Buying a Car in Costa Rica

We discussed shipping a car to Costa Rica in a previous blog post. Have you decided it would be better to leave your Jaguar in the United and States and buy a vehicle better suited to the conditions in Costa Rica? You need to find something to get you around the country you now call home.

Selection of Costa Rica used cars

There are many affordable used cars in Costa Rica from a variety of sources. is the number one online clearinghouse for used cars. Craigslist Costa Rica is also a great resource, especially for fellow expats looking to sell their car before moving back home. Other sites with classified ads are Encuentra24 and Facebook Marketplace.

The car lots in and around San José have the biggest inventory. Alternatively, the small town of Grecia is famous for its used car lots that line the road from the Pan American highway into the center of town.

Many of the vehicles at the used car lots have been imported from the U.S. These are an advantageous choice because they have not yet been beaten to death on Costa Rica’s potholed back roads. Check any car’s history by looking up the VIN number on Carfax or similar online services. Many used car dealers buy vehicles at auction in southern states like Texas (no rust from road salt) for resale here.

Buying a used car in Costa Rica

Asian brands like Toyota, Suzuki, Hyundai and Mitsubishi are some of the most popular vehicles on the road. Spare parts and qualified mechanics are readily available, making them some of the least expensive cars to repair. Honda and Subaru are great brands but parts are harder to find and generally pricier.

Four-wheel drive is not a necessity unless you live in an isolated area or have a steep, ungraded driveway. However, an SUV’s tougher, higher suspension is helpful when navigating rougher roads.

There are a few models of vehicles never sold in the U.S. that are great vehicles for use in Costa Rica. They include the Hyundai Terracan and Galloper, the Toyota Fortuner, which I have one, the Daihatsu Terios, or the Mitsubishi Montero Sport Turbo Diesel Intercooler.

Buying from a private owner can get you a better deal. Get to know the expats in your area and let them know you are in the market for a vehicle. As far as buying from Ticos goes, it is the same as anywhere else. There are honest people and scam artists. You need to be discerning and do your due diligences the same as you would anywhere. Be sure to have a trusted mechanic give it a go over before laying out any cash.

It is important to make sure that the registration (marchamo) and vehicle safety inspection (RITEVE) are current. Both stickers are located in the upper righthand corner of the windshield. The marchamo is paid toward the end of each calendar year. The month the annual inspection is due coincides with the last number of the license plate (1–January, 2–February, etc).

Once you’ve decided on a vehicle, hire a lawyer. “But I didn’t commit a crime!” you exclaim. There, there, relax. A lawyer is required by law for a valid transfer of title. They search the government database to make sure there are no liens or fines on the car from the previous owner and they write the bill of sale. Usually, the buyer pays for this service, but it can sometimes be split between the buyer and seller. The lawyer’s fee is set by the government based on the value of the car.

Howler Monkey near Playa Hermosa Costa Rica

If you are just too nervous to buy a car from a used car dealer or a private party, you can also buy a new car at a dealership. Check online for the location of the dealer who sells the make of vehicle you are interested in. When buying a new car, the registration and inspection is taken care of by the dealership and included in the price. They also get the license plates for you. 

In Liberia where I purchased my car there is a Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia, Chevrolet and a Ford dealership, all carry their brand names and some of the dealerships carry more than one brand.

The great news about buying cars in Costa Rica is that they hold their value. If you get a good deal up front and take good care of the vehicle, you may be able to sell it for the same price you paid or only slightly less a few years later. Another advantage in Costa Rica is that cars are cheaper to maintain. Repairs that would cost thousands back in the U.S. will only be in the hundreds here.

Whether or not you ship or buy a vehicle, or decide to walk everywhere, the important thing is to get out and start exploring this beautiful country you call home!

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Shipping a car to Costa Rica vs buying a vehicle here

“I have heard vehicles are really expensive in Costa Rica,” you say to yourself. “Maybe I should ship my car down to Costa Rica. Surely that will be cheaper!”

