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Costa Rica Pet Relocation

Moving to Costa Rica (or any other international destination) with pets has gotten complicated over the past few years. Read below for up-to-date advice on the best and most affordable ways to move your dog or cat to Costa Rica.

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Moving Your Pet to Costa Rica: What You Need to Know

Bringing your dog or cat to Costa Rica doesn't have to be difficult. Costa Rica's pet importation paperwork is fairly straightforward and there is no quarantine requirement in the country. The largest challenge for most pet-owners moving to Costa Rica is finding an airline that will fly their pet (read on for some suggestions).​

How to Move Your Pet to Costa Rica: A Step-by-Step Guide

Determine if you can fly your pet in-cabin (hint: is your pet + its carrier 20lb or less?). If so, we highly recommend going this route. It will likely save you a great deal of money, and it's easier on your pet than flying in the hold of a plane.

If you have a larger dog, you will have 3 options: 

  • Book your dog as baggage on your flight to Costa Rica. Alaska Airlines still allows passengers to do this, and they have a good reputation and pet policy.​

  • Use a pet relocation company to book your pet as cargo onto an airline. They will also oversee all paperwork and customs clearance.
  • Fly your pet using a shared private charter flight. There are several companies that allow pet owners to split the cost of a charter and bring their pets on board in cabin.

Make an appointment with your vet. Ensure your pet is up to date on all vaccines, and that their rabies vaccine will be current when they travel. Other than rabies, dogs are required to have the following additional vaccinations: distemper, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and hepatitis. Cats are required to have vaccinations for: feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline leukemia, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.​

Make another appointment with the vet for within 2 weeks of your pet's travel date. At this appointment your vet will need to fill out the Veterinary Certificate for Costa Rica. The certificate will then need to be endorsed by the USDA (USA) or CFIA (Canada). Note that in the United States, only certain veterinarians are authorized to submit paperwork for USDA endorsement. In Canada, you can bring the paperwork to your local CFIA office yourself. Make sure you have the original paperwork to bring to Costa Rica!

Ensure you have a carrier that meets all airline requirements, along with other materials. For example, you may need to attach a water dispenser to a crate, line your pet's carrier with absorbent pads, or use calming pheromone sprays.

Feeling overwhelmed? Concerned about how much time this could take?

Get in touch. StartAbroad specializes in moving American and Canadian expats and their pets to Costa Rica..

Satisfaction, Guaranteed.

If you are unsatisfied with any StartAbroad partner or StartAbroad service, we will refund you 100% of our fee.

Importing Your Pet Into Costa Rica

Costa Rica requires only one form to be completed by an approved veterinarian, then endorsed by your country's relevant government institution (USDA for the U.S., CFIA for Canada). Find the form here for travelers from the U.S. For travelers from Canada, you can find the form here. It is in both English and Spanish, so no translation is required.


For U.S. rules and endorsement requirements see the USDA website here. For Canada, see the Costa Rican embassy in Canada's website here.

USDA endorsements may be completed online by approved veterinarians. We highly recommend using the online system for USDA endorsement, as snail mail may be delayed. If you must mail in your forms, use an overnight express service like FedEx or UPS.

In certain areas of the United States it can be challenging to find USDA accredited veterinarians. You may need to ask around to several vets. In Canada, most vets are authorized to complete the required paperwork. 

Special Cases: Bringing Snub-nosed, Large, and Other Restricted Dog Breeds Into Costa Rica

Many airlines restrict transportation of certain breeds. Snub nosed breeds are one category – breeds where there are some concerns about breathing problems, such as pugs, French bulldogs, and Persian cats. Very large dogs are also often not allowed due to weight and crate size restrictions. Some airlines further restrict breeds with particularly strong jaws, or require reinforced or special crates for these breeds.

If your dog is a restricted breed you may be able to find an airline that still will transport your pet. International carriers are often more permissive - Copa and Avianca's cargo pet programs are worth exploring in particular.

If your budget allows, another good solution is to fly with your pet on a shared charter flight. Your pet can fly in-cabin with you, and you can split the cost of the flight with other pet owners. Shared charter flights are most often available out of airports in Texas, although you may also find flights from Florida, California, and other southern U.S. states.

WATCH: How to Relocate Your Pet Internationally


Price: $525

Bring your furry best friend on your new adventure. Our pet relocation services include:

  • Consultation with a relocation specialist to talk through options

  • Detailed checklist & informational guide on pet relocation for your chosen country

  • Connection to a trusted pet relocator, if desired

  • Step-by-step assistance for a DIY pet relocation, if desired

  • Oversight of the implementation process


How StartAbroad Can Help You Relocate Your Pet to Costa Rica

Ready To Get Started?

Book a no-cost 15 minute consultation, and we'll start your journey together.

Satisfaction, Guaranteed.

If you are unsatisfied with any StartAbroad partner or StartAbroad service, we will refund you 100% of our fee.

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