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Living in San José?

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Emanuele Casabona

Living in Costa Rica, from Italy

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San José at a Glance

Living in San José

Welcome to the Central Valley! San José and its metro area are the best choices for expats going to Costa Rica: You’ll enjoy a high quality of life and affordable prices. San José has different faces in different neighborhoods, though! Our guide has details.


After you’ve chosen the neighborhood or suburb you want to call home from now on, you can finally start the adventure of living in San José. We have given an overview of the city and its metro area in our guide to moving to San José, in case you need some additional info on the topic. San José comes in different flavors; pick yours!

Quality of Life in San José

Central America in general has a reputation of offering a high quality of life at moderate cost, and Costa Rica is definitely the cream of the crop here. On your expat salary, you will most probably be able to live in modest to full-blown luxury, even if you decide to settle in the upscale neighborhoods of the metro area. That is — and we do not get tired of stressing this — if you are able to land a job in the area. Read our info on working in San José to find out what it takes.

There are many upsides to living in San José: as the undisputed center of life in Costa Rica, you will find the nation’s finest healthcare institutions in the city. Such is the quality of Costa Rican medical institutions and professionals that every year, a considerable number of people engage in medical tourism to the country. Needless to say, you will be in more than adequate hands here.

Allaying Your Worries: From Health Insurances to Pharmacies

As an expat in San José, you are covered by Costa Rica’s national healthcare and social security system Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS). The Caja gives you access to treatment in all the major public hospitals in your area, some of which are among the finest in all of Latin America. The best public hospital available in San José’s metro area is San Rafael in Alajuela. If you are an expat living in San José proper, your first choices should include Hospital México or Hospital San Juan de Dios.

For smaller ailments or accidents that won’t require full-on emergency services, you can always head to one of the many little “neighborhood clinics” called EBAIS. One of the first errands after your relocation should definitely involve stopping by at the EBAIS closest to your new home for registration. Registering with the EBIAS is required prior to your first actual visit.

You’ll get to enjoy access to most pharmaceuticals and drugs without prescription. Just go to your neighborhood pharmacist and tell them what you need. Oftentimes, your pharmacist can also help you with diagnoses for less serious ailments. In San José, a common cold is no reason to go and see the nearest doctor.

In some areas of the city, pharmacies have bilingual staff; others are open 24 hours a day. Again, all we can say is, there is no need to be concerned about your health in San José.

Private Health Insurance

As comprehensive as the services of the Caja may be, and despite it being the first choice for many expats living in San José, there is a downside to the system: waiting times can get quite excessive for less urgent treatments which are not a matter of life and death. Your other options are unfortunately somewhat limited.

The only private health insurance plan available in Costa Rica is offered by the INS, a government-affiliated organization. Alternatively, you might want to discuss company healthcare plans with your future employer prior to starting your new life in San José.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

InterNations Expat Magazine