Expat Living: Packing For Your Move to Costa Rica - HRG Costa Rica Vacations
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Expat Living: Packing For Your Move to Costa Rica

Cardboard shipping box with word map for international shipping

Ship, Store, Sell or Shuck? What to do With Your Stuff When You Move to Costa Rica

So you’ve found your dream home in Los Sueños, Costa Rica. You’ve done all the research, and you’ve run the red tape; the time has come to get packed and be on your way.

Packing for any move is a huge task, but packing for an International move is a monumental project that requires detailed planning and a certain amount of ruthlessness. When you’re just moving across town it’s easy breezy. When packing, each item gets a quick: “Keep it or leave it?” assessment, and typically most everything makes the cut.

Packing for a move to another country, on the other hand, takes a good deal more consideration. Shipping costs are higher. Transit times can take weeks or even months. Import taxes can get so out of control, it’s often more cost effective to just buy new stuff; and finally, in the case of Costa Rica, climate comes into play (humidity can be hard on books, photos, art and leather goods).

Nonetheless, you can employ a few simple strategies to help you pack for your International move to Costa Rica.

Take the four-pronged packing approach: Ship, Store, Sell or Shuck

Ship: You’ll need to arrange for a reputable shipping company to help; they will have a good customs agent in Costa Rica that they work with and can really advise you on how to pack your items (or they can even do it for you).

Store: If you really need to keep Grandma Spencer’s mahogany china hutch, you’ll need to decide whether to leave it with family or friends or rent a long-term storage unit.

Sell: Craig’s List is a great place to sell items that are still in good condition and so are good old fashioned garage sales. Social media is another great place to get the word out about your cars, your furniture, and your appliances that you want to let go of.
Shuck: If it’s in good shape, gift it to your local Goodwill- but do make sure it’s clean and in good, working condition.

Otherwise, trash it. If you have a lot of larger items that you need to get rid of, you can likely order a large dumpster from your local trash company.
Your Wicked-Fast Decision Guide

As yourself the following three questions:

  1. Do I use it daily or almost daily? If so, SHIP
  2. Would I be heartbroken for weeks if I lost, broke or sold this? If so, STORE
  3. Is it too heavy, used too rarely, or not likely to be used in Costa Rica’s tropical climate? If so, SELL or Shuck

It really is that simple. However, there are some exceptions to the rule:

Appliances and Furnishings:

Chances are that if you bought a pre-owned condo or home in Los Sueños, you’re getting it beautifully furnished – and most likely by one of our amazing local interior designers.

But if you’re coming down to an empty house, you’ll have to think about filling it.

The reality is that the customs fess you’ll pay (in addition to shipping) for getting your appliances and furniture into Costa Rica will far outplay the cost of buying new stuff once you get here. Get rid of it. All of it, unless it’s an heirloom you simply can’t live without.

Costa Rica has everything you’ll need and you can buy gorgeous custom made furnishings here.


Leave behind the “oh I’ll get to that some day” paperbacks and choose 50 or so of your favorites troves, box them up, and bring them if you must; otherwise, I recommend you get a kindle. Books are heavy.

If you absolutely must bring your entire collection (I did when I moved here in the 90s), plan to build a bookshelf that has cabinet doors and plan to use a dehumidifier in your library.


I cherish mine and I’m sure you cherish yours. Definitely bring it – but do plan to make some effort to protect your art from the humidity.

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