Shipping a car to Costa Rica

Here are the answers to your questions: You are right that vehicles cost more in Costa Rica than in North America, for example. You could certainly ship your car here–there are well-established arrangements to do just that. However, it will not necessarily be less expensive to do so.

Before inviting your vehicle to join you in your new life, make sure it is the right vehicle for Costa Rica. If your vehicle was manufactured in America or Europe, you will find it more challenging (and possibly more expensive) to find parts and get repairs. The most common parts available are for Asian vehicles, and every mechanic can fix them. Does your car ride low, hug the road, and fly along at high speeds smoothly and comfortably? You will not enjoy those features nor the experience in Costa Rica. Though most highways are paved here, they are not even close to the Autobahn or a U.S. interstate highway. Rough patches and potholes abound, and slow-moving trucks and congestion make hitting 60 mph an uncommon occurrence. Though you may rarely use the 4-wheel-drive feature of your SUV, you will find the higher, sturdier suspension more important than speed and comfort.

If you decide your vehicle is a perfect fit, make sure it is in good shape before loading it on a boat since it will undergo a thorough inspection upon arrival by the agency Revision Tecnica de Vehiculos (RITEVE) before you are allowed to take possession. This is the same inspection your vehicle will need to pass on an annual basis.


Importing a car to Costa Rica is a common practice, and there are many reputable car importers. The cost of shipping from the closest port, Miami, is about $1000 plus the cost of maritime freight insurance. Shipping insurance covers the vehicle being lost at sea or loss of the container but does not cover damage to the vehicle inside the container or during transit. If you are interested in shipping your car from Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston, or other port cities the price will be higher and fewer shipping dates offered, but it could be more convenient for you.

Your vehicle will arrive at one of Costa Rica’s two ports–Moin (Limon) on the Caribbean side and Caldera on the Pacific coast. Once your vehicle arrives, the shipping company may transport it to their warehouse in the San Jose area. Warehousing fees will be incurred. The officials at the port and the import company will help you deal with customs paperwork and will assist if you don’t speak Spanish. It is possible the car may have been damaged or–rarely–have parts missing. Unfortunately, there is no recourse to recoup those losses.

Now we arrive at the reason cars cost so much in Costa Rica: customs duties. The customs duties on any car 6 years old or newer can be as high as 80% of the value of the vehicle according to importation laws, not the actual price you paid or the Kelly Blue Book value. This website tells you how much that tax will be for your particular vehicle: CR Government’s Vehicle Import Tax Calculator. It is a good idea to look up your car ahead of time. “To be forewarned is to be forearmed.” Armed with your wallet that is.  The government’s market value calculator takes into account every factory feature, option and extra. Mileage and condition are not taken into consideration nor are modifications.

After paying taxes, the customs office will issue a document called a DUA (documento unico administrativo) which is your temporary title for 24-48 hours. This gives you enough time to take your vehicle to be inspected. Once you pass, you can now hire a lawyer to draft the legal document to register your vehicle. Expect to pay around 4.5% of the value of the vehicle to get it registered. Additionally, you will pay the annual road circulation tax (marchamo) and mandatory liability tax. The National Insurance Institute (INS) posts its rates on its website. Once the vehicle is registered, you are assigned license plates. The registration process can take up to one month, but hang in there. You are on the home stretch!

To ship or not to ship? If it is a car that you have owned and cared for, and you have verified that it is a version that is popular here, then it may be to your advantage to ship your vehicle to Costa Rica. You may or may not save money, but there is a lot of peace of mind in driving the ‘devil you know’ versus the devil someone sold you. Which leads us to the next question–Should I buy a car in Costa Rica?

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Utility Costs in Costa Rica, How Much?

Depending on how and where you live, you will experience substantial savings on utility costs in Costa Rica, living in this Central American paradise. There is no need to pay heating bills anywhere in the country–a huge saving over the $300 per month you pay for heat in northern climates just to survive the winter! Water is abundant and high quality.  Phone, Internet and cable TV packages are reasonably priced.

