Costa Rica

Last updated January 14, 2021

Today’s Status, Looking Towards Spring 2021 — Green

We are very excited to have volunteers here for the Spring 2021 semester.

Check below to get more details on some key aspects that we’re watching. Each of these components help us determine when we’ll be able to send volunteers to Costa Rica again (it’s stuff you’re going to want to know). Also, this info changes often. Our goal is to keep things current with weekly updates, so check back frequently.

Getting There

As of November 1st, US citizens from all U.S. states are allowed to visit Costa Rica!

Travelers must arrive with an electronic health pass and a negative COVID-19 diagnostic test (taken within 48 hours of travel). 

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 are operating as of August 1st.  Airlines like United Airlines, American Airlines, JetBlue, Spirit and others have all been adding more 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. In October, San Jose Airport received the Airport Health Accreditation from the International Council of Airports. This recognizes that SJO Airport has safe facilities and that appropriate precautions are being taken to reduce health risks. SJO Airport is currently one of only 58 airports around the world with this designation.

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 January 14th, Costa Rica reported 781.4 active cases per 100,000.

In August, the Education Board decided that no in-person classes would be conducted for the remainder of the 2020 school year (ending December 23rd). In late December, the government announced that starting with the new school year in February 2021, older classes (6th grade and higher) will be open for in-person classes. It’s anticipated that younger classes will follow in March or April.

Although the virus has been managed well in Costa Rica, parents are still hesitant to bring children back to school. Older grades will have in-person classes, but most of the younger grades will not be returning to schools until later. We have been working with our contacts to find a solution (there are many parents that want ILP classes, and many that are still hesitant about the virus). For Spring 2021, instead of teaching at the school, ILP local coordinators have arranged our ILP  teachers to teach their students outside their homes or in other non-school locations. 

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 a group of 2-4 children outside the homes of students or in other suitable non-school spaces. We anticipate the “home” teaching may end up being a better arrangement than normal classroom (for pre-Covid semesters) for the volunteers and the children.

For the most part things have remained open with some restrictions. Currently, most businesses are open but close by 10:00 PM on weekdays, and around 8:00 or 9:00 PM on the weekends. 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). There are some beaches with a curfew, but it’s not the majority.

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). Some places and parks may only have a few trails open and will likely be following maximum capacity rules. National parks have reopened with 50% capacity and all beaches are open (if they have a curfew, it’s from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM on weekdays, and 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM on weekends). These regulations are set to run until January 17th, with the possibility of extending. 

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%.

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. 

Volunteers will not be able to travel out of country for the time being, though we are watching to see if Covid restrictions in nearby locations change.

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.