How to Move to Costa Rica with Pets?

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Moving to a new country is always an exciting adventure, but when you have pets, it adds an extra layer of complexity. Costa Rica is a popular destination country for expatriates seeking a change of scenery. However, relocating with pets requires careful planning and preparation to ensure their safety and well-being throughout the journey and adjustment period. 

We’ll coach you through every step of relocating to Costa Rica with your cherished pets in this informative guide. From understanding the country’s pet import requirements to reviewing the ways to enter Costa Rica with your pets, we’ve got you covered.


Understanding Costa Rica’s Pet Import Requirements

A woman holding a wheeled suitcase is seen with a small, fluffy brown dog peeking out from an open tan handbag slung over her shoulder. The dog has a small bow on its head and is looking directly at the camera.
Before moving to Costa Rica with pets, ensure you meet the country’s pet import requirements, which include obtaining health certificates from relevant veterinary authorities.

Before moving to Costa Rica with pets, it’s essential to understand the country’s pet import requirements. These regulations ensure animal health and safety and may vary based on pet species and origin. The requirements are:

The dog or cat (or other pets) must be accompanied by a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian and endorsed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Plant Health Inspection Service and Animal Services (APHIS), and Veterinary Services (VS). This approval must be carried out by the office of APHIS Veterinary Services of the State where you live. 

Contact information can be found at the Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS), then click on “Travel with my pet” on the right side.

Note: If you are moving your pet from a country other than the United States, you will need to obtain certificates from the equivalent authorities in that specific country.

Veterinary Certificate Requirements

A veterinarian in blue scrubs examines a small brown dog wearing a purple harness on an exam table. The dog's owner, a woman in a white sweater and blue jeans, stands beside the table holding the dog gently. The scene takes place in a modern veterinary clinic with glass doors and a clean, professional environment.
The pet health certificate must be from an accredited vet, in Spanish, or officially translated, and include a rabies vaccination certificate.
  • The certificate must be issued by a USDA-accredited veterinarian or by the competent health authority in the country of origin. For small animals, an International Certificate (APHIS FORMA 7001) is recommended.
  • Health certificates must be numbered consecutively; each sheet must be signed and sealed.
  • The certificate must declare the existence of annexes and their number, duly signed and sealed with the letterhead of the Competent Authority.
  • The International Veterinary Certificate must be in Spanish and otherwise, it must be accompanied by an original official translation into Spanish, certified by the Competent Authority.
  • The pet health certificate must be duplicated.
  • The health certificates do not have to be signed by a Notary Public nor stamped by the Office Consular of Costa Rica.
  • Official rabies vaccination certificate must accompany health documents and is valid for the vaccination period of 1 to 3 years.
  • The dog/cat’s (or other pets) supporting documentation will be reviewed upon arrival in Costa Rica.

Information That Must Be Included in the International Veterinary Certificate

  • Dog/cat information (or other pets): breed, sex, color, date of birth, and identification number of the animal (if you own it).
  • Name and address of the exporter.
  • Name and address of the consignee.
  • Conveyance.
  • Name and signature of the Official Veterinarian, the Competent Authority seal, and the issue date.

Vaccinations Requirements

A veterinarian in grey scrubs examines a dark brown cat on a table, while the cat's owner, a woman with blonde hair wearing a light green sweater, looks on. A pink and beige pet carrier is placed on the table next to them. The scene takes place in a veterinary clinic, with medical charts and equipment in the background.
Pets must undergo a clinical exam and parasite treatment within two weeks before boarding, be vaccinated for specified diseases, and have a valid rabies vaccination.
  1. The canine/domestic feline (or other pet) was subjected to a clinical examination by a USDA-accredited veterinarian. This exam must be carried out two weeks before boarding.
  2. The animal was treated with medications for internal or external parasite treatment within fifteen (15) days before export, ensuring that it was free of ticks and other parasites, both external and internal. The date of application, trademark, batch number, and the main asset of the treatments must be listed.
  3. Domestic canines were vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus, and leptospirosis.
  4. Domestic cats were vaccinated against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.
  5. Dogs and cats over three months old must have been vaccinated against rabies. This vaccine must be valid on the day you enter Costa Rica. It must be noted on the international veterinary certificate the date of vaccination against rabies, trademark, manufacturing laboratory, batch number, and date of vaccine expiration.
  6. Puppies (dogs and/or cats) under three months old should not be vaccinated against rabies; however, the vaccination plan must be certified according to age and species.


