Costa Rica

Last updated October 13, 2021

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Spring 2022 — Green

With the country opened up for tourism and changes with the school system, we are very happy to have volunteers here for the Fall 2021 semester. We anticipate volunteers being able to serve here for a Spring 2022 semester as well.

Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info changes often, so check back frequently.

Getting There

In October 2020, Costa Rica removed the requirement for a negative Covid-19 test for US citizens, however, ILP volunteers will need one to be allowed to teach.  Plan on getting a test 48 hours before departure (it’s fine if you don’t get the results until after you arrive). If the results don’t arrive after a few days, you will need to be tested in Costa Rica before teaching.

Currently, all unvaccinated travelers must have medical insurance. The ILP requirement for emergency medical travel insurance still applies to both vaccinated and unvaccinated volunteers. Since you will be quarantined if you test positive at any time in Costa Rica (and the hotel costs for 14 days could be expensive), we strongly recommend purchasing a policy that has coverage for lodging during quarantine. 

Before departure, tourists must also fill out a “Health Pass” online which has details about your flight, age, passport number, and insurance information, etc.  That will need to be filled out 48 hours before your flight.

ILP volunteers don’t need a visa to visit Costa Rica, so no need to wait on that!

Flights to Costa Rica have been  operating since August 2020.  Airlines like United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit and others have regular routes to Costa Rica from various cities across the US.

Take a peek at this promotional video that’s currently playing at the SJO airport to give visitors an idea of what it’ll be like when you arrive in-country.

Daily Life

There has been a trend of daily cases increasing and declining in some regions. It’s something we are watching very closely. As of October 13, Costa Rica reported 1,514 active cases per 100,000. 

The country has started vaccinations, beginning with the most at-risk populations and first responders, and is now requiring the vaccine for all state workers. The University of Costa Rica also announced a vaccine mandate.

The Education Ministry (MEP) closed public schools across the country from May 24 until July 12, when students resumed classes (for some locations, resuming classes includes a mix of in-person and virtual lessons).

If volunteers can’t teach at schools, teaching will be adjusted to accommodate school closures. Adjustments for teaching include small-group teaching combined with “home” teaching as required for additional teaching space, in compliance with government restrictions. “Home” teaching involves teaching smaller groups of children outside the homes of students or in other suitable non-school spaces. From the experience of recent volunteers,  “home” teaching is a better arrangement than normal classroom (for pre-Covid semesters) for the volunteers and the children, for a handful of reasons.

For the most part things have remained open with some restrictions that haven’t stood in the way for some amazing Costa Rican experiences. Currently, most businesses are open with capacity limits. All long-route public bus routes are in operation which is good news for in-country vacation options and weekend trips for our volunteers (just plan on wearing a mask at all bus stations and while you ride).

We’ve had volunteers at this location since Spring 2021. You can get a glimpse into what living, teaching, and even traveling is like during the most recent semester here, on the ILP takeover.

Out & About

Like many areas, masks are required when visiting the supermarket, stores, malls, pharmacies, churches, etc. You’ll also need to be wearing a mask when riding public transportation. When you’re outside (walking on the street or at the beach or while hiking) you don’t need to wear a mask as long as you can stay 6 feet apart from others.

Open-air activities are good to go (hiking, ziplining, horseback riding, etc). Since February, national parks can now operate with 50% capacity and all beaches are open (if they have a curfew, it’s from 5:00 AM to 6:00 PM). 

In general, you’ll see more restrictions in regions that are labeled “Orange” than those labeled “Yellow”, but as cases have declined, the country has currently shifted out of Orange zones completely. Most of the country is currently Yellow with one or two Green regions.

Locals report that restaurants are open, people are out shopping, exploring the national parks, and hanging out at the beach — volunteers are able to visit all of their top spots in Costa Rica during a semester. 

Land borders to Costa Rica opened April 5th after a long closure, which does open up the opportunity to travel to Nicaragua and Panama on vacation. Volunteers will work with their Program Managers about handling insurance upon your re-entry to Costa Rica, as well as testing required for entering and exiting the country volunteers would be visiting (currently, both Panama and Nicaragua require a negative test upon arrival, with more requirements if you are not vaccinated for travelers headed to Panama). 

We’re happy to see travel start up between these countries, which are both favorite vacation destinations for our Costa Rica volunteers!

Can I still apply for Costa Rica?

Absolutely! We are so happy to have volunteers here for Fall 2021, we’d recommend getting a jump on your application ASAP if you’re considering traveling in Spring 2022, or other semesters in 2022. We also have Spring 2023 open for applications as well. 

We are so excited for volunteers to be back in Costa Rica! 

What is traveling and living in Costa Rica like right now? 

For Costa Rica, things have slowly been opening back up both for domestic and international tourism. We’re anticipating some of the same precautions you’d take at home (plan on wearing a mask and social distancing). Just like there is a risk to go out in Utah right now, there will be risks to traveling anywhere, including Costa Rica.