Costa Rica’s Vaccine Passport

Last Updated: November 23, 2021

Recently, Costa Rica announced that it will start requiring proof of Covid vaccination to enter certain businesses. In this post, we will explain the details of Costa Rica’s vaccine passport. We’ll cover the timing, which businesses apply, how tourists are affected, and what kind of proof will be needed.

UPDATE (Nov. 23, 2021): As a result of litigation filed by the tourism industry and others, the government’s plan to implement the QR code vaccine requirement has been put on hold. A court in Costa Rica has issued a preliminary injunction. This means that the court still needs to hear the merits of the case, where the government will need to show that it is necessary/effective to implement the QR code scheme.

For now, the President’s office announced that starting on December 1, businesses will have a choice. They can require proof of vaccination (via a QR code) and operate at 100% capacity, or remain at 50% capacity without requiring proof of vaccination.

We do not yet know what will happen after January 7. The litigation is ongoing. We will update this article as soon as we hear more. 

Costa Rica Vaccine Passport

Background and Timing

In October 2021, the Costa Rica government announced that it would start requiring full Covid vaccination to enter non-essential businesses. Originally, the mandate was to start on December 1, 2021. However, after getting pushback from the tourism sector, the government agreed to make the requirement more gradual.

Now there is a transition period.

Transition Period: December 1-January 7

Specifically, from December 1-January 7 (peak travel season in Costa Rica), a business on the list can choose to operate at 100% capacity and require full vaccination to enter. Or they can operate at 50% capacity and not require vaccination. Businesses included are hotels, restaurants, and stores (see full list below). 

This means that for the businesses that decide to operate at full capacity, you will have to show proof of vaccination to enter starting in December.

Sign Vaccination Required Costa Rica
Sign to be displayed at a business that requires full vaccination starting on Dec. 1. It can operate at 100% capacity.

So far, we have heard of some hotels adopting the 100% capacity mode. This means you will have to be fully vaccinated to enter. We think many restaurants and stores will likely choose not to require proof of vaccination and just have limited 50% capacity during the transition period.

Sign business not requiring vaccination Costa Rica
Sign to be displayed at a business that is NOT requiring full vaccination from Dec. 1-Jan. 7. It can operate at 50% capacity and will have to require full vaccination starting on Jan. 8.

If you are not vaccinated and traveling during this transition period (December 1-January 7), contact your hotels to find out their policy.

IMPORTANT: The vaccine mandate only applies to people ages 12 and up. Children under 12 are currently exempt. There is also a medical exemption (see below).

January 8 and Beyond

Starting on January 8, 2022, the vaccine passport is supposed to take full effect. This, however, may change depending on the outcome of the litigation – see Intro paragraph, above.

All businesses on the list will have to require proof of Covid vaccination to enter. This applies to Costa Ricans and foreigners/tourists visiting Costa Rica.

Children

As we stated above, the vaccine mandate applies only to people ages 12 and up. Children under 12 are currently exempt.

In addition, the government recently announced that children ages 12-17 will not have to show proof of vaccination until January 31, 2022.

Businesses on the List

Basically, the vaccine mandate applies to non-essential businesses. Adventure tourism is also included. Here is the full list:

  • Restaurants, cafeterias, food courts, and food trucks
  • Bars and casinos
  • General stores, department stores, and shopping malls
  • Museums
  • Fitness centers
  • Hotels, cabins, or lodging establishments*

*Most people are including Airbnbs and vacation rentals in this category; however, we have not seen anything official from the government.

  • Spas
  • Activities, organizations, or congregations in places of worship with more than 750 people
  • Event rooms for business, academic, or social activities
  • Adventure tourism (see detailed list in section below)
  • Theaters, cinemas, art and dance academies, and establishments for artistic activities
  • Sports facilities

Restaurant Marina Quepos

Businesses Not on the List

Essential services like grocery stores, pharmacies, hospitals, bakeries, butcher shops, hardware stores, etc. are exempt from the vaccination requirement. But they must remain at 50% capacity. However, these businesses can choose to require proof of vaccination and operate at 100% capacity.

Showing Proof of Vaccination

Businesses will verify vaccination status using QR codes.

Costa Rican citizens and residents will request a QR code from the government.

Tourists visiting the country will get a QR code as part of the Health Pass.

QR Code Costa Rica Vaccine Requirement
This is similar to what your QR code will look like

The Health Pass is the online form that you already have to fill out to enter the country. Here, you will upload your vaccination card or certificate and get a specific QR code to show to enter businesses. The Costa Rican government has said that this will be ready starting on November 22.

