How to go to Costa Rica with your pet

Costa Rica is renowned for being a pet-friendly nation. Depending on the breed and size, many locations accept pets. There are several animal-focused Facebook groups that you may join, as well as dog parks all over the place. Since pets are not only our constant companions but also actual family members, it is crucial to consider how to transport your pet to Costa Rica while relocating there.

How can I transport my pets?

If your pet is tiny enough to fit in a carrier beneath the seat in front of you, you can take them in cargo or a cage inside the cabin. Age, breed, and size are further considerations. During the summer, certain airlines won’t transport animals in cargo, and some breeds can be restricted. We highly advise confirming the criteria, especially the crates specifications, with your airline operator. Depending on the airline, different restrictions may apply to transportation.

dog crate

What documents must a dog have when traveling?

In addition to a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, certain airlines now need an acclimation certificate for passengers. These certificates can only be filled up and signed by a veterinarian who has received federal accreditation.

Consider bringing your animals from the USA. Within two weeks of your departure, you must complete a Costa Rica Health Certificate with your veterinarian to confirm that your animals are fit to travel.

dog passport 1

What is APHIS?

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is known as APHIS. APHIS must first approve the foreign health certificate before it may be used in Costa Rica. A USDA-accredited veterinarian who can complete the Federal APHIS Form must examine your dog or cat. If not, send the paperwork to APHIS for certification by mail.

Please check HERE for details on APHIS for the USA;

Please check HERE for the required form to complete for Canada.

Requirements for pets entry to Costa Rica

Entry rules for dogs into Costa Rica are as follows:

Distemper, parvovirus, hepatitis, and leptospirosis vaccinations; Rabies vaccination (you must vaccinate your dogs against rabies more than 30 days before departure);
Within 15 days, treat both internal and external parasites.

The following criteria apply to cats:

Immunization against rabies; panleukopenia; calicivirus; and feline viral rhinotracheitis.
More complete details may be found HERE.

Does my dog have the right to travel on my lap?

No, dogs must spend the whole trip in their kennel, stowed under the seat in front of you.

Can a pet journey by itself?

You can, indeed. But once more, each carrier has different policies. In either case, the pet owner will have to put in some extra effort and spend money. Most large carriers also offer specific freight services and passenger operations.

Can I fly with an emotional support dog?

Emotional support animals will need an ESA letter from a certified medical professional before they may board an airplane. Your ESA must be compact enough to fit a carrier under the seat.

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How do dogs use the restroom when flying?

Pee pads in the kennel are the sole solution for a dog that needs to board a plane. It would be beneficial if you utilized the animal relief station at the airport just before boarding. You will need to find out whether there is one, though. Please refrain from giving them water a few hours before the trip.

What about water and food for my animals?

Use the food that your animals are accustomed to eating to avoid giving them an upset stomach or, worse, diarrhea at the worst possible time. You ought to also carry your water. Your dogs may experience issues if they drink water from an unexpected environment.

How can I lower my pet’s stress level?

Pets find flying to be a stressful experience. The loading and unloading processes are particularly upsetting for the flying creatures in the cargo hold.

In particular, if your pets have never traveled in a box, you should start preparing them now. They will probably have to fly internationally as cargo. You may get good advice on how to get your dog ready for a flight from dog trainers, veterinarians, and shipping firms that specialize in transporting animals. They’ll feel less worried if they’re accustomed to their travel container.

To relieve stress or anxiety, your veterinarian might be able to prescribe medication. Since there is no pet quarantine in Costa Rica, reunions are simpler.

Our advice

When you get to the airport, ensure all your paperwork is prepared to hand to the TSA and ticket salespeople. It’s a good idea to keep one or two extra sets of filled-out paperwork on hand. Make sure your pets have name tags that are up to date with your contact information and current pictures of your pets in case something happens to you. The information on the container should also be noted. Don’t forget to pack some snacks for your dogs, damp wipes, and trash bags.

What to do once landed in Costa Rica?

To clear your paperwork, you must identify a SENASA Customs Official. They will stamp your papers and return them to you if everything is in order. After you have gone through Customs, you are ready to go!

dogs reunited

Pet’s adaptation to Costa Rica

Once in Costa Rica, your animals might need some time to adjust to the new environment and the excitement of the adventure. Regarding your pets, there are a few essential things to be mindful of.

When visiting the beach or a forest region, keep an eye out for animals that might be detrimental to your dogs, such as cane toads, scorpions, ticks, and others. It is advisable to discuss the best course of treatment with your neighborhood vet and to keep emergency contact information close at hand.

The weather may also play a role, depending on the breed of your animal. Big animals or those with thick coats would suffer immensely during the oppressively hot summers without air conditioning.


Finally, we want to underline that you should speak with your airline and veterinarian before traveling to Costa Rica because animal shipping regulations are subject to change. The document deadlines must be remembered. It would help if you inquired about any specific limitations with your airline.

Final recommendation

We advise contacting a reputable company that can transport your pet to Costa Rica. One is Pet Lounge, a business focused on international pet transportation and logistical services conveniently located near SJO airport in Costa Rica. Two brothers with extensive backgrounds in cargo transportation and veterinary medicine launched it in 2012. In addition to managing your dogs’ paperwork, customs, and, if necessary, quarantine processes, they will work with overseas agents to plan the delivery of your pets. Additionally, they may transport your dogs via an airplane, pick them up, and deliver them to your house.



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