As Tropical Destinations Reopen, Here’s What Travelers Need to Know


Costa Rica reopened for tourism this summer by welcoming travelers from Europe and Canada. In the months of August and September, about 6,000 visitors arrived. By comparison, the country drew 3.1 million travelers in all of 2019 — but the government said Costa Rica had experienced no travel-related coronavirus transmission.

“Basically, tourism is about a tenth of our economy,” said Gustavo J. Segura, Costa Rica’s tourism minister. “We really needed economic reactivation. Through this gradual process, we’ve been able to prove international travel is not a problem.”

While some Americans from lower-transmission states have been able to visit Costa Rica since September, starting Nov. 1, despite the fact that cases in the United States are rising, Costa Rica will welcome all American travelers.

The government requires all visitors to complete a Health Pass online, provide negative test results taken within 72 hours of arrival and buy travel insurance from one of two local agencies to cover accommodation and medical expenses if the traveler contracts the coronavirus (the cost depends on age and length of stay, but a 45-year-old staying two weeks will pay roughly $10 a day). Travelers with international insurance policies must provide certification from the insurer, uploaded to the Health Pass, that the policy is effective in Costa Rica, and covers medical and lodging expenses related to the virus, for a total of about $50,000. After Oct. 26, a negative test will no longer be required.

The country is relying on its reputation for nature-based tourism, from the volcanic interior to the coasts, to attract visitors. Of its hotels, 94 percent have 40 or fewer rooms, making it easier to avoid other guests.

“The government tells us we can have 100 percent occupancy in hotels but in restaurants and public areas it’s 50 percent so we have put a limit on being only 75 percent occupied at most hotels,” said Hans Pfister, the president and co-founder of the Cayuga Collection, which operates five lodges in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is not the place to look for bottom barrel rates, which tend to be easier for large hotels to dangle. With similar fixed costs, most small hotels are more likely to offer an extra night free or a room upgrade.


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