Receiving Mail in Costa Rica
New arrivals from the United States, Canada and Europe are often surprised that Costa Ricans do not rely heavily on the national postal system for receiving packages or other important mail. Deliveries through the Costa Rican post office can be slow and Customs clearances can be a hassle. Luckily, there are reliable options for getting mail from abroad:
Friends and Acquaintances
Whenever my friends visit the United States – or when their families and friends fly down to visit – they notify me a month or two in advance. If I have any pending purchases, I send them to my friend’s address, and they pack them up in a suitcase and bring them down for me. In return, whenever I fly home, I offer my extra suitcase space to them. Since I have many friends from the U.S., there’s almost always someone planning a visit within the next month or two.
Private Shipping Companies
Shipping companies like Jetbox, Aerocasillas and Mailboxes, Etc. are an excellent way to receive mail in Costa Rica. An account with each company gets you a U.S.-based post office box. When you want to ship something to Costa Rica, just send it to your P.O. box and the company will handle the rest: shipping to Costa Rica, Customs, and even home delivery.
Each company has varying rates depending on consumption. Free accounts do not include complimentary shipping, but are the best option for sporadic purchases. Companies or individuals that receive large amounts of mail are better off with paid accounts, which range from $15-$100 monthly and include shipments from 5.5-66 pounds.
To make the process even simpler, private shipping companies will handle the Customs process for you. If any customs duties are charged, they will pay the taxes on your behalf and automatically charge your debit or credit card. Additionally, if you purchase a big-ticket item of less than $500, for a reasonable fee (about $35), they will file exoneration paperwork and import your purchase free of duties. And for a small additional charge, most services will deliver mail directly to your door. All told, the entire process generally takes less than two weeks.
FedEX, UPS and DHL
These services are fast and efficient, but they’re also expensive compared to private shipping companies. A two-pound package shipped from the United States to the San Jose Greater Metropolitan Area costs upwards of $100; the cost with a private shipping company is approximately $25. However, FedEX, UPS and DHL offer direct shipping – from the U.S. to Costa Rica with no intermediary P.O. Box – and also provide additional services like shipping insurance and tracking numbers. Offices can be found in most major cities including San Jose, Escazu, Heredia and Liberia.