Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Documentation & Local Area

PT 4 M minute read
Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Documentation & Local Area

This is a post by author Delmark Muir. Delmark is managing director for Universal Aviation Costa Rica, which has aircraft ground-handling facilities in San Jose and Liberia. Delmark is an expert on business aircraft operations in Costa Rica and can be contacted at

This business aviation blog post is part of a series on operating in Costa Rica and continues from our last article: "Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica: Flight Planning, Weather, & NOTAMs."

It’s important to be mindful of documentation and procedural requirements impacting business aircraft operations to Costa Rica. Something as simple as dealing with airport departure tax last minute has the potential to delay your flight.

The following is an overview of what you need to know:

1. Required documentation

Valid passports are required for both passengers and crew to enter Costa Rica. Depending upon nationality, the required remaining validity on your passport may vary. For some nationalities it’s sufficient to have passport validity to cover the intended length of stay. But for other nationalities you’ll need at least six months remaining validity on passports. It’s best to speak with your ground handler, in advance, to determine required passport validity.

2. Visa requirements

Visas may also be required, depending upon your nationality regardless if it’s a crew member or a passenger. In some cases having a valid U.S. visa will be sufficient to cover visa requirements for Costa Rica – but it’s best to confirm this with your handler. If a visa is needed you may stay in Costa Rica for up to 30 or 90 days depending upon your nationality. Arrival cards are also needed, and your handler can prepare these in advance, assuming all information has been provided to them.

3. Agriculture and in-flight catering considerations

Bringing food into Costa Rica – particularly meats, fruit, and produce – is restricted. You’ll need to have a good reason to bring in foods, such as special dietary or medical reasons. Your in-flight caterer may be able to store food you bring in, but it’s important to confirm this in advance. Be aware that you may be restricted in terms of bringing catering to your aircraft that does not originate from the officially designated airport caterer – particularly at Liberia (MRLB). Airport security may deny you the ability to take any self-sourced catering through the security checkpoint.

4. Departure taxes

Be advised that when leaving Costa Rica there’s a departure tax payable of about 30 USD per passenger. The best way to pay this is via your ground handler who’ll issue you departure tax receipts to show to customs and immigration at the airport. Otherwise, you’ll need to pay this tax at a bank office within the airport. Payment can be made either with cash or credit card, and you’ll show proof of payment of this at the security checkpoint. Be aware, however, that during high season and busy periods it may take 30-45 minutes to pay departure taxes at the airport. Best practice, to avoid any potential delays, is to have your handler take care of departure taxes in advance.

5. Required vaccinations

Be mindful that proof of yellow fever vaccination is needed when arriving in Costa Rica from regions considered endemic. If you do not have this vaccination, when it’s required, you’ll be denied entry. From time to time, when there are diseases in other countries that may spread, other applicable vaccination requirements may apply. It’s best to check on current requirements with your ground handler. More information can also be found on the San Jose Int’l Airport (SJO/MROC) website.

6. Rental vehicles

While passengers usually have pre-paid transportation (car with driver) arranged, many crews opt to rent vehicles in Costa Rica. The only on-airport rental car facilities are at San Jose (MROC) and MRLB. Many hotels, however, have agreements with rental car companies and can pre-arrange rental vehicles for you. While most rental vehicles in Costa Rica have automatic transmissions, this is not always the case. During high season these may run out, and the only available options may be vehicles with manual transmissions.

7. Driving in Costa Rica

Be aware that roads in Costa Rica may be narrower than you’re probably accustomed to. Local driving can be tricky in some areas, and roadways may be in need of repair. As road signs in Costa Rica are relatively rare, it may be difficult to get around if you don’t know where you’re going. Consider bringing your own GPS or renting one (with English and Spanish configurations) from your rental car company.

8. Security considerations

Risk of crime is relatively low in Costa Rica. In the southern province these risks may be a little higher. Just as with any larger city or tourism area, anywhere in the world, there are certain areas that should be avoided, and your ground handler can advise you on this.

9. Activities while in Costa Rica

There are many things to see and do in Costa Rica – from volcanoes and museums to nightlife and beautiful beaches – if you have the time. A wide range of international restaurants and cuisine styles are available in the city, towns, and tourism areas. Seafood options in the country can be particularly good.

10. Additional reading: Business Aircraft Ops to Costa Rica – Series Index

Note: Links will be updated as articles are published.


Be aware, well in advance, of any vaccination mandates that may impact your flight. Costa Rica has zero tolerance for any missing "required" vaccinations and will not let you into the country if appropriate health documentation cannot be presented. Also, pay particular attention to visa requirements which are applicable to crew and passengers based on nationality.


If you have any questions about this article or would like assistance planning your next trip to Costa Rica, contact me at

Later we’ll discuss hotels for Costa Rica and their impact on your trip.