So, about shipping your things to Costa Rica..
1. Should I ship boxes of those smaller items I want to bring?
No. And here’s why: The most reliable and established shipping companies in the states are FedEx, UPS and DHL. (And don’t ever use DHL; they make you pay again on the receiving end for their “processing fee.”) Shipping a 24” x 24” box from the US to CR using these companies will cost you between $800 and $1,000 each box. No kidding. Once I learned that, I decided to buy six large suitcases, fill them with my necessities and valuables, and check them in when I flew here. I paid $800 in excess baggage fees (after ascertaining maximum number of bags allowed by my airline with my class of ticket) and, even with the cost of the suitcases, I cost me a whole lot less than the $6,000 I would have paid to ship them.
2. Should I have stuff shipped after I’m here?
At some point, you will have to. The dilemma one faces is that one cannot get regular mail. As I mentioned in another post, houses here do not have numbered addresses, and it’s almost impossible to receive regular mail. Out of a couple of dozen letters and cards mailed from the US since my departure last year, two have made it to my door.
I have, of course, needed things shipped, so I’ve tried all three above-mentioned carriers. FedEx works OK; however, they require with each package a Commercial Invoice in Excel. Go figure. As this would make sense only if the invoice were electronic and added to a master spreadsheet, which it isn’t, my theory is that some bureaucrat learned how to use Excel and was so pleased with himself (or herself) that he/she made this a requirement In any event, once the invoice is approved for delivery, someone comes to the house (without the package) to obtain a signature and a Customs fee (on anything other than printed material). It’s a government thing. Then, if the contents are not food, which need written authorization from the Ministry of Health, or pet medicine, which needs approval from the Ministry of Agriculture, someone will come back a few days later to deliver the package.
As for DHL, they are complete and utter crooks. The sender pays slightly less than for the other carriers. DHL in Costa Rica, however, insists on a processing fee of over $100. When I complained, they said I could avoid the fee by going to the airport office and doing the processing myself. When pressed, they said it would take at least two trips. I’m sure I won their hearts and minds by calling them thieves and extortionists (in two languages, I’ll have you know); I even accused them of Gringo-abuse. To this day, they still have two of my packages (which include pills for my dog, a Magic Jack set, and some vitamins for me). May they use them in good health.
The good news is that UPS is the best! When your package arrives, they call you to inform you that they’re on their way. When they arrive, you must sign a paper and pay the Customs fee and THEY GIVE YOU YOUR PACKAGE RIGHT THERE AND THEN! I think my delivery guy was confused when our handshake turned into a hug.
An update: I did manage to get an apostado (post office box) after a six-month wait, so I’m hoping I can receive packages there as well as regular mail.