Meters for measuring utility costs in Costa Rica

Other than housing, electricity will be the biggest expense for you. If you choose to live in the beautiful Playas del Coco and Playa Hermosa areas, you will likely need to air condition your residence to some extent. Not only do temperatures remain around 70-90 degrees all year long, but the average humidity is between 70-90% during the month of May through November depending on your exact location. Mid-November through April the humidity averages from 25-60%. Without AC, your home may be too hot and humid for you to feel comfortable, and you may also find it a challenge to stay ahead of mold and mildew growth. However, ceiling fans will alleviate this, depending on how you like it.

So, what can you expect your monthly electricity bill to look like? A two-bedroom, 1000 square foot house will cost about $125 per month to cool. If you only cool your bedroom at night, your cost could be around $80 a month. If you run two or three AC units all day and night in a larger home, your monthly bill could reach $400. It all depends on your standard of living and how you feel comfortable.

Looking out over Playa Hermosa

Some have wondered why electricity costs are so high in a Third World country that gets most of its electricity from renewable sources. Some expats believe they are victims of “gringo pricing,” meaning they believe that the local utility knows that they are foreigners and charges them more than their Tico neighbors. That is absolutely false! The truth is however, your electricity bill IS likely higher than your Tico neighbors because the electric company’s rates favor low consumption. Coopeguanacaste is the electricity provider for the area. It charges 11 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) for the first 200 used. After that, the rate increases to 15 cents per kWh. The Ticos simply consume less energy, so they may stay below the 200 kWh threshold. Even in very hot climates, most locals do not air condition their homes. Generally speaking, they have smaller refrigerators and stoves than their foreign neighbors, and they do not use (or in some cases even own) energy-sucking appliances such as water heaters, ovens, toasters, clothes dryers or hair dryers. If you are accustomed to using these types of appliances then, yes, your utility bill will be significantly higher than your Tico neighbor’s.

So, depending on where you lived before moving to Costa Rica, and how much electricity you consume now that you are here, your monthly utility bill could be lower or higher than you are accustomed to. It is really quite unique to each individual.

Phone, Internet and cable TV packages run about $80 a month. There are several companies offering these services. Kolbi and Claro offer phone, cable and Internet bundles. Movistar is a cellphone service, and CableTica and Sky Satelite offer satellite TV and Internet packages. Most offer excellent services, but it is important to do your homework and see what services are the best in your area and have the most attractive prices. Talk to neighbors and other expats for recommendations.

Costa Rica doesn’t have city gas, only tanks of propane gas, which can be purchased in most small grocery stores. You only buy the tank the first time; after that, when your tank runs out, you simply exchange it for a full one, paying only for the actual propane.

As far as sewage goes, it is “to each his own.” There are a couple of exceptions in upscale neighborhoods in San Jose and Escazu where there are community sewage lines, but in the rest of the country each home or condominium complex has it own septic tank or other wastewater treatment system.

Garbage pickup is typically done twice a week and is the responsibility of the municipality where the property is located. The cost is minimal and is paid when you pay other municipal taxes.

Costa Rica has excellent quality water which is readily available and reasonably priced. Monthly bills for water for normal household usage will be $10-15 per month. If you are watering your lawn and garden every day, that is a different story. Your real estate agent can let you know the particulars of the availability of water in your specific area.

As most expats will confirm, life in Costa Rica may cost less than where you lived before, but it will most certainly be a happier, healthier life that you lived before!

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Covid-19 Update 2021

Update on Covid-19 in Costa Rica: February 18, 2021

Well, we have lived with the Covid-19 virus for about a year now. What a life-changing year it has been! Here is an update of how see things.

Because of Covid-19, we have washed our hands more times this year than in our entire life prior. We no longer see people’s mouths when they talk as we strain to understand their muffled speech. The hug or kiss hello is a thing of the past–a huge change for those of us living in a Latin culture.  We have discovered that almost all social relationships can be maintained through video conferencing. We have binged on comfort foods and our favorite TV shows. We have exercised more (or less) and done more projects around the house (or none at all). All in all, it has been a unique year, no doubt about it!

