Shipping, Car Purchase, and Pet Relocation for Expats Moving to Costa Rica
Many expats moving to Costa Rica will want to bring furry friends and personal effects with them, as well as buy a car. Here’s what you need to know to accomplish all three.
The StartAbroad Costa Rica Guide
Shipping, Car Purchase, and Pet Relocation in Costa Rica
Shipping Possessions from the U.S. & Canada to Costa Rica
Shipping packages and larger household items to Costa Rica is doable, but can be pricey given import taxes on various items. Import tax can be as high as 14% on things like pet accessories, fashion, and home appliances, and 9% for sports equipment, but is 0% for home computers and tablets.
You can reliably receive packages in Costa Rica within 1-2 weeks. You could consider setting up a PO box in Costa Rica with a service like JetBox or Mailboxes, Etc., which could cost between $20-75 per month. You can still receive packages without your own PO box. Companies like Liberty Express and Aeropost have offices throughout the country. Get a package sent to the office nearest to you, and pick up your package on arrival, or get it delivered to you door for an additional fee. You will need to present a commercial invoice in order for your package to clear customs. Amazon also recently started offering delivery services to Costa Rica! Shop on amazon.com and set your delivery address to Costa Rica to see what is available.
You can also ship a container of goods. Note that this can become more expensive than selling everything in the U.S. and buying new items in-country, so it is worth considering carefully. Besides importation taxes, you'll pay sea freight fares. A shipping container (20-40 feet), costs $6,000 to $15,000 landed. Transport time can take several months, depending on the company and type of container you choose, plus roughly one month to be processed through customs (provided there are no issues). If you choose to use a shipping company, you can find those who will handle every aspect for you, or you can get more involved yourself to reduce the price.
While shipping is certainly an option, you can also consider buying new home goods in a duty-free zone, like Golfito, or bringing extra suitcases with you every time you come from the States. Local Facebook groups, Facebook Marketplace, Encuentra24, and Craigslist can be great ways to find good deals on household items for reasonable prices.
Car Purchase in Costa Rica
Importing a car from another country can be a difficult and expensive process. The Costa Rican government is likely to apply a 40-80% import duty on a foreign car. There is a new law allowing certain visa holders to import two cars duty-free, but it is yet to be implemented.
Purchasing a car in Costa Rica can also be expensive, but unless you live in a major city or the Central Valley, you will likely want one (often with 4x4) to get around. We recommend planning to spend sometime searching online -- use Facebook Marketplace, Encuentra24, and CRautos.com -- rather than buying from a dealer. You can also work with a broker to help find the right deal.
Regardless, you should plan to bring a trustworthy mechanic with you when inspecting the car. It is relatively common in Costa Rica for dealers to roll back miles on the odometer, so you'll want to inspect a car's inner-workings especially carefully. Make sure that the Marchamo (registration & mandatory liability insurance) and Riteve (vehicle safety inspection) are current, and work with a trusted mechanic to ensure everything looks good before handing over any money.
Pet Relocation to Costa Rica
Pets can be brought to Costa Rica from other countries. They must have a "Veterinary Certificate for Costa Rica" completed from a licensed veterinarian, and endorsed by your state's USDA office or CFIA office in Canada. All cats and dogs entering the country are required to have current rabies vaccinations, and should be vaccinated more than 30 days before traveling. There is no quarantine requirement.
Dogs are required to have the following additional vaccinations: distemper, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and hepatitis. Cats are required to have vaccinations for: feline viral rhinotracheitis, feline leukemia, calicivirus, and panleukopenia.
There are pet relocation services who can handle these processes for you, as well as transport your pet on a commercial airplane. You may also choose to transport your pet yourself - this involves calling your airline, making a reservation for your pet, getting an appropriate travel container, and ensuring you have all necessary documentation.