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A small dog holding a green frisbee in its mouth in the sand on the beach
June 1, 2022

Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica Pet Travel

Pets are family, right? If you can’t imagine experiencing your vacation in Costa Rica without your four-legged furry friend, you’re in luck.

Dogs and cats can travel to Costa Rica as long as they have health certificates deeming them healthy and vaccinated. Follow the steps below to enter Costa Rica with your cat or dog safely.

Vet appointments

Before you can enter Costa Rica with your pet, you’ll need to schedule an appointment with your vet’s office within two weeks of your departure date.

Your cat may not like going to the vet, but just wait until she finds out where she’s going next.

When you make your appointment, make sure you tell the veterinarian you’re traveling to Costa Rica, so they can have the health certificate printed and ready to complete when you arrive at the office.

Veterinary certificate for Costa Rica

Your veterinarian will ensure your pet is current on the following requirements during your appointment. Then, they’ll complete and sign your pet’s Costa Rican health certificate:

A health certificate required to travel with pets.
  • Current rabies vaccination (dogs and cats)
  • Current parvovirus, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis vaccination (dogs)
  • Current feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus, panleukopenia, and feline leukemia vaccination (cats)
  • Treated for internal (tapeworms) and external (ticks) parasites within 15 days (dogs and cats)

Costa Rica does not require your pet to be microchipped to enter the country and does not have a list of banned breeds. If your dog or cat is sick or has an infectious disease, they will not be allowed to travel.

If you’re planning to bring any other animals besides your dog or cat, they will be considered case-by-case. However, if they are accepted, you will be required to obtain an import permit in addition to the necessary health certificates for your pets.

USDA-accredited veterinarians

After receiving your health certificate from your usual veterinarian for your pet, you’ll need to make an appointment with a USDA-accredited veterinarian to get the health certificate endorsed and signed. Costa Rica requires your health certificate to be signed by a vet and then endorsed by the animal and plant health inspection service (APHIS).

So how did you like all the vaccinations? “Ruff!”

If you can’t schedule an appointment with any USDA-accredited veterinarians in your area in enough time before your trip, you can get your certificate endorsed by sending the following paperwork to the USDA in the mail:

  • International health certificate signed and completed by your vet.
  • Proof of examination (invoice, receipt, etc.) within two weeks of your flight.
  • Proof of rabies vaccination and other vaccines specific to dogs and cats.
  • Evidence of internal and external parasite treatment.
  • Endorsement fee of $38.

Note: If your usual vet is a USDA-accredited veterinarian who can sign the health certificate, you can skip this step.

Airport travel

Now you can get to the fun part—traveling.

Generally speaking, pets under 20 pounds can fly in the cabin. If your pet needs to fly in cargo, check with your airline for the specific requirements regarding kennel size. If your kennel doesn’t fit the criteria, you may not be able to travel.

Checking in your pet

Once you have your health certificate signed by a licensed veterinarian proving your pet is in good health and a kennel that fits your airline’s requirements, you’re ready to travel.

Owners can typically begin the check-in process for their pets at your airline’s “special assistance” area. You’ll likely need to fill out a small form about your pet, show your valid health certificate, and have your dog and kennel weighed. Then, you’ll receive clearance to fly.

Check with your airline on whether a dog under 20 pounds can fly in the cabin.

You’re usually permitted to leave beds, blankets, food, treats, water, toys, and other comforting items in the kennel with your pet. However, it’s important to check with your specific airline for additional information and policies regarding traveling with animals.

After your pet is checked in with the airline, you’ll need to do a final check-in with the TSA—they’ll be responsible for getting your pet boarded on the same flight as you safely.

Arriving in Costa Rica

Pets should enter the destination country via the Juan Santamaria Airport (SJO) Airport in San Jose or the Daniel Oduber Airport (LIR) Airport in Liberia. Make sure your flight is scheduled to arrive at one of these airports.

When your flight lands, you’ll go through immigration and meet your pet at the baggage claim. You’ll need to find a National Animal Health Service of Costa Rica (SENASA) customs official to clear your animal. They’ll ask for your health certificate and import permit (if necessary), and if everything is clear, they’ll stamp the paperwork and give it back to you.

At this point, you can begin enjoying your trip to Costa Rica with your pet!

Cats aren’t big on swimming, but maybe they like to work on their tan?

Common questions about Costa Rica pet travel

How much does it cost to bring your dog to Costa Rica?

The cost of traveling or moving to Costa Rica with your pet can vary. Each pet owner will need to consider the following fees:

  • Health certificate(s)
  • USDA-accredited veterinarian endorsement
  • Vaccines, treatment, and other medical requirements
  • Airline fees in the USA and Costa Rica

Typically, traveling to Costa Rica with your pet will cost between $200 – $400.

Can I bring a dog from Costa Rica to the USA?

Yes, you can bring your dog from Costa Rica back to the USA.

Dog: “I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”

The process for dogs and cats leaving Costa Rica is similar to bringing an animal into the country. However, depending on how long your trip is, you may need to complete additional documentation to bring your pets back into the country. It’s wise to note some vets in Costa Rica near where you’re staying before your trip to have a contact in the country if you need them. You can read the specific requirements for bringing pets back into the United States on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website.

Is it safe to bring my dog to Costa Rica?

Yes, it’s safe to bring your pets to Costa Rica, as long as you complete the paperwork in time and check your airline’s policies for flying with pets. Costa Rica is a dog-friendly country, so you’re sure to find plenty of things to do with your furry friend.

Everyone knows dogs love the beach, but who’s to say cats don’t like it too?


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Category: Travel Tips

6 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to Costa Rica Pet Travel

  • Allie
    on November 17, 2022

    Thank you for this post! Do you know if the trip to Costa Rica is less than 30 days is it possible to return from CR to the USA without an additional vet appointment and letter? I wasn’t sure if I needed another vet letter with approval from SENASA in order to leave Costa Rica to return to the USA with my dog? Thank you!

  • Tanya Goldstein
    on September 29, 2022

    Is there a limit or regulation on bringing cat food into CR?

    • Kenny Segers
      on October 14, 2022

      Hi Tanya,
      we would not know. We recommend you verify with costums in Costa Rica. This information we dont manage.

  • Shannon
    on September 16, 2022

    Great article. Is there a maximum number or cats/dogs you can bring to CR? I have 9 cats. Thank you

    • Kenny Segers
      on September 27, 2022

      Hi Shannon. Thank you first of all for reading our blog.
      I cant say what the max amount of animals is. I suggest you connect with your trusted Costarican lawyer to verify the law.

  • on June 23, 2022

    A great mention here would be Cavalini vet for paperwork going back from CR. I find he is by far the best price and the easiest to deal with after 3 trips with 2 dogs. Pura Vida!


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