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The last thing anyone wants to do is get sick on vacation. Travelers to Costa Rica are at extremely low risk of catching tropical maladies. The country's excellent medical system keeps diseases in check, through public education programs and preventive medicine. Free, universal health care means that people do not hesitate to visit the doctor when needed. The system covers everything from dentistry, to maternity care, to open-head surgery. As a result, Costa Rica's population is very healthy and enjoys a life expectancy comparable to that of North Americans.

Such health consciousness is one of the many reasons that visitors feel so comfortable in Costa Rica. Yet, wherever you go in the world, common sense about what you eat is the best companion. Costa Rica is no different. Just as you would at home, feel free to enjoy the wonderful salads, tropical fruits and "refrescos naturales". Avoid the adventure of street vendor foods and, in rural or remote as inquire about the water and ice source before quenching your thirst. But do quench it, because you should always drink plenty of fluids in the tropics to avoid dehydration.

If you do happen to need medical attention, first rate care is available at any one of Costa Rica's public hospitals or private clinics, throughout the country. In San JosÚ you can even pay with your credit card at the private hospitals. Except in the case of remote lodges, you are never far from medical care.

Visitors should inform their tour guide if they have specific medical conditions, such as allergies or diabetes, and what to do in case of an incident.

Costa Rica's doctors receive excellent training, either at the University of Costa Rica medical school or one of the private universities. These schools also attract students from throughout Latin America.

A large percentage of the doctors have taken additional training at major schools in North America and Europe and many of them speak English.

There are many pharmacies carrying a full range of modern medicines and all but narcotic and addictive drugs are available over the counter. Costa Rica is, in fact, the headquarters for more than one international pharmaceutical company.

Another advantage of Costa Rica's health care system is its relatively low cost. The combination of excellent attention and price has spurred a minor but rapidly growing trend of medical tourism_ to Costa Rica. People combine their vacation with inexpensive, high quality dental work, operations to correct vision problems or cosmetic surgery. There are tour packages available that include a retreat at a fancy hotel and private nursing care while you recuperate from your treatment. Sometimes it's not just the rejuvenating force of Costa Rica's nature that sends people back from their vacation looking relaxed and ten years younger!

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