Tourists will not be able to show their foreign vaccination card. As of now, only a QR code will be accepted.

All documents submitted to the Health Pass must be in English or Spanish.

What Does Fully Vaccinated Mean in Costa Rica?

Overview

Fully vaccinated in Costa Rica means that you (1) have been vaccinated using an approved vaccine, and (2) you have received the total number of doses recommended by the pharmaceutical company.

The final dose has to have been applied at least 14 days before entry.

Here is the list of approved vaccines:

  • AstraZeneca: 2-dose series
  • Pfizer-BioNTech: 2-dose series
  • Moderna: 2-dose series
  • Johnson & Johnson: single dose
  • Sinovac-CoronaVac: 2-dose series
  • Sinopharm: 2-dose series
  • Covaxin: 2-dose series
Chart Approved Vaccines Costa Rica
List of approved vaccines in Costa Rica. Photo credit: Instituto Costariccense de Turismo

Mixed Vaccines

If you have been vaccinated using two different vaccine brands (e.g., AstraZeneca for first dose and Moderna for second dose), the Costa Rica Tourism Board (ICT) has said that this will be considered a complete vaccination as long as the vaccines are both approved. This is explained in the instructions for the Health Pass.

Medical Exemption

The Costa Rica Tourism Board has said that the vaccination requirement does not apply to tourists with a duly accredited medical condition that makes it not possible to receive an approved vaccine. They must attach their medical report (in English or Spanish) to the online Health Pass.

[Note: This information was previously on the Tourism Board’s website. After the court issued the injunction on November 13, this information was removed from the site.]

Presumably, after the Tourism Board has reviewed someone’s Health Pass and confirmed they are exempt for medical reasons, they will be able to receive a QR code to enter businesses.

Unvaccinated Tourists

Regarding unvaccinated tourists, the Costa Rica Tourism Board has said tourists who are not fully vaccinated will be able to enter the country and “stay with family, friends, or in their own homes.” However, they will not be able to enter businesses that require full vaccination. Again, this was previously stated on the Tourism Board’s website but has since been taken down.

They will need to purchase Covid travel insurance to enter. For more information, see our post, Costa Rica’s Required Travel Insurance: 15 FAQs.

Using a Negative Covid Test Instead of Proof of Vaccination

The government has said that only proof of vaccination via a QR code will be acceptable. You will not be able to show proof of a recent negative Covid test to enter businesses.

Fully Recovered Travelers

The Tourism Board addressed this in a FAQs document, was was previously on their website, but has since been taken down pending resolution of the ongoing litigation. 

For informational purposes, it said that tourists who have recovered from Covid may meet the requirements. They say that each country has its own mechanism to verify vaccination status, and that tourists must present evidence via the Health Pass.

This includes recovered travelers whose health authority has applied a single dose of a Covid vaccine. 

Which Adventure Tourist Activities are Included?

Here is the list of adventure tourism activities that will have to require proof of vaccination starting on January 8 (some may require it starting on Dec. 1):

  • Terrestrial activities such as hiking, mountain biking, trekking, and horseback riding.
  • In-air activities such as ballooning (hot air balloons) and paragliding.
  • Aquatic activities such as rafting, scuba diving, tubing, kayaking, and parasailing.
  • Activities with cables and ropes such as climbing, bungee jumping, rappelling, zip-lining, canyoning, via ferrata, spelunking (caving), high ropes, and pendulum (Tarzan swing).
  • Motorized activities such as ATV, motorcycles, boats, and jet-skis.

Waterfall Rappelling Vaccine Requirement Costa Rica

Updating Information

This issue has been evolving since it was first announced in October. We will continue to follow this issue and the ongoing litigation, and update our article as needed. For the most current information, feel free to follow us on Facebook. We often provide quick updates on there.

Have a question about Costa Rica’s new vaccine passport/vaccination requirements? Ask us below.

Looking for more information to plan your trip? Check out these posts:

Traveling to Costa Rica During Covid-19: Entry Requirements, Protocols & What to Expect – Learn more about the online Health Pass and what to expect regarding masks and protocols at hotels and other businesses.

Covid Vaccination Rates in Costa Rica: See how Costa Rica is doing with its vaccination campaign.

Where to Get a Covid-19 Test: The United States and many other countries are still requiring a negative Covid test to get back home. Check out our list of where to get tested.

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