Traveling to Costa Rica in early February: crazy or probably OK?
January 14, 2022 9:15 AM   Subscribe

Traveling to Costa Rica in early February with my fully vaxxed/boosted mom. Help us decide if this is crazy, or will probably be OK.

My 70-year old mom and I are both hoping to travel to Costa Rica before the rainy season. We're currently looking at early February for the trip. We're both vaxxed and boosted and otherwise healthy and, at this point, not especially concerned about coming down with covid.

That said, we're wondering how the current covid spike might otherwise impact our trip.

We'd love to hear any thoughts, especially from any MeFi's who live in Costa Rica, about the current state of affairs in Costa Rica on this. Things like:

1. Any looming closures of activities or services?
2. Official policies on if we get sick while traveling?
3. Anything else we should be thinking about?
4. Crazy or probably OK?

Thanks in advance!
posted by quantum to Travel & Transportation around Costa Rica (4 answers total)
 
For the travel requirements I always check https://klm.traveldoc.aero

Here's what I get for travel to Costa Rica from the US (there's more info the site, this is just covid info):

Vaccine: Passengers are considered fully vaccinated against Covid-19 if they hold proof that they have received 2 doses of a 2-dose vaccine or 1 dose of a 1-dose vaccine at least 14 days prior to arrival. Passengers may receive a mix of 2 doses of different accepted vaccines. Vaccination certificates must be in English or Spanish and must include the passenger's full name (as it appears on the passport), the name of the administered vaccine and the date of each administered dose. Accepted vaccines: AstraZeneca (2 doses), Covaxin (2 doses), Johnson and Johnson (1 dose), Moderna (2 doses), Pfizer-BioNTech (2 doses), Sinovac (2 doses), and Sinopharm (2 doses).

Passengers are also considered fully vaccinated if they hold proof that have recovered from Covid-19 and they have received 1 dose of an accepted vaccine.


Form: Passengers must hold a QR code showing they have completed the Health Pass (Pase de Salud) online prior to boarding. The Health Pass will be available 72 hours before boarding.

Insurance:

Unvaccinated passengers: Passengers must hold travel insurance that covers Covid-19 and accommodation for at least 5 days. Passengers must also upload their insurance documentation to the Health Pass (Pase de Salud).

Vaccinated passengers: Insurance is not required for passengers holding a vaccination certificate showing that they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 at least 14 days prior to arrival. Approved vaccines include AstraZeneca, Covaxin, Johnson and Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, Sinopharm, and Sinovac.

Other exempt passengers:

Passengers aged 17 years and younger; or
Crew members, provided their length of stay does not exceed 72 hours.

Passengers in transit through Costa Rica must purchase travel insurance with a minimum coverage of 5 days.
posted by DreamerFi at 9:43 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I haven't been to Costa Rica during the pandemic, but I went to French Polynesia shortly before Omicron started really spreading. For my trip, a negative test was required in both directions, but you may only need a negative test to return to the US (assuming, of course, we're talking about a trip from the US to Costa Rica and back... disregard if you're based elsewhere). I used the eMed app to do my Covid testing at the end of my trip (you get these specific tests and then use the app to test yourself in front of a proctor). The app isn't great, but overall the process was easy and convenient.

My main concern would be other travelers. Throughout my recent trip, I watched full grown adults not wash their hands in the bathroom, wipe their nose with their hand while perusing the hotel breakfast buffet with a mask on their chin, be in crowded indoor spaces with masks off, etc. I was traveling with someone whose health issues probably put them in a similar risk category to your mom, and while we had a terrific time in general, I was really struck by how irresponsibly many of our fellow tourists behaved when it came to basic precautions. If I were planning a trip, I'd make sure to avoid breakfast buffets, group tours involving buses/vans, and other close contact with tourists. I'd probably look for an AirBnB type of place where I could do my own cooking, or a hotel with outdoor dining, unless the area has so many well-ventilated restaurants you can just go out for every meal. For the unavoidable stuff--airports, in particular, I'd make sure to have the best-fitting masks possible.

I'd also definitely max out the travel insurance. A lot can change between now and then. I definitely would have cancelled my trip if it had been scheduled for a week or two later.
posted by theotherdurassister at 10:59 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


I was in Guatemala just before omicron hit (the first news was on TV the day before I left). I know a couple of people who were in Costa Rica in late December, just a couple of weeks ago.

Experience:

My friends reported that masking rules in Costa Rica were fairly thorough. Masks required in any public indoor environment (shops, restaurants, offices, etc.), and on any sort of public transportation. Sanitary stations with temp check and sanitizer at the entrance to any facility open to the public. Their tour operator required masks during the tour activities.

