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New 180 days tourist visas in Costa Rica: hang on, there is a catch!

par Yves Pepito Malette
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The General Directorate of Migration in Costa Rica (Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería Costa Rica) has announced a decree (no 44187) that now makes it legal for foreigners visiting Costa Rica to obtain a tourist visa of 180 days.

Across social medias, tourists and expats are welcoming and celebrating the news – but hang on, there is catch if you are driving in Costa Rica! Read carefully below.

The immigration office has announced an extension in the permitted duration of stay for visitors to Costa Rica. Instead of the earlier 90-day limit, individuals can now stay for up to 180 days. This implies that tourists and visitors to Costa Rica need not leave the country every three months for visa renewal. Instead, a semi-annual border run will suffice if you are not driving in Costa Rica.

The new law applies to people from countries that are currently not required to obtain a visa before they can travel to Costa Rica. This includes the United States, Canada and several European countries. But when arriving in Costa Rica they will be asked to provide what is considered a proof of exit in the upcoming 180 days.

New 180 days tourist visas in Costa Rica: hang on, there is a catch!

Unfortunately, the new law does not change the practice about driving in Costa Rica with a foreign driver’s license. Foreigners are allowed to drive for a maximum of 90 days, and then they must still exit the borders and re-enter to renew their visa. That aspect of the change leaves many visitors and expats confused.

If it’s more than 90 days old, you’re driving illegally. Police can take away your license plates not to mention a possible fine and other legal implications.

Note: driving without a with a driver’s licence that exceeds the 90 days allowed by the Costa Rica Transit law, means you are driving illegally, and your car insurances become invalid and that can cause you may problems in case of an accident in a foreign country. So, beware!

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