Like in most countries, when you land in Costa Rica from an international flight, you will need to answer a few questions, and then get your passport stamped by an immigration officer. Depending on what country your passport was issued, you will be allowed to stay in Costa Rica for between 30 and 90 days. The immigration officer will stamp your passport, and then hand write the number of days you are allowed to stay onto the stamp. This is important.
As I mentioned last week in this post, I’ve been to Costa Rica 45 times, so I have that many Costa Rica stamps in my current passport. 44 of those stamps have “90” written on them, which allowed me to stay for 90 days. The one other stamp has “30” written on it, and then circled. This also is the only stamp of the 45 that has the number of days circled, so it obviously was intentional, and not an oversight.
Apparently, each immigration officer has the discretion to determine the length of stay for each foreign visitor he attends. This probably wouldn’t be a problem for most people on short vacations, but it could definitely cause you problems if you had a longer stay planned and didn’t realize it, or if you decided to extend your stay during your trip. The screenshot below is taken from the VisitCostaRica tourism website.
What Happens if you overstay?
If you overstay your tourist visa you could possibly be deported. There is also a fine, and although the cost is not too excessive, at $100 per month, the bigger problem may be trouble entering Costa Rica in the future.
You are required to have an outbound ticket when you enter Costa Rica, but in my experience this is almost never asked for on arrival, so don’t assume that your outbound ticket will determine how long you are allowed to stay. If you check your stamp immediately after it is issued, you can more easily deal with it, if you think it will be a problem later on in your trip.