First off, relax! You have landed in the land of Pura Vida, one of the safest, friendliest and most inviting destinations in the world. The mantra in Costa Rica is “tranquilla” or tranquil. The attitude is one of taking things one day at a time and of no stress. Perfect advice to listen to when landing in a foreign country.
Landing in Costa Rica is a five step process:
Sign your two forms of declaration upon entering the country while on the plane. If you do not receive a form on the plane because the airline ran out of forms (which they do about 1/3 of the time), you can get the forms when you land at the airport.
Remember, the people of Costa Rica want you in their country. They want you to invest your time, your money and to return as many times as possible while telling everyone at home about your wonderful stay in their country. The first impression you receive upon arrival is one of ease, simplicity, patience, and of being warmly welcomed.
Exit the aircraft and follow the signs until you reach the main section of the receiving point of immigration. Remember, immigration does not mean prison. It is simply the check point that a country has positioned its trained professionals to welcome its guests, check your passport or documents, and your reasoning for visiting their country.
These check points are in place for not only the citizens of Costa Rica but for its visitors as well. They want to assure themselves that seedy or unwanted individuals are not allowed to enter while processing those that are tourists, conducting business, arriving home or travelling through while touring Central America.
Once you are in line, you will wait for an immigration officer to give you a visual indicator it is your turn. This takes about 3 minutes per person. Present your signed immigration form along with proper documentation to the officer.
Answer their questions they may ask as they are entering in your data and verifying your documents. The questions usually are as simple as “How long will you be in Costa Rica?” “Where will you be staying as far as city/town and accommodation?” Once you are processed, you can proceed to the baggage claim area.
You will have two choices upon entering the baggage claim area. You will either tell the waiting porters that you do or do not need help with your bags. Whether you have U.S. dollars, Colones, or other foreign currency it is roughly $1.00 a bag, or what you feel is fair, to have your bags put on a cart and taken to your local shuttle, rental car or other means of transportation.
After you or the porter have your baggage, you are then led to the declaration entry point. Once in line, you will hand your white, signed form you received on the plane to the officer while putting your bags on the x-ray machine conveyer belt. This includes all bags even back packs, purses, camera bags, etc. This is assuring the country you are not bringing in goods that may be harmful such as plants or food products or smuggling in items to avoid paying an import tax. It’s a simple process but necessary.
After grabbing your bags, exit the airport. One more step and your adventure begins.
Exiting the airport is simple but can be a little overwhelming. Like mentioned before, relax! There will be multiple taxi drivers and other porters vying for your attention while you walk out of the airport. The individuals greeting you are all nice, welcoming hosts to Costa Rica but know that each passenger is a possible fare that can provide for their families. You and your family are fine. No thieves, no criminals, no one trying to sell you time shares! It is only hard working Ticos saying to you, “How can we help?”. If you do need a taxi, car rental, shuttle or directions, they are there to provide that assistance.
If you have a prearranged car, most likely your name will be on a name card and your host will be along the exit waiting for your arrival. If you are renting a car and the rental company has a desk at the airport, the host at the counter will provide you an assistant to walk you to your awaiting shuttle. You can always shop for better rates and cars while at the airport and switch companies if you find one with a better price or upgraded car, provided you did not prepay on a travel site.
Finally and most importantly, remember this upon entering the country and leaving the airport; this is Cost Rica! A country known for adventure, natural beauty, pristine beaches, volcanoes, zip lining, water falls, wildlife, friendly people, peaceful and tranquil atmosphere and more!
The traffic can be trying but it is not only bearable but meniscal in inconvenience compared to the memories you are about to create. Pura Vida is Costa Rica’s motto and it simply means “Pure Life”. This saying is engrained into its culture and stands for living your life in the moment and to not let stress or worry deter you from enjoying your time in beautiful Costa Rica.