Are you planning to ship your entire household down to Costa Rica when you move there?
Based on personal experience, you may want to rethink that.
When I first moved down to Costa Rica, I planned meticulously for months what to pack. I jammed every single thing that would fit into two enormous oversized bags, each big enough for a pro hockey player’s equipment.
I lugged them to the airport, paid extra for being overweight, lugged them off the plane and to my new apartment, almost couldn’t get them up the stairs to my room...and then proceeded to not use even half of the stuff over the next year or two.
Remember that you’re moving to Costa Rica to get away from your normal life in the US, Canada, or abroad, and that may mean easing up on possessions and material things. In Costa Rica, you’ll need a lot of flip flops, a beat up old pair of running shoes, a bunch of swim shorts, plenty of tank tops, and probably a laptop. Anything that’s expensive, rare or hard to move is actually a huge liability down there: humidity, seawater, dust, incessant rain, and ladrones (thieves) can be hard on your things in Costa Rica!
I learned very quickly that possessions won’t equip you for success in your new life in Costa Rica - your mindset and attitude will. So I encourage you to only bring the essentials at first.
You can get most U.S.-style goods in San José these days, and if there is something you really need from back home, go back with an empty bag when you travel back to your former homeland to visit once or twice a year, filling it up and bringing more stuff down. Or, you can ask your friends or friends of friends that are come down to visit Costa Rica to add a few extra items to their bags for you – probably the most effective method.
If you do need to ship things down to Costa Rica, here are some tips:
• Shipping your worldly goods down to Costa Rica can be a very expensive process, so researching the right company can save you a lot of money
• A shipping container coming from the United States, usually measuring 20 or 40 feet in length, runs $6,000-$15,000, including taxes and delivery
• Generally, you will be responsible for packing all boxes and loading the moving truck, and the company will take care of the rest. This includes transportation to the closest domestic port, maritime transportation, offloading in Costa Rica, local customs, and delivery to your new home
• The process can take up to two months for U.S. shipments
• Remember that the same amount of money could easily furnish a big house two or three times over in Costa Rica
• Unlike in the US, most homes or properties you rent already come fully furnished, so you’ll need far less than you think
• You pay by weight, so be sure you pack light
• Electronics are expensive to buy there, bring those with you (but then again, do you really need a bunch of expensive and fancy electronics?)
• Make sure you do a careful inventory and record that in the manifest in case items are lost or stolen
• You will need to hire two shippers, one in your home country to get it to a port in Miami then to Costa Rica, and then another one to receive it from the port in Costa Rica
• You can save money by packing the items from home yourself, but it is way better to hire someone, especially if you have expensive or delicate items
• Once your stuff gets to the port in Costa Rica, it goes through customs duties and they may or may not examine it
• The best way to go about selecting a company is to first speak to people (other expats) in Costa Rica to find a reputable shipper/company. Then, go with a recommended local (US) mover, as they will have people and or companies they usually work with and they can help you save a lot of money by minimizing the cost of tariffs
• When shipping internationally, the average container is 40 by 8 by 8 feet
• One is allowed to ship using a quarter, half or full container as most shipping companies consolidate
• For this option, it is important that the items are 6 or more months older, or you will be charged expensive import fees
• For the average person moving down there, the best bet is to travel light, cramming everything you’ll need into check baggage on the plane (even if you are charged the extra baggage fee)
For bigger items you can use air cargo:
Have fun and enjoy your new life in Costa Rica!
Life is about connections, friendships, and forming close relationships. That's also a pretty good definition of Tribe, and you'll want to find your Tribe in Costa Rica.
Of course, as you start your new life in Costa Rica, you’ll want to meet and befriend as many local Ticos and Ticas as possible, blending into society in your new home. But it’s also refreshing to have some expat friends just like you, to share information, experiences, recommendations and sometimes, a couple beers.
For that reason, we’ll outline a few good ways to connect with expat communities and groups. These are just a sample of the many, many links and organizations available to you, so do a quick Google search based on which home country you come from, what area of Costa Rica you’re living in, and what interests you.
For me, I always like volunteering because you meet some interesting, caring and conscious people, which is better than just meeting people on the beach or partying, in my opinion. It won’t take much work to find a great school that needs volunteers, an orphanage, beach cleanups, the local branch of the Red Cross, Rotary International, Kiwanis Club, or many others.
The good news is that there are plenty of online communities/forums that connect expats all over Costa Rica - they are a great source of advice for any questions you may have. Many offer newsletters as well. Try joining one of these groups, or posting something in an online forum if you want to make contacts before your departure.
Here are some of those sites:
Americans Retired in Costa Rica will assist you, as well with planning your trip, organizing things you need, and answer common questions.
American Legion: http://www.legion.org
Here are some Facebook groups to check out:
These are some online expat groups in Costa Rica based on location:
Lake Arenal Community – 1,603 Members
This Lake Arenal English Language Facebook group page is for the purpose of sharing information in a constructive manner about things directly related to the Lake Arenal region around Tilarán, Tronadora, San Luis and Nuevo Arenal).
