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. Private health care is also available, which is affordable and high quality. 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: CIMA, Clinica Biblica, and Clinica Católica. Statistics from the World Health Organization frequently place Costa Rica in the top country rankings in the world for long life expectancy.

With a government-sponsored network of more than 30 hospitals and 250 clinics, the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) has primary responsibility for providing low-cost health care services to the Costa Rican populace. Foreigners living in Costa Rica can join the CCSS by paying a small monthly fee–based on income–or they can buy health insurance from the state monopoly Instituto de Seguro Nacional (INS), valid with over 200 affiliated doctors, hospitals, labs, and pharmacies in the private sector.

While private health care in Costa Rica is more expensive than that offered by doctors and surgeons through the CCSS, the price is still far below that of the average visit in the U.S. For example, a private office visit to almost any medical specialist costs around $40. Continued treatments for diagnosed problems will vary, but will almost always be considerably less than comparable treatment in the U.S. Dental work, too, is provided at a much lower cost than in the U.S. –prompting a phenomenon known as “medical tourism.”