What Is Medical Tourism?

Medical Tourism (also known as Medical Travel, Health Tourism and sometimes Global Healthcare) is broadly defined as traveling away from your home town (to another state or country) to receive medical attention. Historically, the case has been that patients from less-developed countries have traveled to more developed countries (e.g. United States, Europe) for medical procedures that were unavailable in their own country.

Nowadays, the roles have reversed somewhat and this trend is growing every year. Patients from the U.S., Canada  and Western Europe (developed countries) are increasingly traveling away from home and to less developed countries for high-quality medical care. Why are they doing this? Because they can get the care that they want and need, such as dental work, specialty surgeries and medical checkups, all at affordable prices and with short wait times. The numerous convenient travel options have made this more possible than ever before.  Additionally, the facilities are world-class and the doctors and dentists are excellent with many having received training in the US and Europe.

As the world becomes smaller because travel is now easier and more affordable, the option of quickly traveling to Costa Rica to save thousands of dollars is now very real.  In fact for many, medical tourism it is not just an option but instead it is their only choice given the skyrocketing costs of medical and dental care in the U.S.

Myths About Medical Tourism

The biggest myths that people, especially those from developed countries, have about doctors and hospitals in other countries is that they are not that good. They assume that just because the country is less developed that the doctors there must be less-educated and that the hospitals are substandard and filled with old equipment. While that may be the case in some parts of the world, it is not necessarily the case in Central America, especially in Costa Rica.


The first most common myth is that doctors in Costa Rica are less qualified than their counterparts in the U.S. or Canada. This is simply not the case. Many of the physicians, dentists and surgeons in Costa Rica were educated or have received training in American or western European medical institutions. They endured the same rigorous training as the other medical students and when they complete their medical training abroad, they had to be accepted by the appropriate Costa Rican medical governing body (Colegio de Medicos or Colegio de Dentistas Cirujanos) and licensed by the Ministry of Health.


Many people believe that Costa Rican hospitals and clinics are sub-standard and are not properly equipped. This too, is completely false. In fact, the principal private hospitals, surgical facilities and medical and dental clinics in Costa Rica that cater to international patients are accredited by American-based accreditation organizations such as the Joint Commission International (JCI), the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care International (AAAHCI) or the American Association for Accreditation for Ambulatory Surgery Facilities International (AAAASFI). While these facilities do not need any of these accreditations to operate in Costa Rica, many have decided to become accredited to demonstrate their excellence and to gain the confidence of foreign patients.

Additionally, many of these hospitals/clinics have the latest state-of-the-art equipment (imported from the U.S., Europe and Japan) and offer the most up-to-date procedures. For example, many dentists in Costa Rica import their equipment and use the same materials for crowns, implants and veneers that their colleagues in the U.S. would use.

In fact, it may come as a surprise to some that there is a possibility that if you currently have a crown in your mouth, it may have been fabricated in Costa Rica. We bet you didn’t know that!


Many also think that Costa Rican doctors and dentists do not speak English. While that is the case with some, those that attend to medical tourists do speak English. As discussed above, many Costa Rican doctors and dentists received training at medical and dental institutions in the U.S. or Europe where English is required. Moreover, English is taught in most primary and secondary schools in Costa Rica and therefore is a second language to many.

As a result, many doctors, dentists and their staffs speak excellent English, communicating confidently, clearly and precisely.

In case someone is still concerned with any of the myths above (or others not mentioned here), PROMED has created a ‘Seal of Quality’ to help prospective medical travelers. Those medical and dental facilities that have the PROMED ‘Seal of Quality’ have satisfied numerous requirements that are above and beyond what is required to operate in Costa Rica and geared to the needs of international patients . Learn more about the PROMED ‘Seal of Quality‘ and feel more comfortable when working with providers who have it.