Tips for Medical Tourists in Costa Rica

Every year more and more Americans are going abroad for medical treatments. After the recent recession, people have become more conscious about how they are spending their money and this extends to medical expenses as well.

According to a report titled “Recession slows dental spending” by Craig Palmer published on February 21, 2011 in the American Dental Association News, in 2009 after the recession, it was the first time in 50 years that there was a decline in dental expenditures in the United States.

However, it’s impossible to compromise on medical or dental health forever. That’s why people are opting for medical tourism. People are exploring options such as undergoing weight loss surgical procedures, plastic surgeries and even getting same day implants in Costa Rica instead of the United States to cut down costs. If you are considering medical tourism in Costa Rica, you might benefit from these helpful tips.

Is Costa Rica Right for Me?

The first thing you should determine when considering a medical procedure, be it a tummy tuck or getting low cost dental implants in Costa Rica, is whether the Latin American country is right for you or not. There are many other countries with an established medical tourism industry as well, so how do you know if Costa Rica is the place for you? Here are some ways to figure that out:

  • Distance – Do you want to travel only a short distance? Unlike other medical tourism destinations which may require 15 or more hours of flying, Costa Rica is only a 3 hour flight from the US.
  • Saving Money - Do you want to save 30% to 70% on your medical expenses? Whether you want to get breast implants or a facelift in Costa Rica, you will most likely save quite substantially even after you factor in the cost of travel!
  • Beaches - Do you like clean tropical beaches up against an azure sky? If so, you might want to recover from any medical or dental procedure here.
  • Latin American Culture – Do you like Latin American food? Do you speak a little Spanish? Do you have an interest in knowing why the Spanish phrase “pura vida” best describes the Costa Rican way of life and want to experience the hospitality of Ticos? Even if you have little to no exposure to Latin American culture, you may still find it intriguing and enticing. If you do, then you might want to consider medical tourism in Costa Rica.

Some Handy Tips for Medical Travel in Costa Rica

Now that you’ve realized some of the advantages that Costa Rica has in comparison to other medical tourism destinations, here are some tips for medical tourists going to Costa Rica.

Have open communication with your doctor. One of the best things about Costa Rica is that most of the reputable doctors working with foreign patients speak English. This means that you can have open communication with your doctor. Some more tips on doing that include:

  • Be sure that you fully understand the procedure and the recovery process before you undergo medical treatment of any kind in Costa Rica.
  • Ask questions when you are unclear about something.
  • Express any anxiety or fear you may have about the procedure.
  • Give your doctor all of your emergency contact information in your home country.

Know your own medical history. Whether you are going for knee surgery or full mouth restoration in Costa Rica, it is important that you know as much about your own medical history as possible prior to boarding the flight. You should know and inform your doctor whether or not you:

  • are in a healthy enough state to board a flight
  • have any allergies to medicines
  • have had any severe medical problems
  • are genetically prone to any severe medical problems

Knowing these things prior to going to Costa Rica would be quite helpful. If you can bring any or all of your old medical records, that would also be helpful for your doctor in Costa Rica.

Inform your local doctor. Make sure that you keep your local doctor informed about your decision of traveling to Costa Rica for getting treated. You might need his/her help for follow-up care.

Know about the visa norms. Both US and UK citizens need a passport (with a validity of three months from the date of entry into Costa Rica for American citizens; in case of UK nationals, the passport should be valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry into Costa Rica) but no visa for a stay of less than 90 days in Costa Rica. Extension of stay requires submission of an application to the Costa Rican immigration department. Check for visa requirements with the Costa Rican embassy in your country.

Consult your health insurance company. Often medical facilities do not accept foreign health insurance. Many a time, your insurance may not be valid in a foreign country. So, it is important to consult your insurance provide prior to traveling to Costa Rica.

Follow the safety advisory issued by your government. It is imperative to pay heed to the following safety tips when in Costa Rica –
  • Avoid flashing cash and your valuables in public.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when using public transportation. Theft of bags from overhead compartments is quite common in buses.
  • Do not leave your drinks unattended in a club or bar to avoid them from being spiked.
  • Always hire a registered taxi (these are red in color and can be identified with a triangular sticker on the side).
  • Traffic norms are not as stringently followed in Costa Rica as in the US or the UK. So, self-driving is best avoidable.
  • There are quite a few active volcanoes in Costa Rica. When in a national park, strictly follow the instructions spelt out by the authorities. Do not enter sites which are clearly marked off limits.


Also, it is important to be prepared for a longer or shorter stay than planned. Make sure that you receive all the vaccinations before embarking on a medical trip to Costa Rica. The US Centers for Disease Control, for example, advises travelers to be inoculated against typhoid and hepatitis A and B before leaving for Costa Rica.

These are just a few tips to help you have a great experience as a medical tourist in Costa Rica. In addition to this, you may want to read or hear about the experiences of other medical tourists who have been treated at your intended hospital or clinic in order to get a firsthand account.

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