Costa Rica Health Insurance and Visas

Excited to travel to Costa Rica? Remember to take out travel insurance or expat insurance for you and your family! Our travel insurance for Costa Rica or our expatriate insurance allow you to meet the requirements of insurance certification to return to Costa Rica. You will leave with peace of mind and can prevent financial, health, and legal risks that would arise unexpectedly. The guarantees cover repatriation, hospital costs, civil liability and other medical expenses.


Political regime: Democratic Republic
Capital: San José
Area: 51,100 sq km
Population: 4.906 million
Spoken languages: Spanish
Currency: Costa Rican Colon


As with other countries, follow the rules of security bases (i.e.: avoid showing your wealth, don’t leave your belongings unattended, depending on the neighborhoods don’t risk going out alone too late at night). The crime rate is high with a steady increase in the rate of drug-related homicide for several years. With regard to crimes against foreigners, robberies are not uncommon, there are occasional cases of armed robberies with assault.

The health system in Costa Rica

The health system in Costa Rica is quite good, it stands out from other Latin American countries but still has many flaws. It has the highest life expectancy on the continent, but it is only 78 years. It also has one of the lowest mortality rates on the continent, despite being 9%. If you are planning to move to Costa Rica or stay there for a while, this does not mean that the system is similar to those in Europe. Indeed, the health staff is less qualified and the medical infrastructure and equipment less developed than in Europe. Another major problem facing the Costa Rican health system is that the public health sector is increasingly unable to keep up with demand.
The Costa Rican health system is provided with social security and financed by contributions from the state, employers and workers in order to provide care to the entire Costa Rican population. In fact, more than 85% of the population is covered by this social insurance. This social security fund provides coverage and comprehensive health services in two types of insurance:

  • General public insurance;
  • Public contributory insurance.

In addition, Costa Rica has established a public health system that is exclusive to Costa Rican citizens who are most in financial need. This means that all employed residents and expatriates must pay for access to health care. As an expatriate you will never be able to benefit from the free Costa Rican health care system as to stay in Costa Rica you must prove that you have sufficient income. You will therefore have to pay the same contributions as Costa Ricans to the “Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS)” also known as “the Fund”. The contributions vary according to your salary (between 7% and 11%). As a retiree in Costa Rica, the amount of contributions will be assessed against the initial financial sum you declared when you applied for your visa.
In Costa Rica there are three types of medical facilities:

  • Hospitals;
  • Clinics;
  • Ebais”.

The ebais are the basic health care teams considered as the first line of health care of the Fund grouped in medical centres. They are composed of at least one doctor, one nurse’s aide and one primary care technical assistant in medical records.

How can I consult a general practitioner or specialist in Costa Rica?

Firstly, you can go to an ebais or clinic to consult a general practitioner easily. The waiting time once you are there can be quite long in an ebais. You will pay between $40 and $60 for a consultation with a general practitioner with medication included in the cost. You will find clinics in almost every major city in Costa Rica, open from 7am to 4pm. It is strongly recommended that you arrive early as the majority of the population goes exclusively to the public health care system.

Private consultations

If you can afford to go to private hospitals or clinics, or if your private health insurance covers them, there are many private services throughout the country. You will be seen quickly by a general practitioner and the quality of service is better than in the public sector, although the cost of consultations will be higher, about $70 per consultation.

Public consultations

If you want to go to a public hospital to see a GP, we advise you to bring a translator with you. There is no guarantee that the practitioner who will see you will speak English. If not, ask beforehand if a member of the health staff speaks English and will help you fill in the health forms and speak with the doctor.
If you take medication regularly and need a prescription to collect it from the pharmacy, try to find out the Spanish name or equivalent beforehand. This will facilitate communication between you and your doctor and ensure that the correct medication is prescribed.
Remember to bring your passport. In addition, we strongly recommend that you take out private health insurance as it will allow you to get private treatment, which is highly recommended if you are going to live in Costa Rica.
This also applies to specialist doctors. You can go to your embassy’s website where you will find a list of specialists and general practitioners.

Pharmacies in Costa Rica

Remember to bring a prescription if you need prescription-only medicines, as a pharmacist may refuse to take a medicine if you do not have a prescription. The cost of medicines in pharmacies in Costa Rica is lower than in Europe. However, you will not find all the medicines you are used to taking and will have to go through equivalent products. Be aware that some medicines are not available at all, for example abortion is not allowed in Costa Rica. Remember to bring a contraceptive method and a morning-after pill in case of concern. Never buy medicines sold on the street, there are countless counterfeits.

Dental care in Costa Rica

Medical tourism is very popular in Costa Rica because the care is good and recognized as one of the best in South America. Dental treatments are cheaper than in Europe or North America, which is why many tourists come here for treatment. For standard dental treatment you don’t have to worry, the dentists in Costa Rica are very qualified. However, we recommend that you consult a private dentist if you want to be sure of receiving quality treatment.
The following is a list of average fees charged by private dental offices in Costa Rica:

  • Oral examination / specialist assessment / CT and pano ray: $200;
  • Deep cleaning with scaling and root planing by dial: $140;
  • Dental extraction without surgery: $90.

The Emergency Department in Costa Rica

If you want to contact the emergency service, dial 911. You will be taken care of by a telephone service that will ask you a series of questions regardless of the degree of your emergency. Take the time to answer all the questions in the protocol and you will be taken care of in the most efficient way.

