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Health Advice

The US Center For Disease Control maintains an updated list of medical advice for those traveling to Costa Rica

The CDC recommends being up to date with all your regular shots. These vaccines include measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis vaccine, varicella (chickenpox) vaccine, polio vaccine, and your yearly flu shot

They also suggest being vaccinated for hepatitis A. There is also some advice about protection for hepatitis B and rabies – but this depends to some degree on where you are heading and what you are doing.

Additionally, zika virus, chikungunya virus and dengue fever is a risk in Costa Rica so avoiding being bitten by mosquitos is advised.

Poisonous snakes, scorpions, and other pests pose a small threat in Costa Rica.


In general, Costa Rica has a high level of medical care and services for a developing nation. The better private hospitals and doctors in San José are very good. In fact, given the relatively low-cost nature of care and treatment, a sizable number of foreigners come to Costa Rica each year for elective surgery and other care.

Pharmacies are widely available, and generally well stocked. In most cases, you will not need a doctor’s script to fill or refill a prescription.

Food Safety

Water is generally safe to drink, especially around San José, but the quality can vary; to be safe, drink bottled water. In rural areas you run a mild risk of encountering drinking water, fresh fruit, and vegetables contaminated by fecal matter, which in most cases causes a bit of traveler’s diarrhea but can cause leptospirosis (which can be treated by antibiotics if detected early). Stay on the safe side by avoiding uncooked food, unpasteurized milk, and ice—ask for drinks sin hielo (without ice). Ceviche, raw fish cured in lemon juice—a favorite appetizer, especially at seaside resorts—is generally safe to eat.


Here is a link to the US State Department Travel Advisory for Costa Rica for the latest information on travelling to Costa Rica.

The emergency numbers in Costa Rica are:

  • Police & Medical Emergency 911

The greatest danger to your person actually lies off Costa Rica’s popular beaches: riptides are common wherever there are waves, and tourists run into serious difficulties in them every year.

Avoid swimming where a town’s main river opens up to the sea. Septic tanks aren’t common.

Violent crime is not a serious problem in Costa Rica, but thieves can easily prey on tourists, so be alert. The government has created a Tourism Police unit whose more than 250 officers can be seen on bikes or motorcycles patrolling areas in Guanacaste, San José, and the Arenal area. The general advice is:

  • Don’t flash expensive jewelry or watches.
  • In cities, don’t carry expensive cameras or lots of cash.
  • Wear backpacks on your front; thieves can slit your backpack and run away with its contents before you notice.
  • Don’t wear a waist pack, because thieves can cut the strap.
  • Keep car windows rolled up and car doors locked at all times in cities.


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