14 Oct 2017
When buying property in Costa Rica and moving down, it can be tough to decide; buy new things, or ship down the old. When moving to Costa Rica, and bringing all your belongings, shipping costs and import duties can be extremely high. Because of that, we recommend shipping what you absolutely cannot live without (your grandmother’s china, that magnificent painting you picked up in Vienna, or the 1967 Fastback Mustang that was handed down to you by your dad), and replacing all the rest. Having said that, we’ve put together a short guide on how to choose a good moving company, what to ship and what to leave behind, and where to shop for replacement items once you settle in Costa Rica.
Shipping your stuff to Costa Rica
Shipping the stuff you can’t let go of is easier and less expensive than you might think. First, start with a good shipping agent; they can help you decide the size of container you’ll need for the belongings you want to ship, and also walk you through all the paperwork to get smoothly through customs once you arrive in Costa Rica. There are two standard size of shipping containers: 20 feet and 40 feet. You’ll be surprised to find that they cost about the same, though the bigger is just a little more. If you don’t have much, you could just ship only a pallet, which would then be included in another, multi-user container and could save you a bundle.
Bringing your belongings on your flight to Costa Rica
When bringing items such as clothing, your laptop, and small odds and ends that you feel you must keep with you, do a little research and find the airline with the most generous baggage allowance policies. For flying to Latin America, I’ve found Avianca to be the best when it comes to this. Extra bags will come at a fee, of course, but you can usually take as many as you can afford, usually up to 10. Finally, don’t use a regular hard sided suitcase. You can get giant, softsided (thus lighter) duffle bags on Amazon or at any sporting goods store; each bag must be under 62 inches. Remember, you’ll be allowed only 50 to 70 lbs per bag, depending on airline and ticket class.
Buying new stuff in Costa Rica
Though there is a smaller selection and import taxes make items a bit more costly in Costa Rica, but at the end of the day, you’ll save a bundle buy just buying all new stuff once you arrive. When I came down over 20 years ago, it was nearly impossible to find things, but now there are many more options to choose from with Walmart, Pricemart (our version of Costco), Ashely Furniture, Crate & Barrel, La Artistica, and more. Appliances (referred to as “electro domesticos” or “linea blanca”), furniture (muebles), and household goods like sheets, towels, dishes, kitchen ware, and more can be found at a number of stores in the San Jose area.
- Gollo– appliances, furniture, and electronics
- Pricesmart – membership shopping (like Costco) for appliances, furniture, gardening tools, electronics and more
- Walmart- like a Walmart Superstore, many of the typical things you’d find at any Walmart in the States, though selection will be more limited.
- Casa Blanca- appliances and some furnishings and electronics
- Simán, located in Multiplaza, is a huge department store similar to Macy’s for home furnishings, knick knacks, bedding, art, kitchen ware, and appliances
- Cemaco- furnishings, lamps, kitchen ware, small appliances, bedding and bath.
- Ashley Furniture– furniture and interior design
- Crate & Barrel- the usual Crate and Barrel fare
- La Artisitica -furniture, mattresses and box springs, interior design
- Jiron – just beds and bedding
- Akiro for home and office furnishings
- Zara Home, located in the mall, is good for home decor
- EPA is our version of Home Depot; you’ll find gardening supplies, tools, some household furnishings, lamps, and more.
- Pequeño Mundo for inexpensive furniture, dishes, decor, kitchen items, odds and ends
For used items visit Encuentro 24, Mercado Libre, or Craig’s List online. Don’t count on big savings, though, like you find in the States. If you’re buying a household full of items, and you have a residency cedula, you can go to Golfito (about a 6 hour drive) and save big on televisions, kitchen appliances, and more. In Golfito there is a duty free zone, and thus the savings are huge. You can also find alcohol, clothing, and other items here. Don’t have a cedula? There are a number of people there willing to let you use theirs. You’re entitled to c1,600,000 per year (approximately) of purchases. Finally, you can drive about an hour out of San Jose to Sarchi and get custom made, locally sourced wood beds, dressers, tables, and more. Buying property and moving to Costa Rica can be a wonderful new adventure, and filling your new home with all that you need for daily comfort can be a good deal of fun. Be prepared to pay a little more, and to visit a lot of different stores to find the best deal and all that you need, but enjoy the ride and have fun with it. Between shipping, flying down with, and buying new, you’ll have your new Costa Rica household put together in no time.