Costa Rica - Country Commercial Guide
Business Travel

Includes information on business customs, travel advisory, visa requirements, and other aspects of international travel.

Last published date: 2023-04-03

Business Customs

Costa Ricans are friendly and service-oriented people. As such, Costa Rican business executives place great importance on personal contact with their foreign suppliers. If possible, meetings should take place at the hosts’ facilities and not in a hotel. A business suit is appropriate for most business meetings, the use of a tie is optional.

Handshakes are the common greeting used by visiting businesspersons.

Being on time to a meeting is expected, but you might have to wait for the Costa Rican counterparts, as punctuality is a flexible concept, and being 15 minutes late is not seen as late but just being “a little behind.”

The U.S. company representative should have business cards, proposals, and other material printed or ready to be transferred in both English and Spanish.  At first, a company looking to do business in Costa Rica should address a person directly by using his or her last name.  Only after several meetings, one may refer to the other person with his fist name.

 Business negotiations proceed much slower than in North American culture. Sometimes Costa Ricans prefer a more indirect and political approach to business as opposed to direct business tactics. Impatience is widely viewed as a weakness and can sometimes lower one’s credibility.  Talking about family is viewed positively and becoming “friends” will likely be good for business.

Men should wear a conservative, dark suit. In warmer climates, a jacket is optional. Women can wear a dress or skirt and blouse for formal business meetings, but it is far more common for women to wear pants to work. Costa Ricans are a little more formal than other Latin Americans.

Telephone calls continue to be the number one way to set up appointments, in-person, or virtual conferences, although an email may also do the trick.  Be sure to follow up with an e-calendar meeting request after an agreement is reached over the phone.  WhatsApp is the number one direct way to contact someone in Costa Rica, bypassing assistants and it usually beats emails in quick answers or even sending documents.

Keep in mind, the rainy season lasts from late April to November. If you don’t want to be stuck in traffic and rain, you should consider coming to Costa Rica during another time of year, or at least try to set your meetings during the morning, when it is usually sunny.  Be sure to take local holidays into consideration as most businesses will close, and the ones that remain open might not have the decision-makers available.

Although Costa Rican businessmen are very friendly, it is not customary to invite people home, not until a deep business and personal relationship has developed.

Meetings during breakfast or lunch time are not customary.   Evening dinners or after-office meetings tend to be more social and less business oriented.

Travel Advisory

Safety and Security

There have been no recent acts of terrorism in Costa Rica. Though infrequent, visitors to Costa Rica may experience the effects of civil disturbances, such as work stoppages and strikes.  On both the Caribbean and Pacific coasts, ocean currents can be swift and dangerous, and there are few lifeguards or signs warning of dangerous beaches. Every year, American citizens drown in Costa Rica due to riptides or sudden drop-offs while in shallow water; extreme caution is advised.  Adventure tourism is popular in Costa Rica, and many companies offer white-water rafting, bungee jumping, jungle canopy tours, deep sea diving, and other outdoor attractions.  Some tour operators take risks, and government regulation and oversight of firms that organize sporting activities may not always adhere to international standards and best practices.  U.S. citizens have died in Costa Rica while participating in adventure sports.  Use caution and common sense when engaging in ALL adventure sports, such as bungee jumping, sky diving, hiking, rappelling, climbing, whitewater rafting, kayaking, etc. Make sure your medical insurance covers your sport.

Never participate in adventure sports alone. Always carry identification and let others know where you are at all times. Before kayaking and rafting, check river conditions and wear a life jacket and helmet. Even popular rafting locations such as the Rio Naranjo near Quepos can become extremely dangerous in flash flood conditions. When hiking, rappelling, or climbing, carry a first aid kit and know the location of the nearest rescue center. Observe all local or park regulations and exercise caution in unfamiliar surroundings.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the State Department’s Internet web site at, where current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts can be found.


Over one and a half million foreign tourists, the majority American, visit Costa Rica annually. All are potential targets for criminals — primarily thieves looking for cash, jewelry, credit cards, electronic items and passports.  U.S. citizens are encouraged to exercise the same level of caution they would in major cities or tourist areas throughout the world.  Local law enforcement officers can have more limited response capabilities and may follow protocols differing from their U.S. counterparts. Travelers should minimize driving at night, especially outside urban areas. 