Best place to be during Covid-19 pandemic

What will life be like in Costa Rica during 2021 with COVID? It seems there will be improvement, but it is unclear yet how much or how fast as new case number are going down. Almost 100,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered, the office of the President announced Monday. With a population of 5 million, that puts our percentile behind the States and Canada. As has happened in most countries, vaccine supplies have lagged behind the hoped-for schedules, but Pfizer is working to improve the supply chain of its vaccine and plans to resume deliveries in mid-February. Costa Rica has also signed up for the AstraZeneca vaccine which recently was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) for emergency use.

After health-care workers, first responders, and nursing home residents, the vaccine will be given to citizens and residents age 58 and older. The next group to receive the vaccine will be those 18-58 who have risk factors. After them are the teachers, followed by those who work or study in clinical fields.

Joseph with his Covid-19 mask

The country’s tourism board is certain that visiting Costa Rica is low-risk during the COVID mess. And even though they are the tourism sector, the truth is most things tourists do are outside. Worldwide it has been discovered that there are different strains of the virus, some more virulent than others. In my unskilled opinion, the strain that plagues Costa Rica does not seem to be as deadly as in other countries. In some small communities here a large percentage of the population has had the virus (as it spreads through families), and almost no one has been hospitalized. The mortality rate is extremely low. Even persons with high risk factors have beaten the virus without hospitalization. The maximum capacity of the country’s ICU beds has never been reached.

Of course, I am not promoting a false sense of security. One does not want to become complacent. Wearing an appropriate mask, washing one’s hands regularly and social distancing are still an absolute necessity. The advantage we have in Costa Rica is our year-round summer weather. There is no risk of cabin-fever! And socializing is even possible (with 6 feet of separation) at the beach or hiking in one of the many beautiful national parks, at restaurants with outdoor dining facilities. All that sunshine and fresh air is the best possible thing you can do for your lungs and immune system!

Many airlines have resumed flights to both international airports in Costa Rica. To enter the country, you will need to have completed the online “Health Pass” form which can be found at You must have proof of having obtained travel insurance, either a pre-approved Costa Rican policy from INS or Sagicor, or an international policy that covers COVID-19 medical expenses of at least $50,000 and $2,000 for lodging. A negative Covid test and quarantining upon arrival are NOT required.

However, you may need a negative Covid test to get back to your home country, check with your local and authorities. The test is readily available in the Playas Del Coco area, if you are coming contact me (see below) and I will send you the information.

Certainly, we all long for the time when life will be “normal” again. In the meantime, Costa Rica is a better much option to be located when deal with this pandemic. Be safe, be healthy and Pura Vida.

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Costa Rica Property Tax, How Much?

Many times, I get asked “how much is the property tax in Costa Rica?” The sweet and short answer is: it is very low.

property tax in Costa Rica

Costa Rica property tax is based on the registered value of the property. The value is registered with the local municipality and the national registry. Say for example you purchase a great ocean view lot in the Playa del Coco area. The lot has views to die for and you getting ready to build your dream home. The lots cost you as an example, $100,000 US dollars.
The property tax will be only $250.00 per year, plus garbage and parks tax. Depending on the municipality it could be roughly another $100.00 per year. Still, that is incredibly low. But hold on, you want to build your dream home, right? Well, the property tax will go up. Let me explain.

