Country Reports

Costa Rica Country Report

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Risk Level

Very High


Executive Summary

Since taking office in May 2018, President Carlos Alvarado's primary focus has been to pass fiscal legislation that seeks to reduce the government's fiscal deficit, forecast by IHS Markit to reach 6.8% of GDP in 2018 and 6.9% in 2019, and control the growing public debt stock projected at approximately 54% of GDP by end-2018 (up from 48.9% in 2017). The bill, passed on 3 December 2018, aims to reduce the fiscal deficit by 4% from 7% of GDP within the next four years through public spending cuts, conversion of the 13% sales tax into a 13% value-added tax (VAT), new taxes on basic basket items, and creation of a capital gains tax. Unionised sectors have opposed the government's fiscal plan with a series of nationwide strikes, alleging that the measures disproportionately affect individual citizens versus businesses. Labour strikes, sustained by the education sector, are likely to continue into 2019, especially against upcoming public-sector reforms, but are unlikely to gather enough support to revive nationwide walkouts. Actions that disrupted operations and supply chains at ports, customs processing points, and at hydrocarbon facilities, have been suspended or withdrawn after the government hosted a series of sector-specific talks with union groups. There are indicators of increasing volatility and increased risk of currency depreciation that will extend into 2019: in November the colón depreciated by 3.2%, the fastest decline since 2012, influencing a 7.6% year-on-year depreciation against the US dollar. IHS Market expects that the government will be obliged to pay higher interest rates on its bonds resulting in an indirect negative effect on borrowing rates for businesses and consumers. Consequently, IHS Markit projects a small contraction in GDP growth in 2019 to 3.1% versus the forecast 3.2% for 2018; the headline inflation rate will average 2.3% in 2018 and 3.3% in 2019. © 2018, IHS Markit Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Last update: December 8, 2018

Operational Outlook

There are no major operational risks to foreign investors in Costa Rica. Potential protest risks are greatest for resource developments, public transit and fiscal reform issues. However, such demonstrations would not fundamentally undermine Costa Rica's propitious investment climate. Skilled labour is readily available and the level of unionisation in the private sector is relatively low. Environmental awareness is high and development projects are closely monitored by international and national organisations. Improving infrastructure, particularly highways, is currently a focus for the government amid repeated reports of degradation, but a number of major projects have faced delays.

Last update: December 8, 2018



There are no known terrorist groups in Costa Rica with the intention or capability to target private, military, or government-owned assets. There is a modest, but growing, presence of international drug-trafficking organisations in the country. These groups do not have an interest in conducting terrorist attacks, although their presence is contributing to the increase in violent crime rates. Officials have reported the presence of former members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, but they are unlikely to present a direct crime or terror risk.

Last update: November 24, 2018

War Risks

Costa Rica abolished its military in 1948, but remains protected by an active national security force and through international co-operation with the United States. The risk of interstate war remains low despite an ongoing border dispute with Nicaragua along the San Juan River. Occasional incursions into contested areas are likely as both countries pursue infrastructure projects along the San Juan River and Nicaragua seeks to expand offshore oil exploration. Major disputes between Nicaragua and Costa Rica will probably manifest themselves through diplomatic channels.

Last update: November 24, 2018

Social Stability


Public unions stage regular protests over planned public spending cuts, fiscal reforms, and environmental concerns. However, demonstrations are generally peaceful and are not large enough to threaten the stability of the government; protests also sporadically close Limón port and block motorway access to the capital. Protest locations are likely to include motorways and border crossings, such as route 27 between San José and Santa Ana and the Panama crossing at Paso Canoas, government buildings in San José, and the private residences of political leaders. Occasional trucker protests can delay traffic on main roads and at border crossings.

Last update: November 24, 2018

Health Risk


Vaccinations required to enter the country

Proof of vaccination against yellow fever is required for travelers over nine months of age arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever (YFV) transmission (with the exception of Argentina, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago ) and for travelers who have been in transit for >12 hours in an airport located in a country with risk of YFV transmission.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Yellow Fever: A vaccine is available for children over the age of one year.

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Malaria: Recommended preventive medication - chloroquine (sometimes marketed as Nivaquine).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: November 27, 2013

Natural Risks


Costa Rica is vulnerable to natural disasters, including seismic activity. The risk is highest on the Nicoya Peninsula (north) and the Osa Peninsula (south).

Eruptions of the Turrialba Volcano, located approximately 35 km (25 mi) east-northeast of San José, are relatively common and can lead to flight disruptions at San José's Juan Santamaria (SJO) and Tobías Bolaños (SYQ) international airports, including full airport closures. The volcano also regularly drops potentially hazardous ash over the Central Valley, home to 60 percent of Costa Rica's 4.3 million residents as well as on San José (see HEALTH section). Various other active volcanoes are present in Costa Rica, including Irazú, Rincon, and Poás.

In the event of nearby volcanic activity, keep abreast of the situation and take the necessary precautions if in affected areas, such as stocking up on drinking water, wearing respiratory masks, and wearing covering clothing to protect skin from abrasive ash. Be prepared to evacuate if such an order is given.

Thunderstorms and downpours are common during the rainy season, which lasts from May through November with a peak of precipitation in September and October. Flooding and landslides, and consequent travel disruptions, are possible during this period.

Last update: February 13, 2018



Roads are often in mediocre condition; motorists should drive with caution, particularly on secondary roads and in rural areas. Poor road conditions and reckless local driving habits contribute to high fatality rates on the road. Additionally, roads are often closed due to flooding and landslides during the rainy season (May to November). Avoid driving at night when possible, particularly outside of cities.

Traffic congestion is notorious in the capital region (Gran Área Metropolitana), e.g. the cities of San José, Heredia, Alajuela, and Cartago, particularly on San José's Circunvalacion ring road. Traffic conditions are particularly poor in the event of protests or car accidents (common in the city) and on rainy days, especially in the event of flooding.

While the ride-sharing application is technically illegal in Costa Rica, the service continues to function. Regarding taxis, it is advisable to only use licensed taxis with working meters. City buses are generally safe, inexpensive, and well maintained; be vigilant, however, regarding pickpockets.

Criminals have been known to specifically target rental cars, sometimes puncturing tires and following the car until it is forced to pull over then robbing the occupants.

Air travel is safe in Costa Rica. However, flight disruptions are relatively common in the afternoon due to the frequency of rain and thunderstorms.

Last update: February 13, 2018

Practical Information


Conditions are wet and tropical along the Caribbean coast but drier inland and along the Pacific. The dry season lasts from January until May and the rainy season from April until December. Rainfall is the heaviest along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts (intense but brief showers). Costa Rica's Central Valley has a temperate climate throughout the year. Temperatures are very high along the Pacific coast in the summer and slightly cooler along the Caribbean coast (30°C).

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +506
Police: 911
Fire Dept.: 911
Ambulance: 911


Voltage: 120 V ~ 60 Hz


Last update: November 21, 2013