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Ultimate Guide for Pet Owners: How to Safely Bring Your Pets to Costa Rica

by Nicole P

Bringing your beloved pets along when traveling to Costa Rica can add an extra layer of joy and companionship to your adventure. However, it’s essential to be well-prepared and informed about the regulations and procedures involved in bringing pets into the country.

This guide aims to provide pet owners with valuable information and tips for a smooth and stress-free experience for both themselves and their four-legged friends.

Understanding The Regulations

Before planning your trip, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the entry requirements for pets into Costa Rica. The country has specific requirements and regulations for bringing dogs and cats into the country, aimed at safeguarding animal health and preventing the spread of diseases for both animals and residents. Key requirements include:

  1. Health Certificate: Obtain a health certificate issued by a licensed veterinarian no more than 30 days before your departure. This certificate should attest that your pets are in good health and free from contagious diseases and must be endorsed by a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Office in your home state. if your normal vet is USDA accredited, then you don’t need additional endorsement but if they aren’t, then you will. The contact information can be found on the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) website. Make sure it has a Spanish translation. You can visit the APHIS website at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/home/. Once on the website, click on “Travel with my pet” located on the right side of the page. Alternatively, you can directly access the “Travel with my pet” section by visiting the following link: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel
  2. Vaccination Records: Ensure that your dog and cat are up-to-date on vaccinations, including rabies. Proof of vaccination is typically required for entry into Costa Rica.
  3. Microchipping: Dogs and cats may need to be microchipped for identification purposes The microchip must comply with international standards and be registered with the updated information of the dog’s owner. Ensure that the microchip is registered and functioning correctly before travel.
  4. Import Permit: Depending on the country of origin and type of pet, you may need to obtain an import permit from the Costa Rican authorities. Contact the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) for specific requirements and instructions. 

Preparing for Travel

Once you’ve met all the necessary requirements, it’s time to make travel arrangements for your dog and cat. Consider the following tips to ensure a comfortable and safe journey:

  1. Choose a Pet-Friendly Airline: Select a reputable airline that allows pets onboard or in cargo, depending on their size and breed. Research the airline’s pet policies and book your tickets well in advance.
  2. Travel Crates: Invest in sturdy and appropriately sized travel crates for your pet. The crates should provide enough space for them to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. Introduce your pets to the crates gradually to minimize anxiety during travel.

  3. Health Check: If necessary schedule a final health check-up with your veterinarian shortly before your departure to ensure that your pets are fit for travel. This is also an opportunity to obtain any necessary medications or supplements for the journey.

Upon Arrival

Upon arrival in Costa Rica, you’ll need to clear your dog and cat through customs and present all required documentation to the authorities. Be prepared for possible inspections, and ensure that your paperwork is organized and readily accessible.

Once in the country, acclimate your pets to their new surroundings gradually. Provide them with a safe and comfortable space to rest, and monitor their behavior for signs of stress or discomfort. Familiarize yourself with local regulations regarding pets, such as leash laws and pet-friendly areas.

Health and Safety Tips

Costa Rica’s tropical climate presents unique challenges for pets, including heatstroke and dehydration. Take the following precautions to keep your dog and cat safe and healthy:

Costa Rica is home to diverse wildlife and ecosystems, and it’s essential to protect your pet and the local environment. Keep your pet on a leash when exploring nature reserves or national parks to prevent them from disturbing wildlife or encountering dangerous plants or animals.

Additionally, be mindful of the tropical climate and take precautions to prevent heatstroke and dehydration in your pet. Provide plenty of water and avoid leaving them in hot cars or exposed to direct sunlight for extended periods.


Bringing your pets to Costa Rica can enhance your travel experience and create unforgettable memories together. By understanding and fulfilling the necessary requirements, making appropriate travel arrangements, and prioritizing your pet’s health and safety, you can ensure a smooth and enjoyable journey for both you and your pet. Take the time to plan ahead  and you will have a very smooth and enjoyable process in bringing your pet to Costa Rica.

Written by Nicole Preinfalk.  Attorney at Law

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