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The summer season has come to a close in the U.S. so you may be ready to venture a bit south for some warmer weather, adventure activities and sandy beaches for your next vacation. Costa Rica will fit the bill for all this and much, much more.
Since the start of the pandemic, travel to Costa Rica has gained in popularity, reports Megan Moncrief, spokesperson with Squaremouth, a travel insurance comparison site. She says that currently Costa Rica ranks within the top five of the most popular destinations for American travel insurance buyers.
To visit Costa Rica, certain travelers are required to have travel medical insurance in order to gain entry. Here’s how to be properly prepared with the best insurance for your trip.
Costa Rica Has Travel Insurance Requirements
Costa Rica mandates that certain tourists buy travel medical insurance in order to visit:
All tourists must fill out a Health Pass. This must be filled out within 72 hours of arriving in Costa Rica.
- As of Aug.1, 2021, fully vaccinated visitors and all tourists under age 18 can enter the country without a travel insurance policy. The last dose of the vaccine must have been applied at least 14 days before arrival in Costa Rica. Vaccinated tourists must attach a vaccination record to the Health Pass.
- If you are not vaccinated—or have an incomplete vaccination—you must buy mandatory travel insurance that covers self-isolation lodging in case of quarantine and medical expenses due to Covid.
Here are the insurance details:
- Policy must be valid during the entire stay in Costa Rica.
- Policy must have at least $50,000 for medical expenses, including Covid.
- Policy must provide at least $2,000 for lodging expenses in case of Covid quarantine.
Tourists under age 18 and fully vaccinated travelers are not required to carry this insurance for a Costa Rica vacation.
Even if you are fully vaccinated, purchasing travel insurance for a Costa Rica vacation is a smart move. If you’re required to buy insurance, consider buying more than the minimum required. A good comprehensive travel insurance policy can provide you with increased levels of medical coverage and other valuable benefits.
Getting Better Travel Medical Insurance for Costa Rica
In addition to the natural splendor of Costa Rica, many tourists flock there for outdoor thrill-seeking.
“Costa Rica is famous for offering a variety of adventure sports, from surfing and scuba diving to zip-lining and trekking,” says Lisa Cheng, a spokesperson with World Nomads, a travel insurance company. “But accidents can occur even among the most skilled adventurers.”
Because your U.S. health insurance plan is likely not accepted in foreign countries (but you should contact your health insurance company to double check), a robust travel insurance policy provides a safety net if you need medical attention while traveling internationally. Senior travelers should note that Medicare does not work outside the U.S in almost all cases.
For example, a travel insurance policy can protect you if you’re hiking and twist an ankle. This coverage may reimburse you for care from a local medical clinic and prescription medication. If you have a more serious injury—like a zip-lining fall—you may need to be taken by air ambulance if you are in a remote location. This can be covered by the emergency medical evacuation portion of your policy.
Travel insurance plans with $500,000 for medical expenses and $1 million for medical evacuation are available.
“Emergency medical coverage can be a real lifesaver, especially if it includes evacuation coverage,’ Cheng says. “Transportation to a hospital from remote areas can be tricky and expensive, and you’ll be glad for the support that travel insurance can provide.”
She advises reading the fine print of the policy or calling your travel insurance company to verify that your policy covers the adventure sports you’re planning. Many policies have specific exclusions for adventure and extreme sports such as zip-lining, caving, scuba diving and many other activities.
Cheng notes that World Nomads includes coverage for more than 200 adventure sports and activities in its Standard and Explorer plans.
Trip Cancellation Insurance
Standard travel insurance plans generally include trip cancellation coverage. You can be reimbursed 100% for the money you lose in pre-paid and non-refundable deposits if you can’t go on your trip due to a reason covered by the policy.
Covered reasons often include:
- Injury, illness or death of you or a traveling companion
- A death or serious injury or illness in your immediate family
- Severe weather
- National disasters
- A national emergency in your destination or at home
- Jury duty
Not all reasons are covered by standard trip cancellation insurance. For example, if your husband is fearful about leaving your toddlers with your parents while you travel, this is not a reason covered by a standard cancellation policy.
If you want more flexibility for cancellation coverage, consider upgrading to a “cancel for any reason” plan. This will tack on about 40% to your travel insurance cost. You will be able to cancel your trip up to two days before your departure for any reason. This can include fear about proper babysitting arrangements, a blow-out argument with your traveling companions or any other reason.
You will generally receive 75% reimbursement of the trip cost under a “cancel for any reason” claim.
What About Your Baggage?
Your resort in Costa Rica is likely very safe, but there is a chance you may encounter petty crime if you leave belongings on the beach, or if you take part in an excursion.
“Don’t forget coverage for baggage and personal belongings for a trip to Costa Rica,” advises Cheng. “Be sure to safeguard your things at the beach and avoid wandering out late at night in certain areas.”
If an incident happens, like your cell phone is stolen or your backpack is swiped, travel insurance can reimburse you for your belongings up to the maximum amount specified in your policy. It’s important to understand that you will receive the depreciated value for your belongings and exclusions may apply, such as exclusions for expensive jewelry.
Some plans will provide up to $500 per person for baggage and personal effects loss. This may be perfectly adequate for you if your belongings are primarily shoes and T-shirts. The most robust policies, such as the Platinum plan from AXA Assistance USA, provide up to $3,000 per person.
Preparing for Trip Delays and Interruptions
You may be able to snag a cheaper airfare for Costa Rica if you have a connection in Miami. If your flight is delayed due to severe thunderstorms, and you miss your connecting flight to San José in Costa Rica, your trip delay benefits could reimburse associated expenses like taxi fare, meals and an airport hotel stay.
Some policies have a waiting period of 12 hours before travel delay benefits kick in, so check your policy for those rules. When shopping for a travel insurance plan, it can be worthwhile to pick a plan with a time delay requirement of six hours or less.
For example, the Gold plan from John Hancock Travel Insurance Agency provides up to $1,000 per person (with a $200 daily limit) after only a three-hour delay.
Trip interruption benefits can cover pre-paid and non-refundable deposits you lose if you need to cut your trip short and return home. For example, if your 13-year-old son needs emergency surgery and he’s staying with your sister while you are traveling, this may be a covered reason. Your trip interruption benefits will also cover the cost of a last-minute flight home.
Preparing for Bad Weather
No trip preparation for Costa Rica is complete without considering weather. In addition to the right shoes and raincoats, you can prepare with good travel insurance. The best travel insurance plans cover hurricane and weather issues under these circumstances:
- There’s a common carrier delay for a certain number of hours. Look for plans with a low required delay. For example, the Classic plan from TravelSafe requires only a 12-hour common carrier delay.
- There’s a mandatory evacuation at your destination.
- Your accommodation (such as hotel or resort) was made uninhabitable.
Note that you must have your travel insurance before a storm is named, like a tropical storm or hurricane. So it’s best to lock in coverage shortly after you book your trip.