Moving to Costa Rica with your pet
Updated 2018-10-16 14:19

Pets are part of the family so, if you don't want to leave your furry beloved behind when you move to Costa Rica, read this article to find out how to relocate them to paradise with you.

It is relatively easy to transport your pet to Costa Rica, and there are three main options, depending on your pet's size and weight ' as carry-on, checked baggage or cargo.

Rules, requirements and costs can vary between airlines and countries, and, as regulations can change, it's advisable to contact your nearest Costa Rican embassy, a pet relocation specialist, and/or the Association of Residents of Costa Rica (ARCR) at least two months before you move to find out up-to-date details relevant to your country of origin.

Although arranging safe pet transport to Costa Rica may be relatively straightforward, it will require advance preparation, so it's advisable to begin the process of following all import requirements at least three months before you intend to travel. Among other things, your pet should be microchipped, have various vaccinations, and it's also a good idea to start 'crate training' your pet a few weeks before the flight so that they are familiar with the space and feel calmer when inside.

If possible, it's also advisable to try to choose a daytime flight that is due to leave when your local Costa Rican embassy will be open. That way, if any queries arise when you arrive at the airport, you can contact the embassy who can inform any airline staff on current regulations. It's also worth noting that the customs office in Costa Rica only opens during business hours from Monday to Friday, so you may wish to avoid travelling over a weekend, as if your pet arrives in Costa Rica late at night, or on a Saturday or Sunday, you'll need to wait until the next morning, or Monday, to collect it.

Although cats and dogs do not need to be quarantined on arrival in Costa Rica,

the process to clear customs can take several hours, so do ensure you have the correct paperwork in order, and carry at least two extra copies of all necessary documents, to ensure things go as smoothly as possible.

If you wish to bring a pet that is not a dog or a cat, you may need to follow a unique set of policies depending on the type of animal concerned. Certain birds and any endangered species may need permits, so it's important to verify all requirements before you travel.


It is advisable to contact your nearest Costa Rican embassy, or governing authority for animals leaving or entering your country (in America, this is the US Department of Agriculture), to find out the guidelines for bringing pets to Costa Rica. As regulations can vary between countries, it can be worth hiring a pet relocation service to help you comply with all up-to-date import requirements.

Each airline may have its own specific conditions for transporting pets, so you may wish to research regulations and fees before you book a flight. For example, you may wish to verify an airline's safety standards before you buy a pet carrier. As a general rule, pets should not be tranquilised or muzzled for their own safety while flying. Be aware that airlines can also change their policies, so it's important to keep updated before flying. For example, Delta Airlines announced additional restrictions for shipping animals that came into effect in June 2018. Their new pet travel policy means that 21 breeds of dogs and four breeds of cats can no longer travel as cargo, and the airline won't accept any crates taller than 30 inches, which will affect large breed dogs. If flying from America to Costa Rica on this airline, it is also now necessary to hire the services of a third-party contractor that is part of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association.

Relocation requirements can change at any time, but you should be prepared to adhere to the following:

  • All pets will need to be vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days (but less than one year) prior to the day they travel to Costa Rica. Vaccination requirements may vary depending on the type of animal and your country of origin, but dogs should also be inoculated against distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza and parvovirus (DHLPP), and bordetella. While cats should be immunised against feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and panleukopenia (FVRCP). For maximum effectiveness, these should be administered more than two weeks before your pet leaves the country, while still being valid at the time it arrives in Costa Rica.
  • To enter Costa Rica, you will need certificates from an accredited veterinarian to prove your pet has had all the required vaccinations. This vet must also examine your pet and fill out the necessary paperwork that declares your pet is healthy. This health certificate must be issued within 10 days of your flight to Costa Rica and must be endorsed by your local veterinary services authority (it is only valid for 10 days, so timing is crucial).
  • If your pet won't be travelling on the same flight as you and is transported as cargo or checked baggage, you will also require an import permit, and you will need to use an import company to clear customs on arrival in Costa Rica. The company will require a copy of your pet's flight reservation, a copy of the passport of whoever is in charge of sending your pet, as well as a copy of the passport of whoever is responsible for collecting your pet in Costa Rica. It will also need all contact numbers, an address in Costa Rica, and a copy of your pet's health certificate and vaccinations.

Useful links: ' Moving to Costa Rica with pets Forum
Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal (SENASA)

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