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Bringing Your Pet to Costa Rica

As I formalized my plans to move to Costa Rica, there was one thing I knew with certainty: I wouldn’t leave without my beloved pet, a 5-year old cat. We had a strong bond, and I knew that he would provide comfort and companionship in my new home country. Thousands of pet owners share my sentiments, and are concerned about moving abroad without leaving their furry friends behind. Thankfully, bringing a cat or dog into Costa Rica is a simple and straightforward process; there’s no quarantine, and if you’ve kept your pet up-to-date on vaccines, you’re half way there.

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There are three ways to bring your pet to Costa Rica: as carry-on, as checked baggage, or as cargo. The option to carry-on is usually restricted to animals under 15 pounds, and is the least expensive: you’ll pay about $100-$200 for the privilege of taking your pet on board. Be aware that your pet carrier must meet the airline’s safety standards – usually a hard or soft carrier that meets certain dimensions. Transporting your pet as checked baggage is also relatively easy and inexpensive: for about $200-$300, your pet will travel on the same flight as you to Costa Rica.

Pets traveling as cargo (your pet has its own ticket/airway bill) involves a bit more procedure and expense. By law, you are required to hire a broker ($100-$200) to handle the paperwork. Animals traveling as cargo must have an import permit (currently $60) and pay an import fee (currently $30). Additionally, you will pay 24% import tax that is calculated on:

  • The value of your pet (minimum $50)

  • Shipping insurance (minimum $10)

  • Total shipping cost

Airlines have varying policies and fees, so do your research to find the best match for you and your pet. Some carriers have strict limits for carry-on animals; others won’t allow animals to travel as checked baggage or cargo during certain months; and some only offer one or two animal transportation options. After you’ve secured your airline and travel dates, it’s time to collect your pet’s documentation. For Costa Rica, this includes:

  • A pet health certificate and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS). This certificate must be issued within 10 days of travel to Costa Rica.

  • For dogs, proof of vaccination against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus (DHLPP), corona virus, parainfluenza, and rabies is required. For cats, feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia (FVRCP), and rabies are required. Vaccines, except for rabies, must be administered within 30 days of departure to Costa Rica. Rabies vaccines must be given more than 30 days but less than 12 months prior to travel to Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government does not recognize the three-year rabies vaccine.

  • For registered, purebred animals, you must provide a personal letter stating the pet's market value or a document that proves it, such as a purchase receipt.

  • Proof of payment of your Pet Customs Duty (if applicable).

You may also want to consider packing certain items to improve your pet’s comfort during travel. For example, purchase a USDA-approved carrier and mark it as LIVE ANIMAL. Don’t give your pets tranquilizers (unless specifically directed by your vet), and add a familiar toy or blanket to the kennel.

Before traveling, always call the Costa Rican embassy/consulate to confirm the most recent pet requirements.

Bringing Your Pet to Costa Rica in Pictures

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