Health Tips

You may have heard of Costa Rica’s excellent healthcare, but what does that mean for travelers? Will your health insurance work here? Do you need any shots or vaccinations before you go to Costa Rica? Can you drink the water? We’ll also fill you in on pharmacies (your first stop in Costa Rica for basic first aid), public and private hospitals, and how travel insurance can help.


Costa Rica provides one of the best health care systems in Central America, both in private and public sector, and both constantly strive to be up-to-date with contemporary medicine. Over the last 60 years it’s social security system, CCSS–also known as “la CAJA”, has established more than 250 clinics and 29 public hospitals in Costa Rica that cover all major populated areas throughout the country.
The hospital services are available at a low costs to residents and tourists alike, 365 day a year on a 24 hour basis. That said, few CAJA hospitals will live up to expectations of US and Canadian expats/tourists, as the public emergency rooms are usually crowded and noisy and it’s very likely that the available doctors or nurses won’t speak any English. The CAJA system does function if you have plenty of time at your disposal, just arm yourself with a lot of patience.
On the other hand, private clinics and hospitals provide top-class services and are frequented as main hubs of the medical tourism in the country. Private clinics are often recognized for their excellent services and have positive testimonials. Currently new developers are fostering investments of private clinics and hospitals in the Central Valley peripheries and coastal areas.
Some of the most frequented private hospitals in Costa Rica are:
Hospital CIMA: This hospital is controlled by the International Hospital Corporation of Dallas, Texas. CIMA is notably the best equipped, full service hospital that features the most modern health care technology. The second establishment opened recently in Liberia, Guanacaste.
Hospital Clinica Biblica: Located in the heart of San Jose, and recently opened new clinic in Liberia, Guanacaste. The hospital in San Jose has a 24 hour rooftop heliport for emergencies.
Clinica La Catolica: This hospital is known for its amenities for travelers that include a lodge for companion persons just a few steps from the hospital. Clinica Catolica is also located in San Jose downtown, in the east area.
Hospital Metropolitano: This hospital is the most recent  privately operated hospital in San Jose, but so far have spread in the metropolitan area with three different locations in San Jose Downtown, Heredia and Tibas.

Pharmacies in Costa Rica

In case you need to purchase medicines and vaccinations in Costa Rica, pharmacies are always available. Even remote towns will have an open pharmacy during work hours, but National Parks and refuges will not. In San Jose and the Central Valley, 24 hours pharmacies are also an option.
Keep in mind that it is mandatory to have a prescription for some drugs. Prescriptions from doctors in the US and other countries might be well received. Nevertheless, people with special medical conditions should be prepared to purchase their specific medicines, and probably will find it useful to have appropriate translations.
In case of emergencies, pharmacists are capable of administrating injections and vaccines. They can also provide recommendations for specific medical conditions and check the blood pressure.
Other products like sunblock, tanning lotion, diapers, and some personal care objects can also be purchased in pharmacies.

Travel Insurance

So, you’re ready to book your vacation to Costa Rica and enjoy the getaway of a lifetime. Before you start brushing up on your Spanish or checking out our extensive travel guides, you might want to think about travel insurance. Of course, it isn’t the most exciting topic, but investing in insurance before you depart could save you a lot of money further down the road, as well as offer you valuable peace of mind. When you’re thinking about securing travel insurance for yourself and your family, there are a few things you need to know.

Check your coverage before you leave

Even if you have comprehensive medical insurance back home, it may not cover you in Costa Rica. Most healthcare providers won’t insure you for injuries sustained while overseas, especially in exotic destinations like Costa Rica. However, it’s worth checking that this is the case before embarking on your vacation to Costa Rica.
Fortunately, investing in travel insurance for your trip doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. A variety of insurance providers have specialized packages that are ideal for short breaks, but the terms and conditions of these plans will vary, depending on your needs and what you intend to do while you’re here. For example, if you’re planning to spend most of your trip lounging on the beach, chances are you won’t need the kind of specific coverage you would if you want to experience more adventurous pastimes, like canopy tours of the jungle in Costa Rica’s national parks.

Doing things a little differently

Something else to bear in mind is that, even if you’ve got travel insurance for your trip to Costa Rica, things work a little differently here. The biggest change between healthcare in the U.S. and Costa Rica is that if you need medical attention during your trip, you’ll most likely have to pay for your treatment out of pocket, and your insurance provider will compensate you at a later date. Again, if you’re not sure about the specific terms and conditions of your policy, check with your provider before you leave.
Shopping around is always a good idea when looking for Costa Rica travel insurance, so make sure to compare the price and coverage of different plans before you leave. Having specialized coverage can be invaluable in certain situations, and many companies will work with you to ensure you and your family are covered in a range of scenarios – leaving you to enjoy the stunning scenery and get the most out of your vacation.
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