Kashrut observant travelers should not expect Costa Rican customs authorities to allow them into the country with kosher food — unless they happen to be dentists coming to provide free dental care.
The Costa Rica Star reported on Dr. Yoav Taub’s landing at Juan Santamaria International Airport with his wife and baggage full of kosher food. It seems the couple from Beachwood, Ohio had not been aware of Kosher Center in the Pavas area of San Jose, the only supplier of kosher food in the country, and had brought their own provisions with them. The Star explained that bringing food into the country can be “a highly bureaucratic affair,” and that normally, the Taubs would have been separated from their chow.
A bilingual bystander saved the day when the dentist asked him to explain to the customs authorities in Spanish that he was in the country to perform free dental work with the Dental Development Seminars. He had come to the Costa Rica with twelve other dentists and two hygienists. “The customs agent gave me a hug and said, ‘I love you,’” Taub said. “He wrapped up all the food, put it back and let us through.”
“I went down specifically to get more experience in a different type of procedure,” Taub told the Cleveland Jewish News. “We saw 500 patients for free. The dental board in Costa Rica gave us temporary licenses.” The dentists treated infections and removed problematic wisdom teeth, pulling 500 teeth altogether, 300 of which were impacted wisdom teeth.
The doctor plans to do a similar volunteer stint in a Central American country in July.