How to bring your pets to Costa Rica

Are you bringing your pet to Costa Rica when you move here? Of course, you are… Because pets are family, and family sticks together! Thankfully, the process isn’t overly complicated. Costa Rica doesn’t require quarantine or ban certain dog breeds as some other countries do. We understand the importance of bringing your furry friend with you on your adventures. However, we also know that traveling with a pet can be stressful and overwhelming. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to help you easily bring your pet to Costa Rica.



Is Costa Rica Pet-Friendly?

Costa Rica is known as a pet-friendly country. Your pets are welcomed in many places depending on their size and breed. There are dog parks everywhere and many groups dedicated to animals that you can join on Facebook and other social media.



Paperwork Requirements

You will need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection to travel, and some airlines require an acclimation certificate. These certificates can only be completed and signed by an accredited veterinarian (federally accredited if from the USA).

If you’re bringing your pet(s) from the USA. You will need to fill out a Costa Rica Health Certificate with your vet within two weeks of your departure to verify that your animals are in good health to travel. 

Requirements for dogs:

  • Rabies vaccination (you will need to vaccinate your pets for rabies more than 30 days before travel);
  • Distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and leptospirosis vaccination;
  • Internal and External parasite treatment within 15 days.

Requirements for cats:

  • Rabies vaccination;
  • Feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia.

Important points:

  • Costa Rica does not require any microchip for your pet;
  • Costa Rica does not ban any particular dog breed;
  • Additional steps and permits may be needed if your pet is not a dog, cat, or ferret, such as a turtle. Costa Rica is very protective of its wildlife;
  • If you are not traveling with your pet (for example, air cargo), you’ll need to send paperwork for a health import permit to Costa Rican authorities before the pet leaves. Once you arrive, you’ll be able to secure the permit and recover your pet. We recommend a professional agent for this to avoid any surprises.


You can find more detailed information HERE.


Note: Keeping an additional set of completed forms and photocopied paperwork on hand in a dedicated folder is a great idea to stay organized. Make sure your pets have their name tags updated with the information to find you and a recent photo of your pet(s) in case it’s necessary. Writing down your information on the crate is also a good idea as an extra safety measure. Don’t forget wet wipes, waste bags, and a few treats to reward your pets.


Traveling from North America to Costa Rica?

For travel of pets between the US and Costa Rica, a health certificate provided by USDA APHIS needs to be completed by your vet and signed by a USDA-accredited veterinarian. Make sure the checkup is done within 2 weeks of departure – the parasite treatments must be applied by your vet just before you leave!

What is APHIS?

APHIS – Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Costa Rica needs an international health certificate signed by a vet and then authorized by APHIS. Your dog or cat must be examined by a USDA-accredited veterinarian, who can fill out the Federal APHIS Form. If not, you can mail the documents to APHIS for certification.

For the USA – check HERE for information about APHIS;

For Canada – check HERE for the necessary form to fill out.



Preparing Your Pet for Travel

Before embarking on your journey to Costa Rica, it’s crucial to ensure that your pet is up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations and has a clean bill of health from your veterinarian. It’s also essential to obtain a pet passport, which includes your pet’s health records, identification, and vaccination history. The pet passport will help you clear customs and ensure a smooth entry into Costa Rica.

In addition, it’s vital to acclimate your pet to its carrier before the trip. Start by leaving the carrier in your home and encouraging your pet to explore it at leisure. Gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends in the carrier until they are comfortable being inside it for extended periods. This will help reduce stress and anxiety during travel.

Your veterinarian may be able to prescribe medicine to help with anxiety or tension. Costa Rica does not have a pet quarantine period, making it easier to reunite with your pets after a long tiresome trip.


Once you have the export documents, you’ll need to arrange transportation with your airline. This includes having a properly-sized approved kennel for your pet ready to go. The ideal dimensions for a dog’s crate are 15cm (6 inches) longer than their body length (head to start of tail) and the same height above the shoulder.



Choosing an Airline

When flying to Costa Rica with your pet, choosing an airline that allows pets and is pet-friendly is important. Many airlines require a health certificate issued within ten days of travel, so make sure to obtain one from your veterinarian and all other procedures they require. It’s also important to verify that your pet’s carrier meets the airline’s build quality, size, and ventilation specifications, as they can vary from airline to airline.



Need Some Help?

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by this process to complete on your own, we recommend contacting a trusted organization to bring your pet to Costa Rica. One of them is Pet Lounge, a company specializing in logistics services and international pet transportation based conveniently close to SJO airport in Costa Rica. It was founded in 2012 by two brothers with vast experience in Cargo transportation and veterinary practice. They will coordinate your pets’ delivery with international agents and manage your pets’ documentation, customs, and quarantine procedures if needed. Moreover, they can deliver your pets by an airline, pick them up, and drop them off at your home safe and sound.



Arriving in Costa Rica

Upon arrival in Costa Rica, you will need to clear customs with your pet. You’ll be required to present your pet’s passport, health certificate, and vaccination records. A veterinary inspection may also be necessary. You will need to show your pet and the documents to the SENASA (Costa Rica’s animal welfare agency).



Acclimation to Costa Rica

Depending on your animal’s breed, the weather may be a new major factor. Summers may be oppressively hot, and large species or those with thick coats could suffer greatly without proper ventilation or air conditioning, especially on the coasts where it is much hotter.

*When walking with your pets, keeping an eye on the temperature of the asphalt and sand is essential, as it can hurt your pets’ paws. An easy way to test this is to walk with your dog barefoot or place your hand on the surface for at least 5 seconds; if you can’t handle the heat, neither can your dog.



Pet-Friendly Accommodations in Costa Rica

When it comes to finding pet-friendly accommodations in Costa Rica, there are many options available in Air BnB. From hotels to vacation rentals, plenty of places welcome pets. However, verifying that the accommodations you choose allow pets and have the necessary facilities, such as designated pet areas and waste disposal stations, is important.



Exploring Costa Rica with Your Pet

Costa Rica is known for its stunning natural beauty and outdoor adventures, and your pet can join in on the fun! However, it’s important to keep in mind that some activities may not be suitable for pets. Before embarking on any adventure, make sure to verify that your pet is welcome and that the activity is safe for them.

Some pet-friendly activities in Costa Rica include hiking, visiting pet-friendly beaches, and exploring local parks. Make sure to bring plenty of water, food, and waste disposal bags for your pet, and always keep them on a leash or in a carrier.




Bringing your pet to Costa Rica can be a wonderful and rewarding experience but requires planning and preparation. We emphasize that you should consult your vet and airline before moving to Costa Rica, as animal transport laws may change. It’s crucial to keep in mind the document deadlines. You should check with your airline to see what their unique restrictions are.

-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]



Frequently Asked Questions

What vaccinations does my pet need before traveling to Costa Rica?

Your pet will need to be up-to-date on all necessary vaccinations, including rabies, distemper, and parvo.

Can I bring my pet on the plane with me in the Cabin?

Some airlines allow smaller pets in the cabin stored in their crate under the seat in front of you.

Can I bring my emotional needs animal with me?

Emotional support animals require an ESA letter from a licensed expert.

Can I take my pet to national parks in Costa Rica?

It depends on the park. Some parks allow pets, while others do not. Always verify the park’s pet policy before bringing your furry friend.

Can I bring pet food and water into Costa Rica?

Yes, you can bring pet food and water into Costa Rica. However, it’s important to check the customs regulations for any restrictions.


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