Do You Need Vaccinations for Travel to Costa Rica?

vaccinations for travel to Costa RicaEco-tourism, beautiful beaches, delightful weather. Costa Rica is an ideal vacation spot. Who wouldn’t want to go to a place that is a cross between the Caribbean and Hawaii? Do you need vaccinations for travel travel to Costa Rica? Do you need to worry about Dengue or Malaria?


Fourth in a series about specific destinations.

In general your planned itinerary will determine which vaccines and other protective measures are recommended for Costa Rica.

Note: The recommendations provided here are informational in nature. Visit your doctor for recommendations specific to you.

All travelers are advised to get their routine immunizations updated.

Get protected against common illnesses. The vaccine recommendations in the USA have changed in the last decade. In fact, most children in the USA are better immunized than their adult counterparts.

Routine Immunizations include:

Tetanus: (Tdap or Td)- Protects in the event you get a cut. Get updated every 10 years.

Measles: (MMR) We are currently experiencing a worldwide outbreak- 2 doses are needed a month apart. Even babies 6 months and older can get protected with an alternative immunization schedule.

Chickenpox: (Varicella) If born after 1979 you will need 2 doses at least a month apart or prior chickenpox infection.

Flu: (Influenza) This is the infection you are most likely to contract when traveling. Get your flu shot- do you really have time for a miserable 14-day illness while you are traveling?

Pneumonia: (P23) The pneumococcal is vaccine recommended for adults who have asthma, smoke or anyone over age 65.


Travel Vaccines are Recommended Too.

Hepatitis A: Recommended for all travelers to Costa Rica. This viral infection of the liver is easily transmitted and makes adults very sick.

Typhoid: Recommended for adventurous eaters (will you eat at small local eateries? Are you participating in a home stay? Are you working in health care?)

Hepatitis B: Recommended for frequent travelers and those in health care.

Rabies: Recommend for people who will be handling animals (veterinarians, agriculture, wildlife biologists etc)

Yellow Fever infection is not transmitted in Costa Rica. You may need this if you are coming from certain countries which do have yellow fever.


More than Vaccines:

Common health risks are

  • transportation
  • diarrhea
  • insects
  • personal safety

Costa Rica has an emerging economy. The hair-raising unpaved mountain roads remind you that transportation is your biggest health risk.

If you can, use a professional driver. There is an extensive system of buses and jitneys to take you around the country. Nothing causes palpitations faster than meeting an 18-wheeler on a blind curve with no guardrail on a road which is too narrow to pass safely- don’t ask me how I know this!

Look both ways before stepping off a curb, motorbikes, fast cars, and the distractions of being a tourist can make for a nasty accident.

Traveler’s diarrhea is present; your greatest risk occurs away from the usual tourist destinations.

When eating at the local ‘Sodas’ or ‘Tico’ establishments minimize your risk of traveler’s diarrhea with food and water precautions.

Bring loperamide with you and ask your doctor if you should bring a small amount of antibiotic ‘just in case’ you need to treat yourself.

Mosquitoes spread dengue and malaria.

Dengue is ever-present in both cities and rural areas.  Currently there is an unprecedented increase in Dengue throughout Central and South America. These pesky mosquitoes bite during the day. Apply 30% DEET in ultra formulation or 20% Picardin to keep them at bay.

Malaria is a concern for travelers to the Eastern province of Limon.

Personal Safety.Be vigilant.

Tourists are vulnerable to pick pocketing and rarely robberies.  Keep your valuables tucked away from prying fingers in money belt. Be mindful when traveling about, solo travelers, especially women, can become targets of robbery or muggings.

Travel Health Insurance.

As with all travel abroad, check your domestic health insurance.  Travel health and evacuation insurance policies are strongly recommended for any international travel.

Travelers to remote locations, white water rafting, and areas of malaria transmission have other health risks are beyond the scope of this post and are best reviewed by your local travel specialist.

Costa Rica is a popular, delightful destination. With a little preparation you can enjoy a wonderful vacation in this paradise.

Schedule your visit with a travel medicine specialist 4-6 weeks prior to your travels.

Pura Vida!

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How did you prepare for travels to Costa Rica? Share your experiences.


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