In one of our previous “In the Mailbag” columns, Vikki R. asked for advice about renting a van and driving their 10 dogs and themselves to Costa Rica from the States, crossing all the borders along the way. Here is a response from one of our readers who has actually done it.
Mike W. writes:
One of your readers asked about transporting dogs to Costa Rica. We traveled by car with our 2 dogs when we moved here almost 4 years ago (wow! – does time ever fly!). Both dogs were big. One was around 95 lbs. and the other 60 lbs.
On the whole, I would say that the trip was doable, although I don’t think I would try it again. The dogs had all their vaccinations (I seem to recall that there was a Costa Rica website that listed the requirements). The vet certifications in the US or Canada were no particular problem, and were sufficient in all countries except Honduras. We made multiple certified copies of the certifications before we left Canada.
Every border crossing was a challenge. The process always took between 2 and 3 hours, I think mostly because of the car, not the dogs. The border agents seemed more concerned about whether you were planning on selling the car in the country without paying import duty, than they were about bringing animals into the country. Expect to pay (on average) $100 at every crossing. We kept a supply of $20 bills in the glove compartment. Luckily, most ATMs in Latin America dispense US dollars.
As we approached every border, a bunch of “helpers” would appear out of nowhere. We picked one, and he led us through the process on both sides of the border. Every border was hot and unshaded, so keeping the air conditioning going for the dogs was essential. The process wasn’t particularly stressful; just time (and $20 bill) consuming.
Honduras was the most difficult. We got stopped by a policeman who made a nice living checking if the car had all the required safety equipment (more $20 bills), and the customs required some special vaccination for the animals. However, for a fee, the special vaccination became unnecessary. That was often the case. There was a fee for a veterinarian to examine the animals, and another fee for the vet to NOT examine the animals. Since typically the vet lived in a distant town and it would take many hours for him to arrive, you can figure out which option we chose!
Another issue was that many highways throughout Latin America have “sleeping policemen” stretched across the road to slow down traffic. One of our dogs got freaked out by the discomfort of bumping over these obstacles, and since then has been nervous about riding in the car.
And finally, you need to be aware that Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras don’t have car insurance available for vehicles transiting the country. So you will be a “rich” gringo travelling without any insurance should there be a problem. You buy insurance for Mexico; government insurance is part of the fee when entering Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
Thanks Mike, for the reality check!
Our article, Questions and Answers: Getting Residency in Costa Rica and Joining the Caja, lead to lots of comments on facebook.
Attorney Rick P. wrote:
Two comments on the Residency requirements update: 1. INS will not provide Medical Insurance coverage prior to a party becoming a legal Resident of Costa Rica, either Temporary, or Permanent; and 2. Renewing your Tourist Visa by leaving the Country every 90 days and re-entering is not a guaranty of the grant by Costa Rica Immigration Officials of a new Tourist Visa. The grant of the Visa is discretionary on the part of Immigration, with no practical recourse to the Tourist if denied.
The current policy of INS on issuing Medical Insurance coverage to foreigners without Costa Rica Residency is as follows:
INS will issue Medical Insurance to foreigners without Residency subject to the following:
1. An Application for Residency must be in progress at Immigration.
2. The Applicant must have had Medical Insurance previously (U.S., Canada, etc.) and submit the current three years of claims records, or submit a letter from the insurer that no claims were made.
3. Submit three most current years of medical records, annual physicals, etc.
4. Pre-existing medical conditions are excluded from coverage.”
Thanks, Rick, for the helpful info. Paul’s immediate response to this was, “Wow Rick, most of us would not even qualify, plus it’s so expensive. There are better options.”
Danny G. did NOT have a good experience with getting residency here:
Got my residency after 4 years, 12 thieving lawyers and $25,000 later. Thanks Costa Rica you’re the best!”
We always recommend you get multiple recommendations for any attorney or residency expert you consider using. Click here for our recommendation of the service we used.
Danny G’s experience is by no means typical. Sheryl W. wrote:
Mine was quick and easy. 6 months start to finish. Great lawyer who walked me through the whole process. I just had to get the correct documents and hand them over. He’s still a friend today! They are out there but try to get a good recommendation as I did.
- Read all of our In the Mailbag columns at this link.