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In emergencies, call 911. Alternately, call 128 for the Red Cross, which provides ambulance service nationwide.
The state-run social security system (INS, or the Caja) operates full-service hospitals and clinics nationwide. Foreigners receive the same emergency service as Costa Ricans in public hospitals, and no one is turned away in an emergency (however, a $39 fee applies; a typical overnight with care costs about $350).
Private hospitals offer faster and superior treatment than public hospitals (a large deposit may be requested on admittance). Private doctor visits usually cost $25–50. Hospitals and clinics accept payment by credit card. U.S. insurance is not normally accepted, but you can send your bill to your insurance company for reimbursement.
Pharmacies (farmacias) are well stocked. Every community has at least one pharmacy (farmacia or botica).
Traveler’s Emergency Network (tel. 800/275-4836, www.tenweb.com) and International SOS Assistance (tel. 713/521-7611 or 800/523-8930, www.internationalsos.com) provide worldwide ground and air evacuation and medical assistance, plus access to medical facilities around the world. Swiss-based Assist-Card (in the U.S. tel. 305/381-9959 or 800/874-2223, www.assist-card.com), with offices worldwide, provides emergency services, including arranging doctor’s visits to your hotel and even emergency evacuation.
Many medical and travel insurance companies also provide emergency evacuation coverage.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition