The Medical System


Costa Rica has a medical system that is subsidised by the state.

Through Costa Rican Bureau of Social Security (CCSS) all Costa Rican nationals can receive free medical treatment at a large number of hospitals and clinics. Foreigners that have residency in Costa Rica can access the CCSS plan by paying a small contribution based on their income. With CCSS, only designated hospitals and clinics will treat you.

For the National Institute of Insurance (Instituto Nacional de Seguros, INS) insurance, you do not have to hold a residency and you can access all hospitals. If you decide to opt for ‘self pay’ for a visit to a general practitioner it will cost you around US$ 25 to US$ 50. In practice, paying in cash will often get you discounts. In case you have to go to a hospital or clinic, take into consideration that in and around San José, English staff may be available. However, in the more remote areas you are less likely to find English speaking staff.

Costa Rica also receives large numbers of health care tourists each year. These visitors come from all over the world, drawn to Costa Rica by the low costs and high quality. Many clinics in Costa Rica offer special package deals including hotel or resort, transport and procedures.


Prescription drugs in Costa Rica are sold by brand name. As many brands are local brands make sure you should know the generic name of the drug. Generic drugs are generally cheaper in Costa Rica due to lower production costs. However, some drugs have to be imported which means those drugs will be more expensive. If you have a prescription from back home you can show this to a local doctor who will normally give you a Costa Rican prescription with which you can purchase the drugs at the pharmacy.

Most pharmaceutical drugs can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. The pharmacist can also recommend remedies for common ailments, flu, stomach disorders, headache, etc. In the mayor cities there are several pharmacies that remain open all night.

Further reading

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