8 Ways to Get Your Holiday Goodies into Costa Rica Easily or Safely

My post about how to receive packages in Costa Rica while avoiding having them snagged by Customs, which requires a trip to San José and a couple hours of bureacratic SNAFU to retrieve said package, continues to be one of my more popular articles.

Still, I often get asked the question: "Just how do you get stuff shipped into Costa Rica?"

Drone chasing Cary Grant in North by Northwest still
Attack of the Drones - CC-SA-3.0

Unfortunately, Amazon drone delivery does not seem to be on the horizon anytime soon.

So, to supplement the original article, here is a list (probably incomplete) on the various methods that I've either used or have learned second-hand from others who have found them to be successful.

Muling Stuff In

If you have people who really like you, especially ones that can afford to travel First-class and perhaps have an extra checked bag for free, this is a great way to get stuff. Mail packages to them in the U.S. or your home country using free shipping in plenty of time before their flight departs. Your buddies should remove all new packaging before packing in order to please Customs officials.

Re-Packaging by Those You Love

This is the method outlined in the aforementioned article. Have packages shipped to your friends or family. They will unpackage everything and re-package it into what looks like a care package from home. It should look rough, have no business logos on the outside and only handwritten addresses. A few dents and swatches of duct tape on the outside are nice touches as well. Oh, and ship books separately as media mail is a less expensive category.

Remember, this is a hassle for your friends or family, despite what they may say, so don't overdo it and make sure you have a way to promptly reimburse/tip them for their trouble.

Re-Packaging by Those You Do Not Know

Use a commercial re-shipper such as AeroCasillas or even Costa Rica's BoxCorreos. These will collect your Internet purchases at a U.S. side address and ship the lot to you, shipping and Customs charges pre-paid. I have heard stories about AeroCasillas packages still getting stopped by Customs, but that is not how it is supposed to work.

Bite the Bullet and Pay Up

By this, I mean just pay for the extreme cost of shipping by a commerical international shipper such as UPS, DHL, etc. They will take care of the Customs hassle and call you with the charges when your things arrive in Costa Rica. Make sure you have a local outlet in your town or nearby. Not my cup of tea to pay more for shipping than the actual item cost, but this is probably the most reliable and safest way to get your stuff.

EBay Asian Vendors

I have had remarkable luck buying items from China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Singapore via EBay. Mostly, these things are small, but packages up to a couple of kilos have arrived safe and sound. The items have included LED lights, a car stereo, incense, a tablet, electronic parts, and so on. The downside is that you must expect to wait 4 to 6 weeks for delivery. Occasionally, a package never arrives, but the vendors are eager to offer a refund or re-ship the item. This even works with items from the UK and Europe and the shipping from there is much faster.

Shipping Big Stuff

If you need to ship something large and/or heavy, then hands-down the best way is to use a partial-container shipper. My preferred shipper in this case is Logistics Management Services, S.A. out of Cartago run by Mike Rappaport. You will pay a $50 flat fee plus a flat fee per cubic foot of stuff, regardless of weight. That price includes all shipping and customs clearance. 

You either pick your stuff up in their bonded warehouse near Cartago or they can ship it on via Transcama, which is probably cheaper than the gas you'd use getting it yourself. They ship once a month and you must sent your packages to their warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. Most recently, I had a two pallet order of used PCs shipped by Mike from FL for my kitchen table charity, Costa Rica PC Rescue.

Wing It

This method is like a roll of the dice. Just order your stuff from a commercial vendor that ships internationally by USPS and hope it arrives at your local post office. Customs only stops a fraction of what is sent here, so it might get through. If it doesn't, you'll be making a trip to Zapote Post Office and standing in several lines for a total of about 2 hours. Plus, you'll pay sales tax and misc. fees, which may include 600 colones per day if you package has been there for over a month. In some cases, if the item is not worth so much, you may just have to write it off.

The Best Shipping Method May Be No Shipping

The hardest, but simplest way is to just do without that glitzy thingamabob on your computer screen and figure out a way to buy local or not at all. Tough, I know, but consider that probably 99% of Ticos do quite nicely without shipping in junk from outside the country and Costa Rica still consistently hits the top ten in global happiness indices.

Or, wait a few years and maybe the drones will arrive en masse.


  1. What about household goods that you might bring when moving to CR....what is tax on container goods??

    1. There's no simple answer as duty varies greatly among different items. Few items are duty-free. At a minimum, you'll pay a 13% sales tax. Duty on cars is very high, from about 53% for a new car and over 70% for a car over 6 years old. Plus, they are not allowing the import of cars older than 2012 now.

      It used to be until very recently that you could get a flat-rate quote, including taxes, from container shippers, but now everything has to be itemized and valued by the owner of the goods, thus prices have gone up.


Thanks so much for your comment! - Casey

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