Thursday, August 01, 2013

How to Mail Stuff to Costa Rica and Bypass the Customs Zoo at Zapote

Click Here for a more recent post on 8 Ways to Send Stuff to Costa Rica.
 
The question of how to ship things here to Costa Rica gets asked a lot on various forums. I just answered a query on Expat-Blog.com about this and felt like I was doing it for the umpteenth time, so thought I would post it here for later reference. I earnestly welcome any locals here to leave comments about their experiences or best methods for getting stuff into the country without too much hassle. 
  
Sharpie2 wrote:
I understand that bring a shipping container is prohibitive cost wise.

It seems that starting from scratch wouldn't be so cheap either.  I'd appreciate some comments and hearing about people's experiences about that.

Is is then possible to mail some things to yourself or someone else in Costa Rica or will all mail be opened?
My Reply:
Active member
From: San Isidro de El General
Registered: 2010-04-10
Posts: 36

Re: Mailing to Costa Rica

Well, it all depends on what you are trying to ship down here. If you're shipping a whole household, then a container is really the only way to go. There are also partial load services (see my blog post here: How To Have Christmas in May about two companies that do that). The drawback is that you'll probably wait 2-3 months to get your packages.

All mail will not be opened. In fact, probably none of it will be opened without you present, but that is not the main problem.

Costa Rica Customs is now being much more stringent about stopping packages that appear to be merchandise. It used to be that pretty much anything under 2 Kg. could get through but not anymore. Anything that looks like it is from a business will get stopped. Anything with a declared value of $100 or more on the customs tag will probably get stopped.

Once stopped, the recipient receives a notice in their P.O. box that the package is being held in the Zapote P.O. You must physically go there, go to at least 5 different windows and endure about a 2-hour wait.

You will pay 13% sales tax plus a small processing fee at minimum. If the item is dutiable, you will pay that too. If you picke up the package more than 5 days after you got the notice, they start charging you 600 colones per day as a storage fee! They will not forward anything to your local P.O., no how, no way.

If you must mail things via USPS, I recommend you send it to a friend who can re-package the item in a way to make it look funky and like personal mail, not something bought off the Internet. They should wrap it in brown paper and write the addresses by hand. Have them dent the box a little and be sure to put on some random pieces of duct tape (no kidding!). Even then, it might get stopped if it's big and heavy.

Otherwise, use DHL, UPS, or FedEx and expect to pay double the shipping rate of the USPS and pay duties/taxes, but at least you can usually get it forwarded to your town if they have an office there and monetary transactions can be done by phone.

Good luck!

Casey  -  A Dull Roar - Moving to, Retiring in, and Living with Costa Rica


11 comments:

  1. My Costa Rican daughter-in-law has told us never to send anything of value by the postal service. Before they were married, my son sent her a music CD, some photos, and a letter in the same envelope. The photos and the letter arrived. As shocked as my son was that the CD was stolen by postal employees, his fiance was even more shocked that anyone would think otherwise.

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    1. Our experience is that the postal service is reliable here. In nearly four years of receiving many, many packages we haven't lost anything nor even had a package opened. So I guess it varies by location within the country. YMMV of course.

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  2. Marilyn Braswell7/6/12 6:35 PM

    the first time I send a package it weighed 13 lbs. and it cost me $89.00.!!! the next one was not quite as much. since. I have be able to have someone take a suitcase full when they fly down. It has cost me $100 but it has lots of things in it. In January when I go back I am sure that that price will be much more. Heard tonight on the news that it will cost you $59 more to have a seat by the window on international!! lo

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  3. This post will be helpful for those peep who sends mail to CR

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  4. When we were living there in 2006, we had family send a media bag filled with books from Florida. It was going to Cortez in Puntarenas province. It arrived the 3rd quarter of the next year :-).

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    1. Glen, absolutely amazing it showed up at all! I'll try to remember that the next time I get impatient for something to arrive after a couple of weeks.

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  5. The best way is to sign up for a mailing service like redlogistic, it gives you an address in the United States and then forwards it to wherever you are in Costa Rica. They give you an invoice, you go to the bank and pay it, then they forward the package onto you. So far I haven't paid anything in customs, and one of the packages was directly from Amazon. Oh and it usually ships from Miami to San Jose in about 3 days at the most.

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    1. Most of these mail forwarding services work well for some folks. The drawbacks I see are that they are required to pay any customs duty and sales tax (doesn't mean they do though) and they won't let through forbidden items such as vitamins (I kid you not!). Also, most of those services only ship as far as San José, though I do know that Aerocasillas has an office in our town.

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    2. I saw an flyer at the local post office for BoxCorreos.com, and I recently signed up because there is no ongoing monthly fee. You just pay for service as it's used. I placed my 1st online order this week. It is similar to Aerocasillas, but it will be delivered to my local Correos office in Atenas and they in turn will deliver the package to our house. BoxCorreos.com assign you an address in Doral, FL and they forward the package to CR. Just like Aerocasillas, they collect taxes and customs duty if applicable. I'll let you know how long it takes to receive the package and what fees are assessed.

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    3. Pat, I'll be looking forward to reading about your experience with BoxCorreos. I looked into their site a while back and it looked rather expensive, but I never actually ordered anything. Let us know!

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  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey

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