Dental patients seeking excellent quality dental treatment in a beautiful location need look no further than Costa Rica. I recently visited Costa Rica to see for myself what options for dental treatment I could find. Since most of the best dental clinics are located in the capitol of San Jose, I decided to begin my dental search there.
I met with many Costa Rican dentists and staffs of numerous clinics to explore my options and tour each facility. As a first time visitor, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was surprised at how clean and modern the clinics were. The Costa Rican dentists I met spoke excellent English and many of them belong to the American Dental Association and have received their education or specialty training in the United States. The dental equipment and facilities are top notch; they use the same dental materials, brand names, and technology as my dentist back home, so I felt confident in my care. Also, the Costa Rican dentists were professional and really seemed to care about explaining my treatment options to me and working with my travel schedule.
Going to a dentist in Costa Rica is much different than visiting one back in the United States. The dentists and staffs are very friendly and treated me like family; they were quick to give me travel advice, offer rides to and from my hotel, and even extended dinner invitations! Since the total cost of dental treatment is typically 70% less than in the United States or Canada and I was so well taken care of, I would highly recommend receiving treatment in Costa Rica.
In a country with an abundance of natural beauty, there are many resorts, spas, and activities to enjoy during any downtime between treatments. The people of Costa Rica are notoriously friendly and open; inquire with the staff at the clinic what they can recommend for you to experience. Volcanoes, mountain jungles, rain forests and beaches are all within several hours of the capitol city of San Jose and there are plenty of activities for every preference.
Transportation in Costa Rica
You have several options for arranging transportation to your hotel from the airport. Many clinics in Costa Rica will pick you up directly from the airport and bring you to your hotel; check with the clinic first to see if they offer this option. Most will do so for free. Alternately, a licensed taxi stand is directly outside the arrivals gate, and a ride into San Jose will cost around $25 USD.
I do not recommend renting a car for travel around San Jose. Traffic in San Jose is notoriously heavy amidst many narrow one-way streets. Also, there are no street addresses in Costa Rica. At typical ‘address’ in San Jose is: 100m west of the Land Rover dealership on Avenue 38, Moravia , San Jose.
Without intimate knowledge of the local landmarks, navigating San Jose by car is very challenging. Consider the fact that you may be coming out of surgery, and may be uncomfortable or on medication. If the dental clinic offers transportation to and from the clinic and your hotel, that is your best option. Alternately, the taxis are a good, inexpensive option. The drivers are very knowledgeable, competent, and friendly.
When you leave Costa Rica; arrive at least 2 hours before your flight leaves. There is a mandatory departures tax of $25 USD that every departing foreigner must pay, and morning departures flights are all scheduled at the same time. Lines can be very long.
Where to stay
In San Jose, accommodations abound for every budget; ask the clinic if they have any hotel partners they work with. Generally, the clinics can arrange for a discounted rate at a quality hotel or recommend good options. Consider where the clinic is located, and try to find something in the neighborhood; it can take an hour or more to travel from one neighborhood in San Jose to another in heavy traffic. I enjoyed staying in the neighborhood of Escazu, as it is a quieter area of the city where most of the embassies, upscale residences, hotels and parks are located. I found quite a few excellent clinics in this area as well.
Weather & when to go
Costa Rica has two seasons. The dry season runs from January to May, and the wet season runs from June to December. Daily downpours are typical in the wet season, so if you are planning many outdoor activities during your stay, consider visiting during the dry season. Of course, this is also a busier season for tourism, so the best deals on hotels are found during the wet season.
Health & Safety
As in any major city in a developing nation, crime can be an issue. Exercise caution; watch your belongings in crowded markets, lock up valuables in the hotel safe, and don’t walk around alone at night. Taxi scams are rare, but do occur. Make sure the meter is running or agree on a fare before beginning your trip. Take these precautions and you will enjoy a safe trip.
Banks & Money
Costa Rica uses the colon for currency, although many places will accept US dollars. It is best to exchange your money is at a local bank to receive the best rate. You will need a passport at the bank to exchange your currency.
Credit cards are widely accepted. Before you leave, call your credit card company to inform them of your travel plans and the dates of your travel. Also, if you are having significant work done and expect to make a large purchase on your credit card, inform them of this as well. If you do not do so, your credit card company’s fraud department may freeze your account.
If you are going to spend a good deal of money with your credit card, consider obtaining a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction (FX) fees. Most credit card companies charge FX fees up to 4% on all purchases, so if you spend $5000, you will be charged $200. In North America, Capitol One is the only credit card that does not charge FX fees.
Crossing the border
You don’t need a visa to visit Costa Rica. Americans and Canadians with a valid passport can stay for up to 90 days without any visa.
Helpful travel links
Find excellent hand-selected dentists in Costa Rica that specialize in working with dental travelers and offer a high level of service and dental standards. View clinic photos and information, prices, maps, patient reviews, get a quote, speak to the dentist and book an appointment.
Private shuttle bus companies are the best way to get around outside of San Jose if you are not renting a car or on a tour. They are clean, safe, convenient and fast, offering door-to-door service from your hotel. You can take the larger public buses around Costa Rica for very cheap, but in general they are crowded, hot, and uncomfortable. Also, the bus stations in San Jose are some of the most dangerous places in the city.