your Costa Rican immigration entry stamp at the building next door, cost USD$2.00 or 1000 Costa Rican Colons (CRC). Next back to Aduana #1 (building across from immigration) to show all the paperwork and hand over the copies. The guy then checks the bike, gives you a paper to copy at the copy place next door USD$1 or 500CRC and give one back to him (no charge for Aduana #1). Then go back to Aduana #2 where they take all the copies and issue you your temporary vehicle permit (no charge). Nothing stamped in passport. Whole process took about 2hrs. There was hotels down towards Liberia and beyond. Most places take USD.

cheers

Dom Harris

Mon, 06/08/2015 - 16:11

Entry into Costa Rica

Hey everyone,

Exiting Nicaragua/Entering Costa Rica:

We entered into Costa Rica from Nicaragua at the Peñas Blancas border crossing and documented all the steps here:

http://freedomwithbruno.com/nicaragua-costa-rica-border-crossing-penas-b...

Safe travels!

Travis and Amanda