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Many people who move here assume that the Costa Rica mail system will work just like it did at home, predictable and generally reliable. But once you arrive, and your first delivery gets hung up in Customs, incurs holding fees and has to be picked up at a location 4 hours away that results in it not being worth the time and effort to go get it, you realize that that was a bad assumption.
We experienced all of this shortly after our arrival which led us to experiment with the Costa Rica mail system through trial and error. First we shipped an inexpensive book via Amazon as a test case. It did finally arrive but it took two months but did require numerous phone calls. Some Christmas cards, sent by family members in the US, finally did arrive. One made it in an amazingly fast 10 days. The other in 4 months. Others never arrived, but maybe someday it will just show up.
The amount of Costa Rica mail that you need is far less than back in your home country. There is no junk mail and you will find that most things are done online. The Costa Rica mail system is very basic and pretty much unreliable and unpredictable, but it still is somewhat refreshing when you realize that you can do without most of it anyway.
However, there will still be the need to deliver ATM, credit cards and other documents from your home country. These are important deliveries that are needed, and there is no way that I would want these traveling through the standard mail system of a foreign country.
We found a secure and relatively fast process, as described in this guide, that has worked flawlessly since our just after our arrival in April of 2019.
Costa Rica does have a postal service called Correos de Costa Rica. As compared to the United States, it is a tiny operation, and delivery can be unpredictable, if it even happens.
Some people say that the Costa Rica mail system will surprise you. You will be sitting outside on a beautiful afternoon and a guy riding an under-powered motor cycle shows up with your mail from another country. Others say, good luck if anything ever shows up.
In Costa Rica, exact street addresses generally don't exist and are usually referenced by a noteworthy landmark such as "the green house, 100 meters north of the third mango tree". One person recently had an issue when the mango trees were cut down.
In order to get Costa Rica mail delivered reliability, you will need start by working with a company to receive your mail, provided that you are not already using a friend or relative to do this for you. The purpose of this company is to receive all of your mail, select what you want delivered and then have it shipped to another company in the United States, that will then forward it to Costa Rica.
We chose US Global Mail. You get a physical street address in a state of your choice. For a nominal monthly fee, they will collect your mail and then upload photos of the envelopes. After receiving notification via email that you have received mail, you go online and select which ones you want delivered or alternately opened, scanned and emailed to you. Delivery and scanning will incur additional fees. Those envelopes that you don't want will get shredded. For the mail that you want delivered, you then direct US Global Mail to ship, via the carrier of your choice, to the address of the mail forwarder in the United States that will send it to Costa Rica as described in the following section.
Once your mail receiver is in place, you need a method to get it forwarded to Costa Rica. We opened an account with Liberty Express in Tamarindo, located about 20 minutes south of where we live. They have several offices throughout Costa Rica. They are also an authorized DHL agent. DHL is a great company and preferred over UPS and Fed-Ex for international shipping because this is the main focus of their business.
Liberty Express assigns you a unique customer number and a Miami address. You then have your mail receiver ship to Liberty Express in Miami. Don't forget to include your customer number as part of the address.
Liberty Express then coordinates and forwards the shipment from Miami via DHL, and handles the clearance through Costa Rica Customs, followed by delivery to their office. They send you a text when the shipment arrives in Miami and another one when it arrives in Costa Rica and is ready for pickup. You will be responsible for paying the shipping costs, import fees, any taxes at the time that you go pickup the package.
We have found their service to be flawless and fast with most deliveries taking about a week from Miami.
If you are an Amazon Prime member, you can ship directly to Liberty Express in Miami for free and only pay for getting it to Costa Rica. Still more expensive than the US, but very convenient, especially for those items that you just can't get in Costa Rica.
If you move to another address in your home country before you relocate to Costa Rica, I recommend setting up US Global Mail a few months in advance of your departure. Then submit the US Postal Service change of address so that US Global Mail receives all mail. US Global Mail can then deliver to your temporary address before you leave the country, and then once you depart, change the forwarding address to Liberty Express in Miami.
Pharmaceutical companies are prohibited from shipping medicines to a foreign country, and if you try to send via an international carrier to Costa Rica, it will be confiscated.
If you have important medications that you need to take, most likely they can be found here, and often times at a lower cost. However, make sure you have an ample supply before leaving home.
In addition, some lotions, herbs and supplements are prohibited from entering Costa Rica. Liberty Express can provide information on what can and can't be shipped, so please check with them.