Costa Rica

Last updated April 16, 2021

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Summer 2021 — Green

With the country opening up for tourism and changes with the school system, we are very excited to have volunteers here for the Spring 2021 semester. We anticipate volunteers being able to serve here for a Summer 2021 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, Costa Rica removed the requirement for a negative Covid-19 test for US citizens, however, ILP volunteers will need one for teaching reasons. 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 travelers must have medical insurance, which for an ILP semester depends on your age and extent of the coverage. We found a policy ILP volunteers could purchase that meets the country’s minimal requirements for around $240 – $280 for the duration of your semester. 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 sinceAugust.  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, then decreasing over the last few weeks. It’s something we are watching very closely. As of April 16th, Costa Rica reported 544.1 active cases per 100,000. 

The country has started vaccinations, beginning with the most at-risk populations and first responders.

Costa Rica’s public schools returned to the classroom on February 8th for the first time since the country declared a State of Emergency due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Most schools have hybrid teaching, with students attending class for a portion of the week, and joining online lessons for the remaining weekdays. Currently only older students are attending in person and younger students should be back in classes in the coming months. 

By Summer 2021, we expect that younger children will be coming back to school and ILP teachers will be teaching at school again. Depending on the speed of the return, we could continue teaching in non-school locations for a part of the summer (like what we are doing in Spring 2021) and then return to the school mid-semester in the summer.

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 Spring 2021 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. 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 a group of volunteers here for the Spring 2021 semester. You can get a glimpse into what living, teaching, and even traveling is like during their 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 100% capacity and all beaches are open (if they have a curfew, it’s from 5:00 AM to 6:00 PM). 

You’ll see more restrictions in regions that are labeled “Orange” than those labeled “Yellow”. In Orange regions, you’ll see “essential only” stores open (like banks, grocery stores, etc), Places like pools, and hotel restaurants are at 50%. Most of the country is currently Yellow.

Costa Rica first focused on opening up their country for locals, promoting weekend trips to favorite beaches, resorts, and national parks. Now, international tourism is starting to pick up, as of November. Locals report that restaurants are open, people are out shopping, exploring the national parks, and hanging out at the beach — it seems like you’ll be able to visit all of your top spots in Costa Rica during your 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, Panama and Nicaragua require a negative test upon arrival). 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 Spring 2021, we’d recommend getting a jump on your application ASAP if you’re considering traveling in Summer 2021, Fall 2021, or even Spring 2022. 

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.