Arrival in Costa Rica: Customs Service & What to Declare

When arriving in Costa Rica you will go through immigration, collect your bags, and then must pass through customs before you exit the terminal.

The airlines will hand out customs forms on the airplane. The form asks you to declare everything you are bringing into the country that is not part of your personal effects. If you receive a copy of this form, you may list one line, “gifts” with a value of max $300. This would cover anything in your luggage that may not be considered “personal effects”! If you have anything special or awkward, like scuba gear or a kayak or bike, list these separately, with question marks on the value again. Declare food or get rid of it before you arrive.

If you have more than 2 suitcases/bags per person, you will probably be stopped at customs. If you have any food (including fruits, vegetables, sausages, etc.) or substances which can be sniffed by dogs, you will be stopped.

When you get off the plane you will first be shuffled through the immigration area, where they will check your passport. Once through passport control continue to pick up your luggage (there are free metal carts there to move your stuff about in the baggage area). If you have more than 2 bags per person you will go through customs inspection; 2 or fewer, AND HAVE A U.S., CANADIAN or EUROPEAN PASSPORT they generally waive you past.

Even if you speak fluent Spanish, speak only English or some other language to make it clear you are not a resident. The customs people are really only interested in inspecting returning Costa Ricans who may be bringing back things from their travels. If you have things we’ve asked you to take down, don’t volunteer these during inspection; they are “personal goods” because the guides will be using them during your trip.

AFTER CLEARING CUSTOMS: Sometimes you are not allowed to remove the bag from the area unless you produce the claim check.

Now that you’ve cleared customs, you exit the terminal and meet your Serendipity guide