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Need fast answers? You can get most medications OTC in Colombia and can visit any urgent care even if you don’t have local insurance.
If you’re unlucky enough to get hurt while in Medellin, it can leave you in a panic. But don’t worry. Going to the doctor in Medellin is actually pretty easy!
In fact, the Colombian healthcare system, though not without its flaws, is much more affordable than the US system. That makes it far easier for you to snag an appointment if things do go awry on your vacation.
Whether you think you need to visit the doctor or you’re just wanting to be prepared, we’ve got your back. Here’s what to know about going to the doctor in Colombia.
The first time I had to go to the doctor in Colombia was long before I’d decided to call the country home. And, as you might imagine, I was a bit concerned.
The good news is that I had nothing to worry about.
Unless you’re in a true emergency, chances are you don’t actually need to go to a doctor. All you need to do is go to the pharmacy.
Now wait just a minute, you’re thinking. How can I get help if I don’t have a prescription and if I don’t know what’s wrong?
You’d be surprised.
In Colombia, most medications are over the counter. You can get everything from cold medicine to antibiotics over the counter!
And, most pharmacists are pretty knowledgeable. If you let them know what symptoms you have, they’ll usually be able to give you a pretty good recommendation.
I’ve already mentioned that you can get most prescription medicines without having to have a doctor’s note in Colombia.
But, if you do somehow have a doctor’s note, that’s pretty easy to take care of too. All you have to do is take your prescription to a pharmacy and ask for the right medicine.
If you’re unsure of what your medicine is called in Spanish, simply Google the name of it. Most of them are pretty similar and with brand-name products, they’re exactly the same.
The good news is that medicine is pretty affordable, too. You can purchase as few as one pill to as many as a 90-day supply if you like.
The costs vary depending on what medicine you’re getting, but the most expensive pills I’ve come across tend to be about $30-40. And, those are for pretty niche conditions such as a bacterial infection.
If you just need, say, an allergy pill, you most likely won’t have to pay more than a dollar or two per pill.
Although simple issues like colds and allergies just require some medication, there are other things that require more involved care.
If you wind up in a true medical emergency and need to see a doctor, don’t worry! The Colombian EPS (public healthcare system) is required to attend to anyone who comes to urgent care, regardless of whether they’re a resident or not.
Of course, if you are not a resident of Colombia you’ll have to pay a bit more since you don’t pay into the healthcare system. But, it’s still unlikely to break an arm and a leg.
For example, most one-night hospital stays in Colombia cost a few hundred US dollars. On the other hand, an overnight stay in the hospital in the US can set you back thousands of dollars!
That makes staying safe in Medellin pretty affordable, even if you don’t have health insurance.
Even with this overview of healthcare in Medellin, there are a couple of things that you might find are different from what you’re used to back home. Here are a couple of other important things to know about the healthcare system.
Most of the time, you won’t be given an appointment. You’ll just show up at the pharmacy or urgent care to get what you need!
However, if you do call ahead and make an appointment at a laboratory (for instance, if you need to get a covid test), then know that doctors don’t necessarily respect the appointment time.
That could mean they attend to you earlier than your appointment or later!
A good rule of thumb is to arrive about 15 minutes early. That way, you’ll be able to see the doctor without worrying about the appointment being moved up to earlier.
Although getting healthcare in Colombia is pretty affordable, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t take out travel insurance.
Most travel insurance policies offer you care at specific doctors while traveling in Medellin. If you go to those doctors, you can simply submit your receipt and be reimbursed for the expenses.
For those who are just spending a short time in Colombia, that type of insurance might not be necessary. However, if you plan to extend your visa and stay a while, I’d definitely recommend it just in case. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
If you go to the doctor and are told you need to get lab work done, you won’t just be able to do so right there in the hospital.
Most times, you’ll have to go off-site and find a laboratory to get your lab work done.
The great news is these laboratories are easy to find and offer a ton of services. Most laboratories offer x-rays, ultrasounds, urine tests, covid-19 tests, and bloodwork. Some of them offer additional services, too!
You’ll have to pay individually for your labs, but this is pretty affordable as well. It’s usually about the same amount as you’d pay for a prescription.
Okay, so this one might not be surprising for everyone. But, for an American like me, getting a shot in the behind was, well, a shock.
Where I’m from, I’m used to getting my shots in my arm (which is scary enough, thank you).
In Colombia, however, most shots are given in the glutes. If you find you need to get a shot, just make sure that you’re prepared.
Also, you can get most shots at the pharmacy. They’ll typically take you to a back room where they can deliver the shot and get you on your way.
Probably one of the best things about healthcare in Medellin is that most pharmacies deliver. If you’re really feeling sick, you can simply place an order on food delivery apps such as Rappi to get your pills delivered to your door!
You can also typically place orders via WhatsApp or just by calling the pharmacy.
You can pay either using cash or a credit card. The pharmacy will usually bring the POS system with them to your front door so that you can make your payment once they arrive.
So there you have it! That’s a quick rundown of what you need to know about going to the doctor in Medellin.
Even though it might seem scary, it’s actually far easier to get the help you need in Colombia. That’s true even if you’re traveling from far away.
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