How to travel with your pet to Costa Rica

So you are making all the preparations for your travel in Costa Rica.  You check that your passport is valid for more than 6 months, you get all your shots, and you have just the right amount of goodies crammed into your suitcases for any situation.  But there’s something you may be wondering as your little, furry friend gazes upon you with forlorn eyes.  Can I take my pet with me?  Well, you most certainly can and it is a relatively easy process provided you plan ahead.

The basic premise is that travelers must be able to readily prove that their animals are healthy.  With a quick trip to your veterinarian within a few weeks of your departure you can obtain a heath certificate that simply needs to be endorsed by a Veterinary Service vet.  If you’re bringing a dog you must prove that it has been vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, Leptospirosis, parvovirus and rabies.  Cats also must have a rabies vaccination.  If you are planning on staying with your pet in Costa Rica for more than 30 days you are required to obtain authorization from the Costa Rican Health Ministry.  This can be acquired at the consulate or embassy.

All other pets (birds, invertebrates, tropical fish, reptiles, amphibia, mammals such as rodents and rabbits) are not subject to the regulations in respect of the anti-rabies vaccination but may have to meet other requirements as to a limit on the number of animals and a certificate to accompany them in respect of other diseases. Pet owners are strongly advised to seek further information from the relevant authority of their country and/or that of the country of destination.

Always check with your airline on their particular pet travel policies and dates.  Each airline has specific rules and many have blackout dates on pet travel due to there being no air-conditioning in the cargo hold, for example.

While in Costa Rica, you must consider that the attitude towards pets is much different than North America in general.  Dogs are often kept outside, unleashed, and for protection purposes.  They are sometimes found wandering the streets and are quite territorial.  Additionally, the general sentiment in Costa Rica is that dogs are simply wild animals and the owners do not often take responsibility for the actions of their pets.  Cats are becoming more popular, but again are considered to be outdoor pets and rarely are found in Costa Rican homes.  Having said this, if your little one is accustomed to the home life it is wise to keep your pet indoors or supervised on a leash when outside.

Finding a good vet in Costa Rica is a relatively simple process depending on where you are staying.  Around the San Jose area there are hundreds of qualified, English-speaking vets with 24hr emergency services.  Speaking to your contacts prior to arriving is Costa Rica is wise as they often know the most reputable local vet.

When it comes time to leave, pets do require an exit permit.  This can be taken care of easily by many vets as it is simply a bit of paperwork that can be done for a small fee.  This is best done well in advance to be sure that you have everything in hand prior to departure.  As with entry in Costa Rica, reentry into your next destination country will entail another set of rules and regulations to be followed and it is necessary to do your research, even if it’s just returning home.  Quite often the paperwork you’ve had produce to enter Costa Rica is sufficient, but checking ahead of time is sound advice.

At the end of the day, many are pleased to find that pet travel in Costa Rica is common and relatively simple.  The issue that most encounter is how well their pets travel.  With many airlines, cats are to be taken in the cabin, in approved cat carriers.  If you cat tends to panic on trips, perhaps dry-run trips in the car or tranquilizers from your vet may be some smart options.  Either way you’ll be pleased to know that with some due diligence and a bit of paperwork you won’t have to leave anyone behind when making your next trip to Costa Rica.