Citizens of the United States, Canada, and most European and Latin American countries are issued a free tourist visa which permits them to stay in Costa Rica for 90 days. They must, however, be carrying an acceptable form of identification, at least US$300, and a departure ticket.
Acceptable forms of identification are not limited to just valid passports, although this is probably the most hassle-free option. Citizens of the aforementioned countries can also enter with the combination of a birth certificate and a valid picture I.D. The latter includes a valid driver's license or an expired passport.
Citizens of all other countries should confer with the Costa Rican consulate nearest them to verify whether they are required to obtain a visa prior to entrance. If a visa is required, an entry deposit is also imposed, refundable upon departure.
Special Bulletin Regarding Passports
Since the attack on September 11th, Costa Rican immigration officials have taken measures to tighten security and create further restrictions to entrance. The most recent policy change applies to all holders of foreign passports. Effective now, all passports must remain valid for at least six months from the time of entrance. That is, your passport must not have an expiration date within six months of your proposed date of entry.
Visas, Stamps and Fees
All visitors to Costa Rica must pay a US$17 airport tax upon departure. If you have overstayed your free 90-day tourist visa, you will be required to purchase an exit visa for approximately US$45 when you leave. This fee waives the standard airport tax.
Most travel agents can issue an exit visa for a nominal processing fee. This service is well worth the cost, as obtaining an exit visa yourself will likely keep you standing in lines for the better half of a day. To be on the safe side, commission the agent to purchase your exit visa about ten days prior to your departure. This could save you a great deal of money and time should there be unexpected delays.
Every time you leave the country, if even for a couple of days, you are issued a new 90-day tourist visa when you reenter. Therefore, in order to avoid paying the exit visa, tourists will commonly leave Costa Rica before their free visas have expired, and hang out for a few days in another country. Upon reentrance, they have effectively obtained a new 90-day tourist visa while totally evaded payment of the exit visa.