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Costa Rica Travel Health Guide

Costa Rica travel health guide

Costa Rica is arguably the most touristed country in Central America. This is unsurprising given the country’s wealth of rainforest, beautiful beaches and coastlines, and its diverse array of wildlife. Despite being a tropical country, there are less travel health risks than many other destinations of similar climate. There are a few things you need to keep in mind, however. Use this guide to help prepare for your trip.

Recommended Vaccinations

  • Routine Vaccinations – Please see our article on travel immunizations and vaccinations to see all of the routine vaccinations you should have. These would include MMR, tetanus, Hepatitis A, and Hepatitis B.
  • Typhoid Fever – Typhoid vaccination is recommended everywhere in Central America.
  • The Rabies vaccine is recommended only if you plan on spending significant time handling or in close proximity to wildlife.

Yellow fever vaccination is not required for entry unless you are coming from certain countries. See this table from the CDC to see if you need to have it. In other words, there is not a threat of yellow fever in Costa Rica, the government just wants to make sure you don’t inadvertently bring it into the country.


Despite being a tropical country, the malaria threat in Costa Rica is actually fairly low. Only in one particular province do you need to consider taking prophylactics: Limón Province. Limón City (Puerto Limón) is not included in the risk area.

That said, you should still talk with a doctor before your trip about whether or not you need to take a prophylactic and regardless of whether you are traveling to Limón Province, you should always take basic precautions to avoid mosquito bites. For an extensive list of tips, see this post on whether or not you should take malaria prophylactics. You can also browse our other articles on malaria here.

Can you drink the water in Costa Rica?

Yes. Costa Rica treats their tap water and you shouldn’t have to worry about drinking from the tap if you are in a city. If you are spending time in rural areas or any place that does not have a municipal water supply, you should consider traveling with a purifier or other treatment device. See our post on ways to treat water for more info on this.

The Sun

Costa Rica’s beaches may tempt you into spending hours underneath the sun, but you should take special care to avoid both sunburn and dehydration. If you are a regular reader of the site, then you have likely read the guest post from Jade called Sunburns in Sensitive Areas in Costa Rica. If you haven’t, check it out for a fun and informative read.

For more on the sun, we strongly recommend reading two previous articles we have written for the site: How to Pick the Best Sunscreen and Avoid Sunburn and How to Treat Sunburn. Both of these articles will help you prepare for any tropical destination.

Traveler’s Diarrhea

While the tap water in most areas is safe for drinking, you can still find yourself suffering from some intestinal distress in Costa Rica. This is mostly the result of food that has not been prepared in hygienic conditions. In rural areas, it could also be due to water that is unsafe for drinking. Have a look at our article on how to prevent and treat traveler’s diarrhea – it has all you need to know on the topic.

While traveler’s diarrhea should not be a cause for concern, if you are experiencing severe symptoms or if you are experiencing diarrhea accompanied by a fever, then you should definitely make your way to a clinic to receive an official diagnosis from a doctor.

Other things to keep in mind

– As is the case with most tropical countries, infection can happen very easily. Make sure to travel with antiseptic lotion or wipes and make sure that you have an antibiotic ointment, such as Neosporin.
– If you plan on doing any trekking in heavily forested areas, make sure to consult locals and wherever possible, hire a guide. They can make specific clothing recommendations so that your jungle hike doesn’t come with a side of leeches or something worse.

Have you ever been to Costa Rica? If you have any travel health tips to share, please leave them in the comments below.

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/magnusbrath/4298099698/

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