Lake Arenal Ads & Events – 1,625 Members
Lake Arenal Ads & Events is a central place for members of the community to post and browse classified ads as well as any community or public, free or not, events. Ads and events should be for the areas surrounding Lake Arenal.
Costa Ballena Bulletin Board – 1,086 Members
Where Costa Ballenans help each other out. Ask local questions. Get local answers. Friendly advice on practically anything, announcements of lost and found, shared rides, beach parties, power and water updates.
San Ramon Costa Rica Info – 260 Members
This is a Facebook group for expatriates in San Ramon, Costa Rica. All members are either presently residing, or interested, in San Ramon, Costa Rica area are welcome.
Atenas Costa Rica Info – 992 Members
These Facebook pages are for expatriates in Atenas, Costa Rica. All members are either presently residing, or interested, in the Atenas,
Costa Rica Southern Zone Expats and Friends – 1,570 Members
This Facebook group is for people living in or interested in the Southern Zone. The span of this group the “Southern Zone” is from Jacó to Paso Canoas and all in between coastal and inland.
Expats Locals in Escazu – Santa Ana in English – 171 Members Facebook pages for expats and locals living in or thinking of moving to, hang out a lot in, or will be visiting Escazu & Santa Ana & that speak English.
Nosara Rant And Rave – 1,427 Members
Want to ask questions about Nosara, debate, tell a joke, post a funny photo or rant and rave? Do it here!
Nosara Community Events – 2,528 Members
Interesting events happening in the Nosara Beach community.
Manuel Antonio – 811 Members
Post your events and specials for Manuel Antonio here.
Grecia, Costa Rica – 492 Members
This is a Facebook group for English speakers living in Grecia, Costa Rica. Posts should be in English. It is ok to offer to sell your personal items (online garage sale, moving, etc.) or to list properties for rent.
Costa Rica Black – 17 Members
Costa Rica Connecting Black Expats in Costa Rica.
Or you can search for others who share your interest in a sport, hobby, or pastime, like golf:
Costa Rica Torneos de Golf – 573 members
Find every golf tournament in Costa Rica that you want to play here.
Golf article classifieds – 176 members
Facebook pages to find or sell used golf articles in Costa Rica
Tourism & Explore Facebook pages:
Costa Rica Insider – 13,232 Members
The inside scoop on the Best Food / Surf / Hotels and travel to Costa Rica.
The Best of Costa Rica – 330 Members
Let’s explore Costa Rica. Let’s discover the best things to do, places to go, and risks to avoid. Let’s have some fun.
Pet Friendly Hotels Restaurants in Costa Rica – 400 members
Find hotels, restaurants, cafes, and businesses around Costa Rica that welcome your furry family members.
Things to do in Costa Rica – 1,128 Members
Concerts, art shows, activities, tours and fun things to do. Know of something fun going on?
Costa Rica things to do – 676 Members
This Facebook group is designed to let tourists and nationals know what’s going on in your area. With photos and videos.
Costa Rica by Bus – 1,295 Members
The administrator of this page says: I love riding the buses in Costa Rica. Maybe it is like the lore of riding the rails in the US. It is easy, fun, and inexpensive. I created photo albums for bus schedules, bus stops, and buses and a file section for PDF’s people collect.
Hobbies & Sports in Costa Rica:
American Football in Costa Rica – 1,158 Likes Information about football games in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Surfing News – 5,692 Likes All about surfing in Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Swaps – 447 Members
This is a space to swap postcards, stamps, banknotes and coins. Lotteries are also welcome.
Uvita Softball Saturdays! – 216 Members
This Facebook group page is for coordinating and communicating about the weekly softball games in Uvita. Join us at 10:30 at the fubol field in Bahia de Uvita every Saturday! All ages and skill levels welcome!
Backgammon CLUB Costa Rica (Spanish) – 422 Members
Promotes friendly competition and practice of the Backgammon game. No gambling.
Gringo Gardeners in Costa Rica – 1,078 Members
This group is aimed at gringos living in or visiting Costa Rica who are interested in learning more about the trees and plants that grow here, both native and introduced. It’s a place where we can showcase what we’ve grown, get tips on care and location, and help each other with plant identification.
Costa Rica Organic Gardening Forum – 502 Members
A Facebook group where people who live in Costa Rica can share organic gardening tips. Organic pest control, soil information, and help with amending. It’s also a great source on where to buy seeds and what seeds want to grow in different regions.
Costa Rica Poker – 476 members
Community page for poker players who have relocated or are interested in relocating to Costa Rica in the wake of Black Friday.
Photography in Costa Rica (all Spanish) – 6,564 Members
This group is an educational forum in Spanish about photography, posting unusual photos, as well as photography articles for sale.
Costa Rica Tribe – 767 Members
The intent of this Facebook group is to post photos, events, and projects for our area in southern Costa Rica.
