San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

INS Plan Offers Free Roadside and Travel Assistance

NOT everyone who has auto insurance knows that with certain types of coverage, you get free roadside and travel assistance.


The National Insurance Institute (INS) has been offering the INS Asistencia (INS Assistance) plan since the end of 1998 – and it is a success.


The institute recently published a breakdown of the number of “rescues” it has performed, and the number was surprisingly small considering the state of the roads and the number of cars with insurance. Presumably, it is because not much ballyhoo has been made about the service.


INS Asistencia is for passenger vehicles and privately owned pickups under 15 years old that have insurance not only for liability but also for collision (look for coverage “D” on your policy). Assistance extends to the policyholder (or the designated driver, in the case of corporate-owned cars) and his or her spouse and children under 18 who are traveling with the insured person when an event occurs.


Service is provided within Costa Rica and abroad, outlined as follows:


Within Costa Rica

Call 800-800-8001 from anywhere in Costa Rica, 24 hours a day, up to three times a year, to request assistance for the following:


Towing, because of accident or breakdown, up to $150 per event.


Basic roadside assistance, such as for dead battery, flat tire, running out of gas or locksmith services, up to $150 per event.


If the car is immobilized because of accident or breakdown, you can opt for one of the following: hotel, up to $250 per event; transport – usually a taxi – to your home, up to $200 per event; or vehicle rental for a maximum of $250 per event.


This option is available if the event happens 25 kilometers or more from your home, and the assistance is for you to reach your trip destination.


I have heard plenty of favorable comments from my clients regarding the service within Costa Rica, and my own two experiences were good. The first time I used the service was because of a dead battery in central San José.


Ten minutes after I called the 800 number, a man arrived on a Vespa with a box strapped to the back, like a pizza delivery. In the box was a battery and jumper cables, and he started my car within two minutes.


The second time, I stupidly ran out of gas while traveling in the northwestern province of Guanacaste. I called from my cell phone – fortunately there was a signal – and in exactly one hour a fellow arrived with a gallon of diesel fuel, and he got my car started. The fuel was free, too.



Assistance is provided to the policyholder or designated driver, and his or her spouse and family, when traveling together.


The maximum duration of the trip is 60 days. You don’t necessarily have to be traveling in the insured car or, for that matter, in any car because, abroad, INS Asistencia is like travel insurance.


Call 257-5851, 257-6201, 256-5285 or 258-7253 (Costa Rican numbers) collect if you need assistance as described below.


The following information must be given to the operator: name of the insured; license plate number of the insured vehicle; passport or ID number; policy number; type of assistance required; and place where the assistance is required.


The plan provides:

Medical assistance for accident or sickness. Covers cost of surgery, hospitalization, doctor’s bills and prescribed  drugs, up to $5,000 per event.


Hotel. Paid for when, on doctor’s orders, the stay of the insured person has to be prolonged so he or she can receive medical assistance. There is a $100 limit per day with a maximum of $1,000 per policy, per year.


Transport of a family member because of sickness of the insured. If the insured person is hospitalized for more than 10 days, the plan pays for an economy round-trip ticket for a family member.


Hotel for a family member. As above, a family member is eligible for a hotel room, up to $100 per day with a maximum of $1,000 per policy, per year.


Shortened trip because of death of a family member. An economy ticket or the necessary complement for the insured to travel back to Costa Rica, if the trip was interrupted by the death of a spouse, children, parents or siblings.


Repatriation of insured because of accident or sickness. Air ambulance from the United States, Panama and other Central American countries only. From the rest of the world, the flight will be on a commercial airline. Must be prescribed.


Repatriation of remains to Costa Rica. Pays a maximum of $10,000.


Lost luggage. Advice in the event of stolen or lost luggage or personal effects. If recovered, the cost of transfer to the home or destination of the insured is paid for.


Stolen or lost passport or travel documents. Advice regarding steps that have to be taken with the local authorities to replace the documents.


Emergency dental care. The plan will coordinate and pay for dental care and drugs prescribed by a dentist, up to a limit of $100 per event with a maximum of three events per year.


Lost or damaged eyeglasses or contact lenses. The plan will pay for replacement, up to $75 per event with a maximum of three events per year.


Transfer of unavailable drugs. If an essential drug is not available where the insured is situated, the plan will find and send the drug, and pay for the cost of the prescription and the drug, up to $500 per event.


Urgent messages. The plan will transmit urgent messages resulting from any of the above situations.


Transfer of funds for legal matters. If the insured person needs legal defense, a family member can deposit a $300-2,500 sum at INS, and the sum will be remitted to the insured.


For more information, contact David Garrett at 233-2455 or


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