Hospitals in Costa Rica

The quality of hospital care in Costa Rica is among the best in South America. However, the country is still a long way from being in the top 10 of the best health care systems in the world. This means that you will not find a similar quality of health care as in European countries. Hospital health care is good but the waiting times are very long, you will be faced with long queues most of the time before you can get a consultation with a health clinic. This is why it is essential that you are covered by private insurance so that you can be treated in private clinics and hospitals. The quality of care is better and waiting times are much shorter.

Paramedical care in Costa Rica

You will be able to consult an optician in Costa Rica at much lower prices than in Europe or North America. In fact, you will pay about three times less in Costa Rica for the same type of service. About $100 USD for a pair of glasses, $130 for a pair of sunglasses.
Physiotherapists in Costa Rica can be found in specialized or independent clinics. In a specialized clinic, you will pay an average of $35 USD for a consultation and $40 USD for a neurology session.

All about pregnancy and maternity in Costa Rica

In both private and public hospitals, the cost of pregnancy and maternity is much lower than in Europe or North America.
If you are insured with the AMO (Caja) or with private health insurance, your childbirth and maternity costs will be covered. The difference between these two covers is the quality of care you will receive depending on the cover you choose.

Pregnancy in Costa Rica with public health insurance

If you have opted for Caja and are pregnant, your status will be that of “preferential patient”. This means that you will be taken care of more quickly and all the health care you need will be provided with shorter waiting times. Another advantage you will get with public health insurance is that all your baby’s care will be free of charge until your baby is 1 year old. This includes blood tests, medical examinations and other expenses. However, it is possible that your medical appointments will be made for you and you will not be able to reschedule them or change the date of the appointment. Finally, the possibility that you will be attended by a doctor who speaks only Spanish cannot be ruled out, as this could be a major obstacle to a successful pregnancy and motherhood.

Pregnancy in Costa Rica with private health insurance

If you have opted for private health insurance, you will have much more choice in the way your maternity experience unfolds. Indeed, you will have access to more flexibility in terms of dates for your medical appointments and you will also be able to choose which doctor will carry out your pregnancy follow-up. The waiting times are even shorter than for a person with ‘preferred patient’ status in the public sector. The hospitals most recognized for the quality of their services and their state of the art medical equipment are 3 private hospitals:

  • Clinica Biblica
  • CIMA
  • Clinica La Catolica

Finally, in a private hospital, you will also have much more control over the course of your delivery. You are the one who sets up your Birth Plan. A birth plan is a structured plan, often written down, concerning all the actions, appointments and examinations that you will carry out before the birth and finally the planning of your birth (vaginal delivery or Caesarean section etc.). If you wish to have a choice of delivery method, it is essential that you go to a private hospital. You will choose the room you want to be in after the birth and how long you want to stay. It is a good idea to make sure that the doctor who will be monitoring your pregnancy speaks English, as this can take a lot of the stress off you if you can communicate with your doctor easily enough. Not all public hospitals offer optional pain relief treatments such as epidurals, whereas in private hospitals you will have the choice.
As long as your child is born in Costa Rica, he or she can obtain Costa Rican nationality and your nationality. In addition, if you plan to travel with your child before he/she reaches 3 months of age, you will need to obtain a “Permiso de Salida” issued by your doctor.

Vaccinations in Costa Rica

If you plan to travel to Costa Rica or stay for several months or even years, you will need to have your vaccination schedule up to date. The vaccines that must be up to date are the vaccines against :

  • Hepatitis A and B;
  • Rabies;
  • Typhoid.

There is a small risk of contracting malaria so when in Costa Rica it is strongly recommended that you wear long, loose fitting, light coloured clothing impregnated with insecticide if possible, especially mosquito repellent. Also use DEET (30%-50%), Icaridin (30%) or Citriodiol repellents on all exposed parts of your body when you go out.

Is it necessary to purchase a private international health insurance in Costa Rica?

The answer is yes. It is highly recommended to purchase private international health insurance in Costa Rica regardless of your profile. In Costa Rica, access to public health care can be compromised as the demand is much higher than the capacity of health care facilities and personnel to care for the entire population. With the Caja, the compulsory health insurance, the majority of Costa Ricans go to public health facilities for treatment. This leads to extremely long waiting times that compromise access to health care. Furthermore, if you do not speak Spanish, you are unlikely to be seen by a health centre that understands and speaks your language. The likelihood that they will speak English is also low. The quality of care is good but you will not find the same comfort as in European hospitals. La Caja does not pay for repatriation costs. In case of repatriation, if you are not privately insured, you will have to pay all the costs.

Which private international health insurance to subscribe in Costa Rica and for whom?

Whatever your profile, taking out a health insurance policy is highly recommended if you wish to stay or expatriate to Costa Rica.

  • Whether you are an entrepreneur, a nomadic worker, an annuitant, a retiree or an employee, it is essential that you take out a GoldExpat private health insurance policy. On the one hand, to protect you against health care costs in private institutions and on the other hand to be covered in case of medical repatriation to a foreign country or to your country of origin to allow you to be covered for health care outside Costa Rica and medical repatriation.
  • If you are going to Costa Rica as a tourist, it is recommended that you take out travel insurance. In the public sector, waiting times and treatment can be very long and the quality of care can be poor.
  • The same is true if you are a student going to study, do an internship or a humanitarian mission in Costa Rica. We offer you a private health insurance adapted to your student profile, GoldStudent. For more information, please visit our website or contact one of our advisors by email or phone.

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