Costa Rica Kayak Fishermen –117 members
This Facebook group is here to post pictures and discuss any current affairs related to fishing in Costa Rica.
Yoga in Costa Rica – 894 Members
These Facebook pages are for yoga teachers, studio and retreat center owners, vendors and anyone who practices yoga in Costa Rica. The goal for starting this group is to have a place where we can share information about yoga communities and events in our beautiful country.
Health, care, and help in Costa Rica:
Healing House Costa Rica – 343 Members
The idea of the Facebook group is to connect doctors, therapists, healers and everybody interested in a healthy way of living in Costa Rica.
Personal Care for Gringos in Costa Rica – 162 Members
A Facebook group for referrals to personal care providers in Costa Rica such as hairdressers, spas, massage therapists, physiotherapists, yoga studios, fitness places and more. Anything to do with our personal wellbeing.
“Help I Need A Ride” – Costa Rica Ride Share – 769 Members
These Facebook pages were created as a hopeful solution for people looking for a ride anywhere in Costa Rica. If you are leaving from somewhere and you have extra seats available in your vehicle, feel free to post here.
Animal Protection in Costa Rica:
SASY! Costa Rica – 557 Members
SASY! Stop Animal Suffering Yes is an all-volunteer organization dedicated to the eradication of animal abuse and suffering in Costa Rica. Your support will help us to fund educational programs to promote animal welfare, fund spay-neuter clinics in low-income barrios and areas with stray overpopulation.
Expats in Guanacaste – 1,673 Members
Expats in Guanacaste is a Facebook group designed for foreigners to ask questions and share interesting news, current events, photos, recipes, travel stories, advice, referrals, lifestyle, blog posts and more about the Guanacaste province and all of the beaches throughout the area. Neighbors connecting online through these Facebook pages help one- another and make new friends.
Montezuma Costa Rica – 1,175 Members
This is the official Facebook group for Montezuma. Join the fun, meet new people and stay connected. Tuanis!
Santa Teresa Community – 5,364 Members All about Santa Teresa – Malpais in Spanish
North Americans in Costa Rica:
North Americans in Costa Rica / Free your minds – 631 members Topics include music, ethics, art, health, life & death, hypocrisy, worthy causes, nature, diversity, food, religion, sex, poetry, story submissions, philosophies, politics, and lifestyle.
Texans in Costa Rica
This group is for TEXANS who have, or who are considering, moving to Costa Rica.
The Expat’s Guide to cooking in Costa Rica Uncensored – 159 members Here’s the only cooking in Costa Rica Facebook pages that you can cuss in. Please share your recipes.
Art & Music in Costa Rica:
Costa Rica Expat Artist Community – 680 Members
Calling all artists, visual and performing, to join this group and advertise their work, shows, news and positive information to enjoy your new lifestyle and share it with others.
Live music events in Surfside, Flamingo, Brasilito & Potrero – 894 Members
This Facebook group was created so we can stay informed about the live music scene and events in Surfside, Flamingo, Brasilito and Potrero.
Other nationalities living in Costa Rica:
Nederlanders in Costa Rica – 321 Members
For the Dutch and from the Dutch in Costa Rica.
BelCo (Club Belga – Costarricense) – 80 Members
A social network for Belgians or those who have any ties with Belgium.
Canadian Club of Costa Rica – 241 Members
The friendly people who constitute “The Canadian Club” live either full time, or seasonally, here in Costa Rica. The club encourages networking and the use of business between fellow Canadians and also tries to present themselves favorably in their host country, Costa Rica. So polite!
Deutsche in Costa Rica – 865 Members
Deutsche oder besser deutschsprachige Leute die in Costa Rica leben oder mit Costa Rica eng verbunden sind. IM POSITIVEN SINNE: Neuigkeiten, Erfahrungen, Tips und Spaß in deutscher Sprache austauschen.
Teachers in Costa Rica:
Expat Teachers in Costa Rica – 267 Members
If none of those resources work for you, don’t be dismayed. Pretty much any place in Costa Rica with a strong expat presence will have a bar or cafe with international food – and a bunch of expats sitting around talking. That is always a good place to start!
You see - it should be pretty easy to find and connect with likeminded expats in Costa Rica! Contact me if you need any more help!
PS need more great advice on starting your new life in Costa Rica? Click here!
One of the best ways to get to get to know the heart and soul of your new home and its people is to volunteer.
Although Costa Rica is more affluent than any other country in Central America and has an enviable social services network, there are still plenty of chances for tourists, visitors, and expats to participate in charity work.
Here are some tips on volunteering in Costa Rica:
Eco volunteering, i.e., turtle conservation project
A few more notes:
If you see a place that asks for a program fee, contact them and ask if they take independent volunteers (i.e. if you are already down there, or you aren’t, but you want to organize your own housing, etc. and just show up to the place)
Enjoy Costa Rica - and you're a superstar in my book for wanting to volunteer and help out!
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