We've covered a lot of big, important topics in regards to your move to Costa Rica like finding housing, working, visa, and health insurance. So, now it's time to start getting into the nuts and bolts of less noticeable items on your checklist. For instance, what to do with your mail back in the U.S. or your home country once you move? Can you easily receive mail in Costa Rica? What about shipping things privately?
Let's get into those nuts and bolts:
Your mail back home:
You’ll want to go online with as many bills, payments, and accounts as possible, but still there will be some correspondence that needs to be physically mailed to a U.S. or home country address.
There are services that will accept mail on your behalf, open it and scan it, but they are really expensive.
The best way to go is to change your official address back home to a family member or close friend’s residence. Assure them that you won’t be getting too much mail and ask them (or pay them!) to open your mail, take a quick digital photo of whatever letters look important, and email those photos to you.
In exchange, you can put them up at your house or apartment when they come visit you in Costa Rica!
Maybe you simply file a change of address to your new registered address back home before you head down to Costa Rica, but remember that this means the kind person helping you will receive a flood of junk mail, offers, catalogs, and other undesirable paper. So I just canceled my mail at my old address and did an official address change only through the few entities that are important to get mail from (right now that’s IRS, health insurance, and cell phone carrier for me).
I still use a home address of a friend in the U.S. for all my official mail, and it works great.
Sending and receiving mail in Costa Rica:
People don’t rely much on the national post system in Costa Rica for a good reason! There is no reliable home delivery mail service. In fact, most Ticos don’t even have real addresses, just directions like “500 meters south of the church and 200 meters west of the school.” If you want to get mail, you need to go to the local Costa Rican post office and get a box for around $8-12 a year, called ‘apartado.’
However, if you do go for this option, you will need to wait, as many locations require a one-year waiting period before you are able to sign up for the box.
Mail from the U.S. or abroad:
Mail from the United States takes about three weeks to a month so make sure you set up all your bills online, and you have a good Internet banking system in place before moving!
U.S. and other military veterans living in Costa Rica are required to have a mailbox so they can receive official and important documents. The most efficient and cost effective way to get things to you and back home is still to pack stuff with friends who are coming or going! Choose folks who are reliable, but if you start asking around, there are always friends and friends of friends coming down to Costa Rica for a vacation soon.
Politely ask if they carry a few things down for you. If your stuff is heavy, pay their luggage fees for any extra weight.
There are a few options for private shipping companies:
• Jetbox, Aerocasillas and Mailboxes Etc. charge for ownership of a US-based PO Box
• When you want to send something just send it to your PO box in the U.S. and they’ll receive it
• One charge for shipping from the PO box to Costa Rica, and very low base rate per month
• Cheaper option charges higher monthly price with unlimited free shipping option
• The whole process takes less than two weeks
• FedEx, UPS, and DHL are efficient but very expensive, $100 per 2lb package
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