The Costa Rica departure tax cash advance snag

Costa Rica seems to like to think of itself as the leader of Central America, sort of like Uzbekistan in Central Asia, I found, where the neighbors all instantly have gripes about smugness.

I was a bit surprised to see that the airport departure tax of US$28 at San Jose’s Juan Santamaria International Airport (SJO) is not included in airline tickets. Last time I paid one at a counter like this was Uruguay in May as they are thankfully going extinct.

San Jose Airport Departure Tax Cash Advance 1

I was about to pay with credit card until I saw this placard on the counter, stating that credit cards are treated as cash advance. So, holster that plastic and make sure you have cash.

San Jose Airport Departure Tax Cash Advance 2

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  • Lisa N

    Yikes, we’re headed to SJO in a couple of months with a family of 4 – so I need $112 in cash ready to go when we want to leave? Thanks for the heads up, didn’t realize that.

  • @Lisa N – correct.

  • Noah Kimmel

    I always found it funny that the departure taxes are in US$, not local currency. It just screams “get the tourists for every penny we can”

  • PedroNY

    I think it is in U.S. dollars as it is Central America, so U.S. dollar is a default currency there. You have to pay departure tax in Indonesia as well, it is in local currency and you need exact change as well.

    $28 does not seem too bad, considering that you are probably flying there on miles, and staying part of your stay on hotel points. It is a great country to visit. Enjoy!



  • We just returned from CR on Sunday, and I took a picture of the sign with my phone to share with blog readers, too :D. I happened to have exactly $112 with me.

    We visited friends who had just retired there and they said they had always used credit cards to pay for the departure taxes. But I just wanted to be sure…

  • Caleb

    I’m head to Costa Rica in January and had planned to use my card.

    Thanks for the heads-up!

  • Gus

    In the past I recall being able to pay it at my hotel as part of checking out. Is this still not the case?

  • sea1

    We paid for the admission to manuel ortega national park with my chase card and found out it was also treated as cash advance. If there was a sign, I didn’t see it.

  • @Gus – that is a cool option, I was at the Doubletree by the airport and just checking out was quite a lengthy wait and process, with no offer on the tax.

  • @sea1 – yikes, this may be widespread!

  • JB

    also Boracay, Manilla if flying domestic,