As a perpetual tourist in Costa Rica, it may seem tempting to rely on border runs to renew your visa stamp instead of obtaining residency. However, there are several reasons why this may not be the best long-term solution. In this article, we’ll explore five reasons why Costa Rican residency is a better option than border runs, including added costs and inconveniences of being a perpetual tourist. So if you’re considering a move to Costa Rica, keep reading to find out why residency may be the way to go. Are Costa Rican Border Runs a good idea? Why get your Costa Rican residency when you can do border runs to renew your visa stamp over and over again?
5 Reasons Why You May Like Costa Rica Border Runs
1. You like hanging around the border crossings.
The primary border crossings are Peñas Blancas with Nicaragua and Paso Canoas with Panama, with other minor crossings available in more remote areas. These crossings involve waiting in line, bag searches, buying legal stamps, making photocopies, and attaining entry and exit stamps on both sides.
Many people will come up to you, offering to help you. They will only be helping themselves, though, with some scam. They will be persistent and annoying. Don’t forget to bring small bills in US dollars and in colones. Also, it’s not the safest place to be milling about.
While it might be fun and adventurous the first few times to cross the border by land, it’ll get old – FAST.
2. You like the uncertainty of how long your next tourist visa stamp will be valid.
For tourists from many countries, such as the USA, Canada, and most European countries, your entry to Costa Rica will be for UP TO 90 days. Not 90 days, but UP TO 90 days, depending on the discretion of the Costa Rican border official. This can be based on your answers to their questions, how many Costa Rica entry stamps you have in your passport, how many border runs you have done (they can easily see who is a perpetual tourist in the records), how you look (very subjective), and how the official is feeling that day.
Stamps marked 30 days or 45 days are not uncommon, especially as your passport becomes riddled with Costa Rica entry stamps.
3. You like paying for onward travel tickets that you won’t use.
To enter Costa Rica, you may be asked for proof of onward travel. Maybe they didn’t ask you the last time, but as a perpetual tourist, you’re entering Costa Rica often, so you will be asked eventually. That’ll be another step to take, and it will cost you extra.
Being a perpetual tourist has costs that most people don’t consider — not the least of which is the border run itself. They see the cost of obtaining Costa Rican residency (and the stability that it provides) but not the cost of always having one foot out of the country.
As a non-resident, you can buy a house, but you won’t be able to get utilities in your name. This means either having someone else get the utility contract for you or setting up a corporation just for that purpose, which is getting very expensive these days. For example, the new yearly Shareholder report requires a Firma Digital, which you can’t get as a non-resident. You’d need to designate a notary to do it for you. That’s another $500 USD a year. Other added costs you’ll be subjected to include tourist prices at the national parks and other attractions.
4. You like not being covered by health insurance in Costa Rica.
When you have residency in Costa Rica, you are enrolled in CCSS (Caja), which provides public health coverage. You can also opt for health insurance plans that are only open to residents. As a non-resident, you can purchase international health insurance for expats. But the prices for those plans are high and rising fast. Most people who opt to be perpetual tourists don’t get health insurance – bad idea, don’t you think?
5. You definitely have no plans to stay in Costa Rica for very long.
With all the added costs and inconveniences, it’s clear that by doing border runs, you don’t plan to stay in Costa Rica for long. If you’re planning to stay in Costa Rica for 6 months or come to Costa Rica 1 month a year, maybe residency is not for you. However, if you plan to make Costa Rica your home, obtaining residency is the way to go. It makes sense, doesn’t it?
It’s only a matter of time, too, before the Costa Rican government cracks down on this loophole. Maybe they will start requiring proof of health insurance for all tourists and sell it to those who arrive without insurance. This is a common practice in many other countries that accept tourists. One thing is certain: it won’t get easier to stay a perpetual tourist and do border runs. It will only get harder.
-Written by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a border run?
A border run refers to leaving the country to renew a visa or tourist stamp and then immediately returning to the country.
Why are border runs popular in Costa Rica?
Border runs are popular in Costa Rica because the country offers the option to renew a tourist visa stamp through this process, which is not available in all countries.
What are the primary border crossings in Costa Rica?
The primary border crossings in Costa Rica are Peñas Blancas with Nicaragua and Paso Canoas with Panama, with other minor crossings available in more remote areas.
Is it safe to hang around the border crossings in Costa Rica?
It is not the safest place to be milling about at border crossings, and there are scammers who may try to take advantage of tourists. Visitors should take precautions and be vigilant.
How long can a tourist stay in Costa Rica?
Tourists from many countries can stay in Costa Rica for up to 90 days, depending on the discretion of the Costa Rican border official.
Do perpetual tourists in Costa Rica have to pay for onward travel tickets?
As a perpetual tourist, you may be asked for proof of onward travel, and it will cost you extra to provide this proof every time you enter Costa Rica.
Is health insurance required for tourists in Costa Rica?
Currently, health insurance is not required for tourists in Costa Rica, but it is highly recommended to have coverage in case of any medical emergencies.
Is obtaining residency the only solution to avoid border runs in Costa Rica?
Obtaining residency in Costa Rica is a viable solution for those who plan to stay in the country for the long term, but there are other options such as applying for a temporary or permanent resident visa or leaving the country for a short period and then returning.
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