Costa Rica, located in between other Central American nations Nicaragua and Panama, was originally explored by Spaniards during the 16th century. However colonization did not occur until later due to many health risks, attacks by natives, searing heat, constant pirate raids and heavy rainy season. Costa Rica gained independence from Spain in 1821 on May the 10th, and then entered as one of many independent states into the United Provinces of Central America. This federation, however, later fell apart, and Costa Rica became a fully independent nation in 1838. In recent years a number of expatriates have started to relocate to Costa Rica due to the large amounts of foreign investment by big businesses, like Intel, creating jobs and wealth thus propelling the economy forward. During this time Costa Rican health infrastructure has seen a major boost due to increased flow of funds. Despite this most expatriates elect to be taken to Mexico or Panama for any major surgeries. This is because although Costa Rican facilities can offer these surgeries, quality remains high, however can be very expensive for some types of surgeries.
Because of its location, Central America, there are many diseases in Costa Rica. Some of these serious infectious diseases include Chaga′s Disease, Dengue Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Leishmaniasis, Leptospirosis, Malaria, Rabies and Typhoid. Chaga′s Disease, Dengue Fever, Leishmaniasis and Malaria are all insect borne diseases. To prevent these sorts of diseases it is advised that insect repellent is worn, and mosquito nets are put over your bed at night. These infections are more common in urban areas where stagnant water, such as that found in discarded tires, provide for a breeding ground for mosquitoes and other infectious insects. The other infectious diseases such as Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Leptospirosis and Typhoid are all water and food borne diseases which are quite deadly and easily caught if food and water quality is not checked. It is therefore advised to use non street food vendors, to avoid possible development of these diseases.
In Costa Rica when receiving healthcare, hospitals and private doctors expect up front payment, even you already have health insurance. This is the reason many expensive lengthy medical procedures are done either in Panama or Mexico. This being said most surgical procedures cost only a fraction of what they do in the United States. For example, a heart bypass operations costs about a third of what it does in the United States.
Costa Rica has universal health care, one of the best health systems in Latin America. As always with nationalized health care, expect red tape and long waits, but the quality of Costa Rica′s health care is excellent. In private healthcare many doctors speak English and have received training in Europe, Canada, or the U.S. There are three large, private hospitals that most expatriates use, which are; CIMA hospital in Escazu, Clinica Biblica in San Jose, and Clinica Catolica in San Jose-Guadalupe.
Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy, often ahead of Great Britain and the United States, even though the per-capita income of Costa Ricans is about one-tenth that of the U.S. and the U.K. Arguably, one reason for this is the slower more relaxed pace of living in Costa Rica and, of course, the healthy, fresh, non-preservative-laden foods found there, and the welcoming tropical climate.
Overall Costa Rica has a well rounded healthcare service. As is true with any country in the world, there are some problems inherent in the system; however most people are able to receive the care that they need when they need it. The only way to avoid the issues and concerns of any healthcare system in the world is through a quality international health insurance plan. These Costa Rica expat health insurance plans give you the flexibility to go to the doctor or hospital of your choice, meaning that no matter where in the world you may be located, from Australia to the Zimbabwe, you will always be able to receive the highest standard of care available.
For more information about the Costa Rica healthcare system, Costa Rica health insurance, or to receive a free comprehensive health insurance quote, please contact one of our dedicated advisers today.
Located in Central America, Costa Rica lies in between both Nicaragua, to the north, and Panama, to the south. Originally explored by the Spanish in the 16th century, initial attempts to colonize the land were unsuccessful as a number of factors including diseases in mosquito infested swamps, native raids on settlers, brutal heat and constant pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands.
The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries, until in 1821, Costa Rica, jointly became, one of several Central American provinces to gain independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America but this federation collapsed in 1838, at which time Costa Rica claimed its independence from the rest of the states. Since the 19th century only two violent incidents have stalled the countries economic and democratic development. Although the main industry is still primarily the agriculture industry, the technology and tourism industries have grown significantly, and are still growing further.
Costa Rica Travel Tips
Whenever you travel overseas it is often useful to understand the local laws and customs in the destination country, as they can often be very different to your own. The legal system, based off the Spanish module, is very similar to that of many western countries, and therefore is very straightforward. However there are cultural and social differences worth noting so as to avoid potential trouble. As such we have provided some Costa Rican travel advice so that you may stay safe and better enjoy your travels, throughout Costa Rica,
Please be advised that the information contained on this page is not fully comprehensive and may be liable to change without prior warning; as such you should consult a travel expert or your local embassy prior to departing on your journey.
- The threat from terrorism is quite low. However, it should be noted that there is the global risk of indiscriminate terrorist attacks which target public areas those frequented by foreigners.
- It should be noted that violent crimes against foreigners are on the increase due to the unemployment brought on by the financial crisis. Opportunistic theft of personal belongings, passports and travel documents is the main problem. However, there has also been an increase in incidents of violent crime against tourists. Gang muggings and armed robberies can occur even in daylight on busy streets.
- It is advised that to avoid muggings you, avoid carrying large amounts of cash on you at any given time, avoid street currency exchange vendors and locking valuables in a safe you have control of at all times.
- When traveling on public buses keep an eye on your luggage at all times. Luggage theft is an increasing problem in Costa Rica that is carried out efficiently. Thieves have simple ways but effective ways of distracting targets.
- When going out, avoid leavings drinks unattended. Tourists drink spiking has increased in recent years, and has lead to many subsequent rape and theft.
- There has been an increase in the number of short-term and opportunistic kidnapping, called "express kidnapping", occurring in Costa Rica. Victims are normally selected at random and are forced at gunpoint to withdraw money from ATMs. Once the ransom is paid the victim is usually quickly released.
- If you are planning on visiting jungle areas you should be accompanied by experienced local guides.
- Road conditions are generally good on main routes, although potholes caused by heavy rains in the wet season are common. Landslides in the wet season, which block the road between San Jose and Guapiles on the way to Limon are frequent and can cause delays. However, they are cleared away quickly and there are longer alternative routes.
- Drivers should be cautious when approaching bridges as these are often only one-way, even if the road appears to be two-way.
- The standard of driving is lower than in most parts of the western world. Accidents in Costa Rica are often caused by speeding or overtaking irresponsibly. You should resist the temptation to overtake without clear visibility and adhere to speed limits, as traffic police are strict.
- If you have a collision when driving a car you must not move the vehicle, not even to the side of the road, until the traffic police have come to inspect it. The Traffic Police (Transito) and the Insurance Investigator (INS) must come to the scene of the accident to complete accident reports.
- All visitors coming into Costa Rica arriving from any of the following countries (Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, French Guyana, Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gabon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Gambia and Sudan) are now required to produce an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis documenting yellow fever vaccination before entry to Costa Rica will be granted. Certificates are valid 10 days after the date of vaccination.