So, you’re wondering how to send a package to Costa Rica – or, hope of hopes, does Amazon deliver packages to Costa Rica? – and you’ve found your way here. Welcome. You’re in the right place!
The quick answers to your questions are “via Amazon or a freight forwarder” and “yes!” But we don’t expect those answers to make a whole lot of sense – at least, not yet.
But before we get into that, let’s clear something up: While Costa Rica’s home address system is beautifully complicated – yes, you really can live at the “at the end of the road to Potrero, in the Viquez house by the old ficus tree” (even though the Viquez family no longer lives there and said ficus tree got hit by lightning 20 years ago) – you can still receive mail. In many different ways!
Both Amazon and freight forwarders ship packages to Costa Rica. But you have more options than just those two. The full picture is not complicated but it is complex. You’ll want to consider the options, including the various pros and cons, before you choose how to send a package to Costa Rica.
Here’s the short of it: The right shipping method for sending your Amazon or other commercial packages will not be the same as that for sending a care package or a consolidated bunch of forwarded mail. You’ll want to have options. These four options. And you’ll want to choose the right one, for each type of package you need to send.
Which brings us to…
Tips on How to Send a Package to Costa Rica:
- Know What Costa Rica Prohibits: Costa Rica manages a list of prohibited and permit-required items, including almost everything that falls under a medical umbrella (yes, even BAND-AIDs® and your favorite multi-vitamin). Order these and run the risk of either a TON of paperwork or money down the drain (because they will not make it through Customs).
- Know What Your Shipper Prohibits: In addition to Costa Rica’s no-no list, most shippers also operate their own lists of what they won’t ship. These can include anything from the obvious (aerosols and firearms) to sensitive financials (cash and debit/credit cards) to a few items that may not immediately seem obvious (seeds, nail polish, and ink/toner cartridges). Always verify before you ship. (Example: Here’s a list of prohibited items, courtesy of Costa Rica’s Aeropost, a freight forwarder.)
- Give it TIME: This isn’t Prime 2-Day shipping. Depending on the shipper, you’re likely looking at anywhere from a lightning-fast 1 week to 4+ weeks for delivery to your home in Costa Rica.
- Know the Import Tax Rate: While shipping a heavy package comes with its own price tag, Customs handling and import duties are extra. And, while some items receive a nominal tax rate (ex. books, at 1-2%), others can be taxed at 40-50% of their value (car parts, electronics, etc.).
- Purchase Price ≠ Customs Value: Speaking of import taxes, know that your purchase price is not the same as the Customs value, sometimes known as the CIF (Cost, Insurance and Freight) value. In other words, if you purchase an item for $50 with free U.S. shipping, but you pay $15 in freight forwarder shipping, your CIF value will be around $65 (plus any shipper handling); this is the rate that Customs will tax.
Option #1: Amazon Global Store / Amazon International Shipping Eligible
If you’re buying directly from Amazon, the easiest way to ship is via Amazon. If you look down the left-hand menu (desktop) or filter options (mobile) you’ll find two helpful filters: Amazon Global Store and International Shipping Eligible.
They’re similar but not quite the same, as the Amazon Global Store is its own entity, direct from Amazon, while the International Shipping Eligible may include third-party sellers willing to ship internationally.
By far, the Amazon Global Store is the most convenient option, as it offers door-to-door shipping, including Customs handling and import tax duties.
- You can shop directly on Amazon.com, provided you use either the Global Store or International Shipping filter.
- The total cost at checkout includes shipping, Customs handling, and import duties. If import duties are less than estimated, Amazon will refund you the difference.
- Problems? They’re handled by Amazon Customer Service.
- This option is only available for purchase on Amazon.com.
- It’s also only available for a select inventory of Global Store items. If the item you want is not in the Global Store or International Shipping Eligible, then Amazon will not ship it.
- Depending on the shipping method, this can take up to 4 weeks for delivery.
Option #2: Shipping Packages via Freight Forwarder
Freight forwarders offer an incredibly valuable service, for all those things you can’t ship via Amazon.com. This includes both Amazon items that don’t qualify for global shipping, as well as purchases from other suppliers, care packages, and more.
Here’s how it works: When you sign up for a free account at your chosen freight forwarder, you’ll get a Miami address. (Note: To avoid U.S. shipping restrictions, these addresses are no longer P.O. boxes.) Use that address as your U.S. address, then sit back and let your freight forwarder take care of the rest.
- Online calculators help you calculate your all-in price, including shipping, Customs handling, and import duties.
- Certain freight forwarders have their own websites (ex. Aeropost) where you can order almost anything directly (skip the Miami step) for one all-in price.
- Items arrive in 10-14 days, even to Guanacaste. Most deliver directly to your home.
- There can be a semi-complicated “notice of shipment” requirement, to including a tracking number, original receipt, and other information.
- Not all freight forwarders are considered equal (or reliable). Do your research!
- Freight forwarders, by and large, will not ship credit cards or other sensitive financials.
Option #3: FedEx, UPS, and DHL
These options are pricey but they can be worth it, if you need something quickly or want to ship something other companies won’t (ex. a credit card).
If you go this route, know that you’ll need to deliver your package to your nearest FedEx/UPS/DHL store. In other words, you can’t forward a commercial package; instead, you’d have to ship it to someone who would then take it to FedEx/UPS/DHL for shipment to Costa Rica. Therefore, this option is best for receiving care packages and similar mail.
- Offer extremely fast shipping options, if you’re willing to pay.
- Online calculators will help you figure out the shipping cost and speed of your package.
- Must deliver a package to FedEx/UPS/DHL in person.
- Online calculators do not always include import duties; you may be billed upon pickup in Costa Rica.
- Must pick up a local Costa Rican FedEx/UPS/DHL office. There aren’t many!
Option #4: Local + Costa Rican Post Office
If you’re the betting sort, you may want to try your luck with international shipping through your country’s post office.
Be forewarned, though, that shipping via Correos de Costa Rica (the country’s post office, similar to the USPS) can take awhile – up to a month, even for inter-country shipments. Forewarned is forearmed!
What’s more, once your package arrives in Costa Rica, it’s likely to get held up at Customs. Whereas for options #1, #2, and #3, a company handled Customs on your behalf, now, it’s all on you. And, once you’ve had to make the trip to Aduana/Customs, wait in lines, fill out copious paperwork, and then pay up, you may just decide that this option is never worth it. Or you may not. At least now, you know!
- This can be the most convenient option, especially if there’s no FedEx/UPS/DHL near the package’s point of origin.
- Depending on the post office of origin, this can be a lower-cost shipping option.
- Must deliver a package to the local post office in person. Again, this is best not for commercial packages but rather for care packages and the ilk.
- Can take months to arrive.
- Most packages will get stuck in Customs. The recipient must go to the nearest Customs office to process paperwork and pay. (FYI, this is a huge con, in our experience!)
Questions About Living in Costa Rica?
That just happens to be one of our fortes. At Blue Water Properties, we are happy to help you in any way we can. We can talk about locations and costs of living, schools and receiving mail. We can refer you to residency attorneys or other sources of information, and share our own experiences and lessons learned.
As a company and as people, we thrive on relationships and promise the fastest communication and best services in the industry. And that begins with lots of information. We are happy to answer your questions and point you in the right direction, even if you’re only in the beginning phases of planning your future move.
We’re proud to offer some of the best Costa Rica real estate, from condos and homes to land and businesses for sale. So, go ahead – try us. Give us a chance to show off our expertise – and wow you with the possibilities! We look forward to it.