Ways to Introduce Domestic Animals to Costa Rica

A man wearing a cycling helmet and black cycling attire sits on outdoor steps, smiling and holding a small white and brown dog. Behind him are two bicycles resting against the steps.
Pets can enter Costa Rica with their owner on the same flight.

Domestic animals can enter Costa Rica in one of two ways:

The first is that pets enter with the owner in the cabin or as “luggage” on the same flight and enter the baggage claim area. In this case, the pets require the aforementioned documentation.

Depending on the length of stay in Costa Rica, pets entering from the US (or any other country) may or may not need additional documentation to leave Costa Rica and return to the US (or any other country). The scenarios are:

a. If the animal enters Costa Rica and stays for a time longer than the validity of the US Health Certificate (30 days per APHIS Form 7001) or rabies certificate, then that pet will need a valid Costa Rican Health Certificate or a certificate of vaccination to leave.

b. If the pet leaves during the period of validity of the Health Certificate of the USA and the rabies certificate, then that is all that is required to leave Costa Rica.

The second form of entry is if the pets that enter Costa Rica do so as a load or if the owner has two or more larger pets. In this case, the animals go directly to a customs warehouse and will need all the previously mentioned documentation. 

In addition, they are required to obtain an Import Permit (a Sanitary Health Permit) from the Animal Quarantine Offices (SENASA-Animal Quarantine Department—see below) and comply with the procedures necessary for customs clearance (all of this is done through a customs agent). 

NOTE: Don’t worry if this is the case with your pets; they will be cared for in customs warehouses. The Import Permit costs approximately $20.


Valuable Tips to Consider

A small black dog and a fluffy orange cat are sitting on top of a closed yellow suitcase. The suitcase is placed on a wooden floor in a living room, with a grey couch and potted plants in the background.
Crate training, calculating transportation costs, and consulting pet relocation experts can make moving to Costa Rica with pets smoother.

Moving to Costa Rica with your cherished pets might go more smoothly if you consider these helpful pointers.

  1. Crate training.
    To guarantee your pet’s comfort during the trip, this is strongly advised. Providing your pet with a comfortable and safe environment will help reduce stress and anxiety. Selecting a crate that fits your pet well and provides enough room for them to stand, turn around, and sleep down is crucial.
  2. Calculating the transportation expenses.
    Expenses may differ based on your pet’s size, the airline you select, and the particular services you need. The price might range from $200 to $400 on average. It is a good idea to get in touch with several airlines to find out about their pet-friendly travel regulations, costs, and any other criteria they might have.
  3. Contact pet relocation experts if needed.
    Many organizations, like PetRelocation, IPATA (International Pet and Animal Transportation Association), and Across the Pond Pets, may offer expert advice and support if you have any questions or need help relocating your pet to Costa Rica. These companies are experts in relocating pets and are well-versed in the legal requirements and practical considerations of pet transportation across international borders.

Relocating pets to Costa Rica requires careful planning and preparation, including adhering to import regulations, ensuring health and vaccinations, choosing suitable transportation, and navigating customs and immigration protocols. Be patient and sympathetic as your pets adjust to their new environment, and keep in mind that with love, care, and attention, your pets will adjust to life in Costa Rica in the blink of an eye. 

Lastly, visit the Special Places of Costa Rica website to find pet-friendly properties tailored to your needs in the most incredible spots Costa Rica offers.

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