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TEFL Training In Costa Rica | Updated: 03/25/2023

What is a Border Run?

Written by International TEFL Academy Costa Rica

When you enter Costa Rica, normally you will be issued a 180-day tourist visa.  This will serve as your permission to be in the country legally for those three months.  In order to fly into Costa Rica and to get the 180 days, you will need to show proof that you will be leaving Costa Rica within the 180 days.  Most airlines now require you to show proof before boarding in the US or Canada as they can be given a hefty fine if they allow a passenger to fly to Costa Rica without this proof of departure. 

When you leave Costa Rica every 180 days to renew your tourist visa, you must be out of the country for a minimum of 72 hours before reentering Costa Rica and being reissued another 180-day tourist visa.  This is what we call a "border run".  Most English teachers in Costa Rica choose to cross the border to Nicaragua or Panama or even catch cheap flights to other countries. Look at it as an excuse to travel more and get a little break from work and your normal life.  Most of your colleagues will be in Costa Rica on a tourist visa as well, so get a group together to go on your border run and have a great time!  Schools and language institutes that hire teachers who are in the country on tourist visas are aware of this process and are very accommodating when it comes time for you to plan your border run.  

Upon arrival in Costa Rica, you will go directly through immigration, regardless if you are in the airport or at a land border. If you are coming back to Costa Rica after a border run, the immigration forms will ask you to confirm that you've been out of Costa Rica for a minimum of three days, and the immigration officer will likely ask to see your proof of departure from Costa Rica in the next 180 days. You basically have three options to show as proof of departure:

1 - Return flight to your home country.

This could be your return flight on a round-trip ticket, especially if you plan on being in Costa Rica for the three months or less.  Or it could be a cheap ticket to Miami or whatever you can find.  Some airlines allow you to cancel and change dates with no fee, so do some research!

2 - A bus ticket to another country in Central America 

This is the most common option, especially if for those who plan on staying in Costa Rica to teach after the course.   Different bus companies, like Ticabus or Transnica, sell tickets for specific dates but can be changed once you are in the country.  We can help you with this process, as the websites usually are "under construction."  We will need a copy of your passport to purchase the ticket, and then we scan the ticket and email it to you to use as you are traveling. 

3 - A flight to another country

Again, look for deals and take advantage of this process to see more of the world! Nature Air is user-friendly and offers quick flights to Panama and Nicaragua.

You need to make sure the date on your exit ticket is for one of the days toward the end of your 180 days.  Take the time to count!  Day 170-178 is a good time frame.  If it is for day 120 or 150 even, they might only issue you that many days, not the full 180. 

Please note that this is what typically happens.  If you follow our suggestions, you should not have any issues.  We understand that this process is unique, so please ask if you have any questions!

Border Runs to Bocas del Toro, Panama

Border Runs to David, Panama

Border Runs to Nicaragua

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