For nearly every Expat living in Costa Rica, there comes a time when the tourist visa needs to be renewed. This comes after a period of 90 days in the country for most, but for the few unfortunate from Honduras, Guatemala, Venezuela, and a few other countries, a visa run is required every 30 days.
By law, visitors who are not residents of Costa Rica, or who don’t have an application sitting on the desk of the Costa Rican Migration Department, must leave the country for a period of 72 hours before their tourist visa expires.
Immigration officials are becoming more vigilant about checking for expired visas. You do not want to be caught in the country over your allotted stay. The fine for overstaying one’s visa is $100 a month for every month illegal in the country. If you fail to pay, you must remain outside of the country for a period three times that which you were illegal in the country.
So, the occasional border run has become a ritual for Expats. The two most popular Central American destinations are Bocas del Toro, Panama and Granada, Nicaragua. Some hotels cater to this crowd by offering “Visa Run Get-Away Packages”; including everything from transportation to food.
For the best ways to travel to Bocas del Toro or Granada, see “How to get to Bocas del Toro from San José” and “How to get to Granada, Nicaragua from San José.”
Keep in mind that when crossing the border (either by air or bus), you may be asked to present proof that you are leaving the country within 90 days: a printed copy of your airline ticket or bus ticket will suffice.