Costa Rica Insurance Guide

Last Updated On 10/6/2020

Costa Rica is known for it’s health care in Latin America and is similar or even better than what you’d receive in the United States. In regard to car rental insurance though, it’s a much more confusing topic. Below the Yonder team will shed some light on these areas so you can make an informed decision –whether you are visiting Costa Rica for a trip or planning on becoming an expatriate there!

Is car rental insurance required in Costa Rica?

When it comes to car rental liability coverage, the answer is yes. Mandatory liability car insurance in Costa Rica provides coverage for the following:

  • If someone was hurt in an accident
  • If others’ cars were damaged
  • If other’s property was damaged

Note that the required liability coverage doesn’t cover any damage of the rental car itself. Here are some supplemental coverage you could purchase in Costa Rica that covers the missing gaps:

Collision Damage Waivers (CDW): If you were in an accident, this coverage would reduce your liability to the deductible –anywhere from $1,500-$3,000. This supplemental coverage from a rental agency could cost an additional $15-$40 per day, but doesn’t include benefits in the events of negligence, vandalism, road damage, or theft.

Full Coverage/Zero Liability: This is a third level of protection most rental agencies offer that erases your liability for damage due to theft, vandalism, road damage. If looking to add these benefits, you could be looking at tacking on another $5-$20 per day of rent.

woman sitting atop a car looking toward mountain

If you can’t catch the hint, insuring a rental car in Costa Rica can cost a pretty penny if you want similar coverage to what you have on your own vehicle back in the States.

What other car rental insurance options are there?

Well, you could look into what your credit card offers for rental car coverage. Tread lightly here though because there’s a lot of fine print to double-check when it comes to card coverage. For instance, if you purchase any kind of coverage (excluding the mandatory liability coverage) from the rental car company, your credit card company is likely to refuse covering damage of any kind. Another example that could restrict your credit card coverage is that some credit cards exclude coverage of Latin American car rentals –be sure to read the fine print! We’ve found more helpful information from Costa Rica Guide regarding using credit card coverage for rental cars you should check out.

Travel Insurance for Costa Rica

Your other option is purchasing a travel insurance policy with upgraded Rental Car Collision coverage. Despite common myths about travel insurance being expensive, it’s actually quite affordable and could even be cheaper than buying rental coverage from the rental company in Costa Rica.

For example, say you’re going on a seven-day trip for two to Costa Rica that costs $4,000. You can find a policy on Yonder starting at around $184 for your entire seven-day trip that has $25,000 of Rental Car Collision coverage. Plus, this policy includes Trip Cancellation/Interruption, Medical, and Travel Loss and Delay coverage! We think that’s a steal considering the high cost of buying the Costa Rican insurance upon arrival. If you’re looking for higher Rental Car Collision coverage, there are even policies that bump it up to $50,000 of coverage for a minimal increase in policy premium.

green button that reads quote and compare travel insurance

So what does a travel insurance policy with this rental car damage upgrade cover?

We’re glad you asked! Most policies with this additional insurance would cover the costs to repair the damage to the vehicle if you were to get in an accident,  theft, vandalism, a windstorm, fire, hail, flood, or any cause not in your control. The upgrade won’t, however, provide coverage for damage to any other vehicles. The Yonder team always recommend you read the full policy description so you understand what coverage is available to you. Here’s another article we wrote if you’re still not sure if you should buy a policy with this upgraded coverage.

Tips: Make note that you must be a licensed driver and listed on the rental agreement for benefits to apply. If you do get into an accident, you’ll want to report the loss to the rental car company and the authorities, otherwise coverage may not apply.

Costa Rica Health Insurance Options

If you’re considering becoming a resident of Costa Rica, you’ll want to pay attention to the details of their health insurance options. Without insurance here, you could see a large bill at the end of your medical treatment or care. The only event that would be covered at no charge would be emergency medical treatment if you don’t have health insurance.

If you are just traveling to Costa Rica for a trip or family vacation, you won’t necessarily need to buy into a health insurance plan there. Instead, you can purchase a travel insurance policy and even find one that includes a Pre-Existing Condition Waiver

Most travel insurance policies include Emergency Medical Expense coverage, which would provide coverage for the following:

  • Medical Services
  • Prescriptions
  • Therapeutic Services
  • Supplies
  • Hospital Expenses
  • Ambulatory Costs
  • Transportation by Ambulance

Most comprehensive travel insurance policies will also include Emergency Medical Evacuation Expense coverage. This means the provider will cover expenses in the event you have to be transported to a medical facility or hospital where you can get the treatment you need. Note that you’ll need to call the provider’s emergency assistance team to make arrangements –otherwise you run the risk of the expenses not being covered.

Costa Rica Health Insurance for Expats

If you are instead seeking coverage for a longer period of time, intent to become a resident, preventative care or treatment for a pre-existing condition, then you could consider paying into the public or private health system. There are two options when it comes to choosing health insurance in Costa Rica as a resident:

  • Public Health Insurance
  • Private Health Insurance

Public Health Insurance

This universal, government-run health care option is much more affordable compared the United States. If you aren’t a citizen, but living in Costa Rica, you can pay low monthly fees to receive free health care if you live in specific residence programs. In fact, if you are applying for residency, it is required you apply for the public health care system. 

On the down side, sometimes the health care system may be overworked, causing you to be put on a waiting list. The savings might be worth it though –most expatriates save 60-90% on treatments in Costa Rica. The average cost to enroll in this option of insurance is around 7%-11% of a person’s monthly income.

Private Health Insurance

This second option is available at a higher rate, but still quite affordable compared to private health insurance in the United States. You’ll be glad to know there are three private hospitals you can receive care at when paying for private health insurance. This option could cut wait times significantly, especially if you are needing any testing. 

The other perk is that many doctors work in the public and private sector, so you can get a prescription written by a doctor at a private medical facility, but have them write it for a public health care pharmacy so there’s no cost to you.

Costa Rica Insurance for COVID-19

If you’re looking for coverage specifically if you were to contract the coronavirus while on your trip, you’ll be happy to know your travel insurance will likely cover it. As COVID-19 case numbers increase, more and more countries are requiring insurance purchased to cover the hospital expenses if you were to contract the virus. Most travel insurance providers are treating COVID-19 as any other illness, meaning hospital and treatment expenses are likely to be covered. Also, if you were to fall ill before your trip, the Trip Cancellation benefit could apply and reimburse you of your non-refundable trip expenses. 

Tips: Always double-check with your provider to verify your coverage –you can find out by going to their website or reading their coronavirus coverage statements. It is also wise to double-check with the Costa Rica entry requirements before your departure. 

Adventure Sports Insurance Coverage

Costa Rica is full of adventure and you might find yourself doing activities you can’t find in the United States. For instance, your family might sign-up to go spelunking or you and your travel buddies plan on doing some mountain climbing or cliff jumping. 

man on a zipline in Costa Rica

In case something goes awry, it’s best to manage the risk by purchasing a travel insurance policy that includes what’s called a “Hazadous Sports Rider“. Usually, adventurous activities are excluded from insurance coverage, but by buying this add-on coverage, you’ll still be covered for any urgent medical care you need if you were to get hurt. Make sure you purchase this sooner, rather than later –this type of upgrade must be purchased soon after your first deposit or payment towards your trip.

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