Posted: 8/12/2023 | August 12th, 2023
Known for its lush forests, active volcanoes, white-sand beaches, and incredible wildlife, Costa Rica is a favorite among travelers. It was the place that ignited my wanderlust (so it holds a special place in my heart).
Sandwiched between the Caribbean and Pacific Oceans, this small country has a lot to offer. It attracts many visitors as it’s easily accessible to North American travelers, with frequent and affordable flights and a well-established tourist trail.
Overall, it’s quite safe, the quality of life is high, and parts almost feel like you’re in another US state.
A lot of travelers to Costa Rica wonder whether travel insurance is necessary at all.
“Do I really need it? It’s just an extra expense I won’t even use!” I get asked.
To me, the answer is yes.
Regardless of where I’m going, I never leave home without travel insurance. It’s protection against unexpected costs that may arise if things go wrong on the road, which — as every traveler will tell you — happens when you least expect it.
Since Costa Rica is more expensive than its Central American neighbors, and since you’re more likely to be participating in the adventure activities that make the country famous (volcano hikes, zip-lining), the risks can be higher, and costs can quickly add up quickly if things go sideways.
What Does Travel Insurance Typically Cover?
Travel insurance is an all-purpose emergency coverage plan for travel mishaps. Costs can add up quickly due to illness or injury, canceled flights, damaged electronics, lost luggage, the death of a family member back home — the list goes on.
Since most domestic health insurance programs don’t cover you overseas and travel credit cards offer limited protection, buying travel insurance is necessary to protect you against these unexpected costs. It’s designed to make sure you don’t lose a ton of money if an emergency happens abroad.
Great travel insurance plans include the following provisions:
- Medical coverage for injury and sudden illnesses
- Emergency medical evacuation
- Coverage for lost, damaged, or stolen possessions (including some coverage for your electronics)
- Trip cancelation/interruption coverage if you have a sudden illness, death in the family, or some other emergency that causes you to cancel or go home early
- Coverage for travel delays
- Coverage for political emergencies, natural disasters, or strife in the country
- Accidental death and dismemberment (morbid as it is, it’s important to have)
- 24/7 assistance
What to Consider When Purchasing Travel Insurance for Costa Rica
Here are some specific coverage needs to keep in mind when purchasing travel insurance for the land of pura vida:
1. Adventure activities – From skydiving to surfing, Costa Rica is a haven for the entire spectrum of adventure activities, and even the tamest of travelers may want to try some. It’s one of the best places in the world to go zip-lining, and there are incredible jungle and volcano hikes to be enjoyed. Ensure that your travel insurance plan covers you in the event that you get injured while participating in any of the activities that you might want to try.
2. Medical coverage – Should you get injured while testing your adrenaline limits (or doing anything else), you’ll want to be covered. A good travel insurance company provides up to $100,000 USD in necessary treatment and care, though more expensive policies will cover you for higher amounts.
3. Medical evacuation – If you are hiking in the rainforest and break your leg, your policy should cover your evacuation to the nearest acceptable medical facility. (If you’d prefer not to stay in a foreign hospital for treatment and recovery, look into a medical transport membership program like Medjet, which will get you home no matter what.)
4. Car rental – Renting a car is a common way to get around the country. However, apart from the main highways, roads can be in questionable condition; they often lack streetlights and have potholes and sharp drop-offs. Not to mention the oncoming traffic on tight, winding roads that seem like they should only fit one car. Even the most experienced of drivers can get in an accident, so make sure you’re prepared with the proper rental and collision coverage.
(If you do intend to rent a car, Vamos has the best prices. As a Nomadic Matt reader, you’ll get 5% off by using our link.)
5. Stolen or lost possessions – Petty theft is the most common type of crime here. Protect yourself by only bringing the necessary cash and one credit card when you go out, leaving your valuables at home. Still, even the best-laid plans can go awry, so make sure you have some coverage for your personal items (laptop, phone, etc.).
6. Natural disaster coverage – Costa Rica is geologically fascinating — but that means it’s also an active, unpredictable earthquake and volcano zone. Make sure that your policy will cover you if a natural disaster causes you to cancel or cut short your trip.
FAQ About Travel Insurance in Costa Rica
Do I need travel insurance to visit Costa Rica?
While Costa Rica no longer requires visitors to show proof of travel insurance upon arrival, I highly recommend that you get it anyway. It’s for your own benefit and only costs a few dollars per day (or less).
Does US medical insurance (like Medicare) work in Costa Rica?
No, medical insurance from the US, including Medicare, does not cover you in Costa Rica. You should not expect to be covered should anything happen to you (one of the main reasons to get travel insurance).
Is Costa Rica safe?
Costa Rica is one of the safest countries to visit in Central America. Most popular tourist towns are small and there’s little threat of violence. Solo travelers should generally feel safe here; however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, never walk home alone intoxicated, etc.). Check out this post for more tips on staying safe in Costa Rica.
Can I drink the water in Costa Rica?
The water is safe to drink in most parts of Costa Rica, though on the Caribbean side of the country and in more remote areas, it’s recommended that you do not. It’s best to bring a water bottle with a filter (my favorite is LifeStraw), so that you can be assured your water is always clean and safe to drink. (And make sure you have travel insurance in case you do get sick.)
Do I need malaria pills for Costa Rica?
Antimalarial pills are currently not necessary for travel to Costa Rica, though check the CDC website before you travel for current travel advisories. There is a slightly increased risk in the province of Limón, so if you are spending significant amounts of time there, especially in rural areas, you may want to talk to your doctor about getting a prescription. Whether you take antimalarial pills or not, I’d still recommend getting travel insurance just in case you do contract the disease.
What vaccinations are required for Costa Rica?
It’s recommended that you’re up to date on all routine vaccines, but the only required vaccine is yellow fever if you’re traveling from a country with risk of yellow fever transmission (such as Tanzania or Zambia, as well as rural areas of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Trinidad & Tobago).
If you’ll be spending a lot of time in rural areas, camping, or in other situations where you may encounter stray dogs and other wildlife, you might want to consider getting vaccinated against rabies (though rabies treatment is readily available if you do get bit). Again, be sure to get good travel insurance that will protect you in case you do get sick and need treatment.
What do I do in an emergency in Costa Rica?
If you’re experiencing a true emergency, Costa Rica’s emergency number is the same as in the United States — 911. Make sure to also save the emergency contact for your travel insurance company — a good company will have a 24/7 emergency hotline.
For more information on travel insurance, check out this post, How to Buy the Best Travel Insurance.
My Recommended Travel Insurance Company
My favorite company is SafetyWing, which offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and budget travelers. It offers cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
You can purchase and renew your insurance policy online in a matter of minutes, and most importantly, the company provides a lot of coverage at a super affordable price. SafetyWing covers most adventure activities (with some exclusions) and includes emergency medical coverage (including evacuation), as well coverage for as trip interruption, cancelation, and delay.
Learn more in my comprehensive Safety Wing review and use the widget below to get a free quote:
If you’re wondering whether to get travel insurance for your trip to Costa Rica, the answer is an emphatic YES. It’s the single most important thing you should get, and something I strongly, strongly advise travelers to never leave home without.
Book Your Trip to Costa Rica: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- Safety Wing (best for everyone)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional evacuation coverage)
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Costa Rica?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Costa Rica for even more planning tips!