QR Code and Proof of Vaccination in Costa Rica: A Comprehensive Guide
QR codes for vaccination status were supposed to be obligatory starting December 2021, but its implementation has been delayed to March 7, 2022
February 23, 2022, Update: The government of Costa Rica has given up its intention to introduce an obligatory QR code scheme for proof of vaccination in social activities. The QR code will not be mandatory and businesses can only ask for it voluntarily to work at full capacity before April 1st. Read more about the end of Covid-19 restrictions in Costa Rica in the linked article.
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Costa Rica is one of the countries that has tried to implement an obligatory vaccination scheme for some activities. The measure was announced in late 2021 but will not take effect until March 7, 2022, when most commercial establishments should require proof of vaccination for guests to enter their premises.
Every person must show a QR code issued by the health authorities that confirms their vaccination status in order to get in. Commercial establishments like restaurants, bars, and cultural venues will be obliged to ask for the code and should have the technology to read it and confirm the information it includes, but it’s recommended to also have the physical proof of vaccination in case the system doesn’t work.
QR codes for vaccination status were supposed to be obligatory starting December 2021, but criticism and pressure from businesses and the public (because some people’s code didn’t work or they were unable to get it even though they were fully vaccinated) delayed its implementation to February 2022. That didn’t work either, since the government then delayed it again to March 7, 2022.
This is a comprehensive guide to the QR code in Costa Rica.
Do you need proof of vaccination to enter Costa Rica as a foreign tourist or resident?
You don’t need proof of vaccination to come to Costa Rica, independent of your tourist or resident status. To get in the country you will need to have completed the “Pase de Salud” (health pass), which gives you two options:
If you are vaccinated, you can upload your proof of vaccination and fill in some information, and you will be allowed to get into the country without further requirements.
If you are not vaccinated, you will need to purchase travel insurance and upload that information to the health pass.
This means that, whether you are vaccinated or not, you will receive a QR code to get in the country. That code will have information about your vaccination status.
If the QR code generated in the “Pase de Salud” confirms that you are vaccinated, you will be allowed to enter venues that require it. If not, it will show that you don’t have proof of vaccination and you won’t be able to go to restaurants or shops when they require it.
Important: the vaccine or insurance documentation needs to be in English or Spanish — no other language will be accepted by Migration authorities.
Also, remember that for almost a year and a half Costa Rica has not required a negative Covid 19 test for entry and that policy remains in place.
Note that these health pass dispositions already apply to foreign travelers entering the country. What changes after March 7, 2022, is that certain commercial establishments will need to ask for proof of vaccination via QR code.
Also note that the vaccination scheme should be completed at least 14 days before travel and that Costa Rica only admits proof of vaccination with vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, AstraZeneca-Oxford, Moderna, Johnson&Johnson (Janssen), Sinovac, Sinopharm, or Covaxin.
What can you do in Costa Rica if you are not vaccinated?
As we mentioned before, foreign travelers can enter Costa Rica without proof of vaccination. They only need to prove that they have travel insurance that will cover Covid-19-related costs, and they will be free to enter the country (if they comply with any other entry requirements not related to the pandemic).
Regardless, if you do not show proof of vaccination your QR code won’t show that information, that will be required to enjoy most commercial activities in the country. Additionally they will not be able to go to hotels or other hosting sites, since the QR code will be mandatory in the hospitality industry.
Restaurants, coffee shops, food courts, and “sodas” (local small restaurants that serve traditional Costa Rican food) are on the list of venues that will require the QR code. Bars, casinos, shopping malls, stores, museums, gyms, event halls, cinemas, sporting venues, and theaters are also on the list.
Even adventure tourism attractions like hiking, mountain bike, trekking, or horseback riding sites, among others of the same nature, will require the QR code.
This means that any establishment that is not a supermarket, grocery store, hospital, or pharmacy will ask for the QR code. Visitors who don’t have proof of vaccination can only go to these places and stay in their own home or at friends’ or family members’ houses, and of course, will be able to use public transportation if they need to. You can also visit national parks, as they don’t require proof of vaccination.
Are there any exceptions to the QR code?
If you wonder if there are exceptions to the use of QR codes to enter commercial establishments in Costa Rica, you should know there are only two:
People under 18 years old won’t need to show proof of vaccination to enter the country or to attend commercial venues with their parents or legal companion.
People with an accredited medical condition that makes it impossible for them to be vaccinated. They will have to attach the medical opinion in English or Spanish to the health pass that they complete as a requirement to enter the country.
Can you show proof of vaccination instead of the QR code to enter a venue?
If you do not have the official QR code given by the Costa Rican government to enter commercial venues, you may show your physical or digital proof of vaccination. If you have a QR code from another country that proves your vaccination status, that will not work until further notice. It has to be the Costa Rican QR code or the vaccination card.
Can you take a rapid antigen test before going to a restaurant or bar?
No. Negative rapid antigen test results will not help you get into a restaurant, bar, or any of the commercial venues mentioned before. Only proof of vaccination will allow you entry.
Will these rules change?
Maybe yes, maybe not. We are still in the midst of a pandemic. So, epidemiological data could reverse some decisions if the government deems it appropriate. So could tensions with the opposition or with the business sector, as it happened in late 2021 when the government delayed the implementation of the QR code to give time to the establishments to prepare for the obligation to ask for proof of vaccination.
Currently, the government continues to insist that after March 7, 2022, the QR code will be mandatory in all commercial venues in the country.
What if I was vaccinated in Costa Rica but don’t have a QR code to prove it?
Foreign residents or tourists that have received the vaccine in Costa Rica can ask for their QR code by filling out this form in the Ministry of Health’s website. Ten days after that, they should be able to fill in their details on this website to receive their QR codes, but a lot of people have complained that it took them longer.
Note: The government made a video tutorial (in Spanish) showing how to get the QR code.
What is the legal status of mandatory vaccination in Costa Rica?
One of the reasons why the QR code won’t be implemented until after March 7, 2022, is because of litigation filed by the tourism industry in late 2021. A Costa Rican court issued a preliminary injunction back in November so that the measure cannot be mandatory until there’s a firm decision on their part.
At this moment, it is impossible to know whether by March 7, 2022, the court will have resolved the case in favor or against the government. If it doesn’t, there’s a possibility that the government will postpone the implementation of the QR code scheme.
For now, in theory, establishments that voluntarily ask for the QR code or proof of vaccination can operate at 100% capacity, and those that don’t ask for it can only work at 50% capacity. Nevertheless, in practice, there are not many venues that are asking the code.
February 10, 2022, Update: The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Costa Rica —the tribunal which will have the last word on the QR code mandate— has informed that it has received almost 500 appeals regarding mandatory vaccination in the country, including those related to the QR code.
Even though the litigation filed by the tourism industry has not reached the Supreme Court yet —meaning, it is still being resolved by a lower instance court—, the Constitutional Chamber has shown a “clear and solid” position concerning vaccination mandates, seeing it as “part of essential healthcare” for the “protection of public health and disease prevention”.
Recently, the same Chamber rejected an appeal to the QR code by a citizen that found the measure “discriminatory”. The Constitutional Chamber resolved that it is not unconstitutional to ask for the QR code. “Requiring proof of vaccination against Covid-19 prior to entering a particular establishment does not constitute an openly discriminatory, unfounded or unreasonable measure,” it said.
If that’s the criteria the appeal of the tourism industry is going to be met with, it is likely that the QR code mandate will be effective beginning on March 7.