Before You Go
- The Best of Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Top Spots for WIldlife
- Costa Rica’s Most Beautiful Beaches
- Costa Rica’s Best Beaches for Wildlife
- Best Surfing Beaches in Costa Rica
- Costa Rica’s Unique Retreats & Resorts
- Surf’s Up in Costa Rica
- Off-The-Beaten-Path Eco-Adventures
- Costa Rica Family-Friendly Adventures
- Adrenaline Rush
Dental and medical checkups may be advisable before departing home, particularly if you have an existing medical problem. Take along any medications, including prescriptions for glasses and contact lenses; keep prescription drugs in their original bottles to avoid suspicion at customs. If you suffer from a debilitating health problem, wear a medical alert bracelet. A basic health kit is a good idea. Pack the following (as a minimum) in a small plastic container: alcohol swabs and medicinal alcohol, antiseptic cream, adhesive bandages, aspirin or painkillers, diarrhea medication, sunburn remedy, antifungal foot powder, calamine, antihistamine, water-purification tablets, surgical tape, bandages and gauze, and scissors.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (tel. 800/232-4636, www.cdc.gov) issues the latest health information and advisories by region. Information on health concerns can be answered by the Department of State’s Citizens Emergency Center (tel. 202/501-4444 or 888/407-4747, http://travel.state.gov), and the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers (tel. 716/754-4883, www.iamat.org). In the U.K., you can get information, inoculations, and medical supplies from the MASTA Travel Clinics (www.masta-travel-health.com).
An indispensable pocket-sized book is Staying Healthy in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, by Dirk G. Schroeder (Avalon Travel Publishing), which is packed with first-aid and basic medical information.
Travel insurance is highly recommended. Travel agencies can sell you traveler’s health and baggage insurance, as well as insurance against cancellation of a prepaid tour. Travelers should check to see if their health insurance or other policies cover medical expenses while abroad.
The following U.S. companies are recommended for travel insurance: Travelers (tel. 888/695-4625, www.travelers.com) and TravelGuard International (tel. 800/826-4919, www.travelguard.com). The Council on International Education Exchange (CIEE, www.ciee.org) offers insurance to students.
In the U.K., the Association of British Insurers (tel. 020/7600-3333, www.abi.org.uk) provides advice for obtaining travel insurance. Inexpensive insurance is offered through Endsleigh Insurance (tel. 0800/028-3571, www.endsleigh.co.uk) and STA Travel (tel. 0871/230-0400, www.sta.com).
Costa Rica’s social security system (Instituto Nacional de Seguros, or INS; also called the Caja) has a traveler’s Insurance program specifically for foreigners. As well as loss or theft of possessions, it covers emergency medical treatment (hospitalization and surgery, plus emergency dental treatment are covered; services for pre-existing conditions are not), plus repatriation of a body. You can choose coverage between 500,000 and 10 million colones for up to 12 weeks. You can buy coverage at travel agencies or the Instituto Nacional de Seguros (tel. 506/2287-6000, www.ins.go.cr).
No vaccinations are required to enter Costa Rica. Epidemic diseases have mostly been eradicated throughout the country. Consult your physician for recommended vaccinations. Travelers planning to rough it should consider vaccinations against tetanus, typhoid, and infectious hepatitis.
© Christopher P. Baker from Moon Costa Rica, 8th Edition