U.S. citizens should exercise caution when in areas with high concentrations of bars and nightclubs, especially at night, and steer clear of deserted properties or undeveloped land.  For safety reasons, the Embassy does not place its official visitors in hotels in the San Jose city center, but instead puts them at the larger hotels in the outlying suburbs.  U.S. citizens should walk or exercise with a companion, bearing in mind that crowded tourist attractions and resort areas popular with foreign tourists are common venues for criminal activity.   Travelers should ignore verbal harassment and avoid overt displays of wealth — to include large amounts of cash, jewelry, or expensive photographic equipment. In lieu of their original passport document, tourists are encouraged to carry photocopies of their passport data page and Costa Rican entry stamp on their persons, leaving the original in a hotel safe or other secure place. 

Travelers should purchase an adequate level of locally valid theft insurance when renting vehicles, park in secured lots whenever possible, and never leave valuables in their vehicle.  The U.S. Embassy receives regular reports of valuables, identity documents, and other items stolen from locked vehicles, especially rental vehicles. Thefts from parked cars occur in downtown San Jose, at beaches, in the airport and bus stations, gas stations, parking lots, and at national parks and other tourist attractions.

Travelers should use licensed taxis, which are red with medallions (yellow triangles containing numbers) painted on the side. Licensed taxis at the airport are painted orange. All licensed taxis should have working door handles, locks, seatbelts and meters (called “marias”); passengers are required to use seatbelts. When traveling by bus, to limit risk of theft, avoid putting bags or other personal belongings in the storage bins.  At all times have your belongings in your line of sight or in your possession.

Thieves typically work in groups of two to four.  A common scam has one person drop change in a crowded area, such as on a bus, and when the victim tries to assist, a wallet or other item is taken.  Another common scam involves the surreptitious puncturing of tires of rental cars, often near restaurants, tourist attractions, airports, or close to the car rental agencies themselves. When the traveler pulls over, a “good Samaritan” quickly appears to change the tire - and just as quickly removes valuables from the car, sometimes brandishing weapons. Drivers with flat tires are advised to drive to the nearest service station or other public area if possible, and change the tire themselves, watching valuables at all times. 

In 2006, the government of Costa Rica established a specialized Tourist Police force, with units patrolling popular tourist areas throughout the country. The Tourist Police can assist with the reporting of a crime, which can be difficult for victims due to language barriers and the requirement that only investigative police can accept crime reports. 

Visa Requirements

General Entry/Exit Requirements

For entry into Costa Rica, U.S. citizens must present a valid passport and a roundtrip/outbound ticket.  A visa is not required for U.S. citizens traveling with a valid U.S. passport.  Some U.S. airlines may not permit passengers to board flights to Costa Rica without a return ticket.  Passports should be in good condition; Costa Rican immigration will deny entry if the passport is damaged in any way.  Costa Rican authorities generally permit U.S. citizens to stay up to 90 days.  To stay beyond the period granted, travelers must apply for an extension to the Office of Temporary Permits in the Costa Rican Department of Immigration.  Tourist visas are usually not extended except under special circumstances, and extension requests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. There is a departure tax for short-term visitors, which is typically included in the cost of a traveler’s airfare. Tourists who stay beyond the designated exit date may experience a delay at the airport when departing and will have to pay a fine.  Individuals with prior overstays may further be denied entry to Costa Rica.  Persons traveling to Costa Rica from certain countries in South America and sub-Saharan Africa must provide evidence of a valid yellow fever vaccination prior to entry.  It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington, D.C., or one of Costa Rica’s Consulates in the United States for information on specific countries considered at risk.

Resources on COVID-19 Travel Restrictions and Requirements:  

As conditions for entry into Costa Rica are constantly evolving due to COVID-19, we recommend that all travelers should utilize the following resources when planning your trip:

  • The most authoritative and up-to-date information on Costa Rican entry and exit requirements, including visa information, may be obtained from the Consular Section of the Embassy of Costa Rica at 2114 “S” Street, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 499 2991, fax (202) 265-4795, e-mail, web site from the Costa Rican consulates in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Juan (Puerto Rico), San Francisco, and Tampa. The Costa Rican immigration agency maintains a website at: It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Costa Rica in Washington or one of Costa Rica’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements before shipping any items.
  • Additional resources:

U.S. companies that require travel of foreign businesspersons to the United States should be advised that security evaluations are handled via an interagency process. Business visitors are advised to plan their trips as far in advance as possible. 

Applicants for U.S. visas should go to the following links: