International Movers and Customs
The very best advice I can give about making an international move to Costa Rica is REALLY look at what you have and how important it is to you. International moving can turn into a major headache. If at all possible it is almost always better to sell your belongings in your home country and buy anything you need here. Anytime I make an international move I try to put all my mot important things that I want to keep in two large suitcases. Most shipping companies will reccommend the same.
Only in the case that there is something you are sure that you will not be able to find in Costa Rica, or if you know it is significantly more expensive here, or if it is a family airloom do I reccommend shipping. There are simply to many factors that can negatively affect your move. Afterall, you are making a new start, wouldn't it be better to do it with all new stuff instead of complicating your life by trying to ship all of your old stuff?
Besides in Costa Rica it is pretty simple to find many common items and they are either the same price or less expensive here and the best part is that they are made for the climate down here. There is a small border down near Panama, called Golfito where you can purchase major kitchen appliances from all the major brands you are used to and other big ticket items tax free.
Options for International Shipping
1) If you do not have too many items, the first, simpliest, and most economic way to bring things to Costa Rica is with you in your checked baggage if you can. Despite extra baggage fees it is still a more economical option than simply shipping boxes here. With this option you are also almost 100% guaranteed that your items will make it quickly and with you. As for Customs, they are not likely to give you much trouble in this case. You are allowed to take several things with no problems and ou are also given a $500 duty-free tax exemption (which you are given every six months.)
2) If you have a little more baggage and you cannot for some reason carry your things with you then you can also do air cargo. With this option you can ship a few more larger items and it is still fairly reasonable. You are allowed to send up to 500 pounds as air cargo. You will still have to fill out some forms, declare items value, pay some Cutsoms fees between 15% and 60% (each item is different) and stand in some lines, but it is an excellent option for important items. For this option you will need: a copy of your passport, the air way bill, packing inventory with declared values, abd to pay the duties.
3) If you plan to practically ship your entire house and larger items then you can ship things by boats in containers from ports in California or Florida to Puntarenas or Limon. Many people have told me that the shipping is less expensive from Florida.
The average container is 40 by 8 by 8 feet. You are allowed to ship using a quarter, half or full container as most shipping companies consolodate. There are a variety of different international shipping companies both here and in your home country, so it is important to select one that can meet your specific needs.Some companies offer door-to-door service. Depending on how advanced your Spanish is and how familiar you are with the process will help you decide. It is very important to anaylze different companies quotes to see which services are included and the costs because you could save hundreds of dollars.
This option is the most complex and there are several restrictions about what cannot be shipped such as liquids and old shoes. You will have to seriously inventory and write EXACTLY what is in each box you put on the container. For example, "used clothes, not for resale."
For this option it is extrememly important that you ship items that are six months older or more. If you do not you will pay high import taxes that could make the item pay more than it is worth.
In order to pick up your items you will need your passport, shipping bill, an inventory list with declared values, and to pay any duties.
4) If you choose to drive to Costa Rica with your items please read the section driving to Costa Rica.