Passport-carrying nationals of the following countries are allowed 90 days’ stay with no visa: most western European countries, Argentina, Canada, Israel, Japan, Panama and the USA.
Citizens of Australia, Iceland, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, Russia, South Africa and Venezuela are allowed to stay for 30 days with no visa. Others require a visa from a Costa Rican embassy or consulate. These lists are subject to continual change. For the latest info, check the websites of the ICT (www.visitcostarica.com) or the Costa Rican embassy (www.costarica-embassy.org) in Washington, DC.
Extending your stay beyond the authorized 30 or 90 days is a time-consuming hassle. It is far easier to leave the country for 72 hours and then re-enter. Otherwise, go to the office of migración (immigration; tel: 2220 0355; 8am-4pm) in San José, opposite Channel 6, about 4km north of Parque La Sabana. Requirements for extensions change, so allow several working days.
Travelers officially need onward tickets before they are allowed to enter Costa Rica. This requirement is not often checked at the airport, but travelers arriving by land should anticipate a need to show an onward ticket.
If you’re heading to Panama, Nicaragua or another Central or South American country from Costa Rica, you may need an onward or roundtrip ticket before you will be allowed entry into that country or even allowed to board the plane if you’re flying. A quick check with the appropriate embassy – easy to do via the internet – will tell you whether the country that you’re heading to has an onward-ticket requirement.