My experience in Guatemala was similar. Maybe a bit less masking in the full outdoors. Impressive presence of sanitizer/temp check stations in all sorts of places, often with an employee stationed to check people in person. Guatemala had a 9 pm curfew for most businesses (restaurants, notably), so no nightlife. On one occasion I got dinner after 9 via room service at the hotel -- the hotel restaurant was also observing the curfew.

Costa Rica is at about 70% vaccinated, per a quick unofficial Google check. Guatemala was reporting about 35% vaccinated when I was there, if I remember right, but there was a visible vaccination campaign being promoted. Some people in Guatemala in public-facing jobs were wearing a little badge with a syringe logo to indicate they were vaccinated.

For the test when you come home, check in advance to see if the hotel will arrange this for you.

Risks:

Could you get sick? Could you make others sick? Testing before you go and ensuring you test negative before you leave can help you avoid any starting issues or concerns. You could still catch the virus while you're there.

If you get sick while you're there, you could be required to quarantine for 10 days. Compare this experience in Costa Rica from just this week.

With Omicron, the risk of having a positive test when you're ready to come home, that could cause you to be quarantined, is now higher--even if you're not showing symptoms.

There are two or three companies offering extra travel insurance that would include medical evacuation if you get Covid. I don't know enough about them, and there hasn't been much time for new companies in this area to build a track record, so I can't make any recommendations. I looked at one that was charging $600 to $700 or so per person to insure a short trip. I also don't know if they could get you out if the local authorities are requiring you to quarantine, I'm assuming not. If you decide on "regular" travel insurance (that covers you for car accidents, etc.), probably a good idea to glance at their Covid coverage before purchasing.

Other than quarantine risks, there are still general issues with flights being cancelled. This affected my friends on their return from Costa Rica. Policies around cancellation, rebooking, etc. are volatile and could vary between airlines. Booking directly with the airlines, avoiding 3rd-party sites or anything that appears deeply discounted, might help a bit if you have to change plans or deal with a complicated situation.
posted by gimonca at 9:16 AM on January 15


I'm currently in Costa Rica, in the last month of a three month stay. Honestly, it's been a marvel to me how much safer I feel here than in the US with regard to COVID. Everyone seems to wear masks indoors, and there are many hand-washing stations at entrances to businesses. Most of the activities I personally do are outdoors, and while there are rarely masks on anyone while outdoors in open air, it feels pretty safe because you can maintain distance. I have not eaten at any indoor restaurants because outdoor restaurants abound. Service staff are all generally wearing masks, and my experience has been that most diners select tables that allow for keeping distance. (I definitely self-select for restaurants that aren't crowded and do have outdoor seating, and that is easy to do.) Bottom line for me is that due to the great weather and ability to be outside, I am rarely indoors with other people, and when I am, I feel like there is strong compliance with masking rules, so I have felt fairly comfortable during Omicron.

A few things to note --
- You should bring your own masks with you as they aren't for sale super abundantly here.
- It will be up to you to book activities that are outdoors and have smaller numbers of people in the tour groups. We haven't done a lot of them, but we avoided traveling in a shared van (though masks were required) by driving ourselves, and we selected one where the operator keeps the number of people in the groups low specifically just by asking up front before booking.
- As above, I'd try to get lodging that isn't at a crowded hotel/resort. We've been very happy renting little houses via Airbnb where we have private outdoor space, our own kitchen to cook, and peace of mind to not be colliding with other travelers all the time. (Plus, incredible wildlife at our doorstep!)
- Rental cars are expensive, but we have felt safer traveling on our own. Public buses and charter tours do all seem to be masked while inside the vehicle, but it's a lot of tourists of unknown vax status in an enclosed space, so we have skipped it.
- At-home COVID tests are not available here. We brought some with us and we're glad we did because haven't seen any for sale anywhere in the country. Testing is readily available at numerous sites throughout the country, and it costs $70-150 per test depending on the type/location/etc. We haven't seen any "free clinics" or anything like in the US, just labs where you can book an appt and get tested for a fee. You can bring some tests with you if you'd like to test yourself frequently.
- If you do test positive, you are required to quarantine yourself for 10 days at your own cost. That could screw up plans to return home or do activities, but you should absolutely do it for everyone's safety.

For me, Costa Rica has been a great place to be active (though not social), while still being able to feel safe from COVID and not put others at risk. To make it work, you have to take responsibility for choosing activities that are safe, outdoors, and not crowded, but it is very possible in this country with so much natural abundance. Good luck with your planning and be safe -- if it doesn't feel right, even just due to some element of the travel that you can't resolve, don't pressure yourself to take the trip right now!
posted by luzdeluna at 2:40 PM on January 15


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