Thanks to uncertainties about healthcare reform, rising healthcare costs, and an increase in the number of the uninsured, many Americans have begun looking outside their borders for high quality and affordable medical care. Medical tourism is a booming industry – expected to generate $100 billion globally in 2012 – and some sub-categories are leading the pack.
In fact, thousands of patients needing dental work have been spilling over the border in search of care, mostly driven by a desire to save money. Dental Tourism in Costa Rica may be a good option for patients in the United States, thanks to its close proximity, remarkable doctors and facilities, and low-cost, high-quality services, which is making the Central American country a favored destination for thousands seeking treatment abroad.
In 2010, for instance, PROMED — the Council for International Promotion of Costa Rican Medicine – estimated that 36,000 medical tourists visited the country, pumping nearly $300 million into the economy. But it is not only Americans and Canadians who have discovered Costa Rica as a dental tourism destination, but patients from as far away as Europe and Australia, too.
What You Can Expect to Pay
According to International Magazine, Costa Rica offers the highest quality medical and dental care in Latin America, often at prices 50 to 70 percent less than elsewhere. And these savings are all inclusive, meaning they factor in x-rays, prosthetics, lab work, and other related expenses. So what kind of dental procedures can you get in Costa Rica, and at what cost?
If you have a cracked or otherwise damaged tooth that you would like to save, a dentist may recommend a crown, which is a tooth-shaped cap placed over the existing one to prevent more damage. In America, a trip the local dentist for this kind of work could set you back as much as $1,000 per tooth in some cases, but in Costa Rica the cost is between $250 and $400 per tooth – a potential saving of 60 to 70 percent.
Root canals are another complicated and expensive procedure. In America, you could expect to pay $800 or more to have a dentist drill out the pulp and nerve inside a bad tooth and seal it with protective filler. But in Costa Rica? Not so much, only about $350. And the saving is about 55 to 60 percent.
For patients without insurance or the financial means, dental implants can be prohibitively expensive – somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,500 per tooth. In some cases, that is comparable to the price of a car. But thanks to lower cost of living, more reasonable salaries and other factors, the price for a dental implant in Costa Rica may only be about $700 to $900 for the same tooth.
Destinations of Choice
Patients seeking the highest quality dental care can find what they are looking for in the capital city of San Jose, which not only features amazing tourist destinations, but three Joint Commission International accredited hospitals – the only three on the country – plus a facility with a dentist on staff who is the only Accreditation Candidate for the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) through Latin America.
But what makes San Jose such a draw? The city is the heart and soul of the country, its political and economic center and, as a result, the main hub of cultural activities within Costa Rica. Founded by the Spanish in 1738, it sits with the Central Valley, providing easy access to transportation, accommodations, food, shopping – everything to make a dental tourist’s time in the country well spent.
San Jose is home to several well known museums — the Gold, Jade, National, Costa Rican Art, La Salle Natural Science, University of Costa Rica Insect and Children’s Contemporary Art and Design Museums – plus five national parks within the region. Buffeted by mountains and volcanoes, San Jose features two areas regarded for their extraordinary beauty, Turrialba and Valle de los Santos. Dental tourists also can experience a touch of history, as some of the neighborhoods and buildings date back to the city’s founding. Activities abound, such as tours of coffee plantations, sugar mills and dairies, horseback riding, hiking to the mountains and through pristine forests, as well as cave exploration, or spelunking.
Must See Locations
But there is more to see in Costa Rica outside of the capital city of San Jose. While thousands of people have chosen the country as their dental tourism destination, they also visit it for its world-renowned tourist attractions in a safe environment, from breathtaking beaches to pristine forests and stunning mountains. The country offers something for everyone – from boating and fishing to hiking and historical tours to exquisite dinning and shopping experiences. The country’s exchange rate also is favorable with one U.S. Dollar worth about 500 Costa Rica Clones (CRCs) and one British Pound worth a little more than 1,000 CRCs, offering more buying power for the same goods and services that you would get elsewhere. Here are few of the top sites to consider during your stay:
- The Poas National Park, about an hour’s drive from San Jose, offers adventurous but easy hikes through the cloud forest. It is about 15 minutes walking distance from the Poas volcano.
- The central market in San Jose, known as Mercado Central. It sells everything a “foodie” loves — from fresh fruits, vegetables, and souvenirs to native herbs, Costa Rican coffee, and inexpensive meals at its roadside restaurants.
- Manuel Antonio National Park offers miles of white sand beaches bordering pristine evergreen forests. Land and sea lovers can enjoy canopy tours, sport fishing, bird watching, golfing, and beach activities.
- Drake Bay & Corcovado National Park is located on the stunning Osa Peninsula and has been referred to as one of the most “biodiverse places” on earth. Together with Drake Bay, this region has become an ecotourism hot spot for those who want to enjoy the best nature has to offer.
- Grecia and Sarchi – Located in the highlands of San Jose, both picturesque towns of provide tourists with a welcomed escape from city life. Here, you can get a close view of Tico culture.
Travel Information and Other Money Saving Tips
As a tourist coming in from the United States, Canada, or another country, your primary model of travel to Costa Rica will be by plane. There are many airports in the country, including two in San Jose — Juan Santamaría International Airport and Tobías Bolaños International Airport. If you want to save more money, travel off season between June and August, which is the rainy season and may cut down on outdoor activities.
- Eat at “sodas.” These are small, family run restaurants featuring inexpensive meals for $2, which also includes a drink.
- Use public transportation to get around, unless you are on a vacation arranged by a travel agency.
- Do not wear or display expensive jewelry, and keep your wallets, purses, and other valuables on your person at all times.
- You do not have to tip, as a 10 percent service charge is included at most restaurants and other establishments.
- Get a map through the Costa Rican Tourist Board.
- Citizens of the United States, Canada, Great Britain, and most European nations may visit Costa Rica for a maximum of 90 days without a visa but must have a valid passport.
- No shots or inoculations are required to enter the country, unless you have recently travelled to a location where yellow fever is present, in which case you will need proof of a yellow fever vaccination.
Many patients who go to Costa Rica for dental work invariably get more for their money, but also take advantage of shorter travel time, faster treatment and follow-up care, English speaking staff, and a country with more than a 90 percent literacy rate among adults. Beyond amazing dental and medical care, this history rich country is an amazing tourist destination well worth a visit.
Author Bio – Dr. Deepika Garg – Dentist, Internet Enthusiast – Chief Editor Dental Implants Costa Rica.