Before you even start the construction you of course need building permits. It is a bit of a process, but a very good one. First your final design and blue prints need to be sent to the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos de Costa Rica, this is the Federated College of Engineers and Architects. They will review your plans to ensure that the design of construction and plans meet Costa Rica building codes. By the way, the Costa Rica building codes are very strong, some of the best in the world actually, especially pertaining to earthquake resistance strength.
Once the College of Engineers and Architects grants approvals for the plan, they will place a value of the construction based on formulas they have created and adjust annually based on material costs. This dollar amount is always less than what you are paying a builder to construct your home – I know I have built 2 homes already in Costa Rica.
How does this relate to the property tax value? When it is time apply for the building permits with the local municipality, they will require the approved plans and construction value the College of Engineers and Architects, along with other items, but that’s another topic to cover.
The registered value of your lot, that was previously registered is now added together with construction value. Another example to get to the final number: the piece of land cost you $100,000 the construction value let’s say for fun is $200,000, Now the new registered value in the municipality for property tax purpose is $300,000. Your new property taxes would then be $ 750.00 per year. Now that is low!!
When purchasing a property that is already constructed, the formulation is different but the percentage of tax remains the same, .25% of the registered value. With property taxes this low, it is no wonder many people are buying property in Costa Rica and making Costa Rica their next adventure.

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Costa Rica Corporation Tax

Once upon a time in Costa Rica, it was relatively simple to form a corporation, and it was even easier to maintain it. The government imposed no annual fees, and the requirement for the corporate officers to meet once each year was no problem to fulfill.

Sample Costa Rica Corporation Tax document

Two factors worked together to change that. In the first place, the previous low maintenance system was prone to corruption. Unsavory types used a corporation to hide their identity and their ill-gotten gains. They could own a Costa Rican corporation anonymously and use it to launder money from the illegal drug trade or other illicit activities. Money and property could change hands without anyone knowing who the participants were. The second factor was taxes. The government realized that it was missing out on an important source of tax revenue. Tens of thousands of corporations were being used to hold assets, but the government wasn’t collecting a dime in taxes or fees from them because they didn’t have any income to report.

A new law enacted in September 2019 requires that a Costa Rican corporation  disclose the identity of their shareholders or owners. That adjustment addresses the first factor. It prevents corporations from anonymously engaging in illegal activities. Other new requirements address the second factor. Now all Costa Rican corporations must pay annual fees and make yearly reports to the government about their income, assets, and ownership.

Costa Rican corporations must hold an annual shareholders meeting either in person or by proxy. The date, time, and place of the meeting as well as the names of those in attendance are recorded in the corporation’s legal registry. Any modifications that are made to the corporation’s structure are also recorded. All corporations in Costa Rica must maintain three legal record books. If the corporation does more than hold assets–that is, if it engages in economic activity–it must also maintain three accounting record books.

The corporation’s legal representative must file annually in April with the Registry of Transparency and Final Beneficiaries of the Central Bank. The filing includes details about the corporation and the name, address, identification number, and contact information of each shareholder or owner and their percentage of ownership. To file, the representative must first obtain a digital signature card from an authorized bank. Such cards are only issued to Costa Rican citizens and residents. A non-resident who owns a corporation can comply with the reporting requirements by granting a power of attorney to a third party who will then obtain the digital signature and file the disclosure.

The government charges an annual fee that must be paid to keep the corporation in good standing. The fee is approximately $120 for non-active corporations that are used only as holding companies for real estate. The annual fee for active corporations is based on income and is typically between $200 and $380. According to law 9428, the tax must be paid by January 31 each year. The company’s legal representative is responsible to declare and pay the tax. If you have don’t know if the taxes are current or overdue, you can consult the National Registry database (

What will happen if the tax isn’t paid? According to the Costa Rican code of taxation rules and procedures, sanctions and penalties will apply. A short term consequence of non-payment is that the National Registry will not issue, certify, or register any documents for the corporation until the taxes are paid. Neither the government nor any public institution will do business with an overdue corporation. The long-term consequences are even more severe. If the tax is not paid for three years in a row, the corporation will be dissolved. What about dissolving the corporation voluntarily? Even then, any outstanding debts must be paid first.

Clearly, the task of maintaining a corporation in Costa Rica is not as simple as it used to be. Especially if you were thinking to use one for the sole purpose of holding a property in the name of the corporation. Now it is a lot easier and more simplified to just purchase a property and put it in your personal name. The key to success is to hire a knowledgeable notary to keep you up to date and help you stay legal.

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Whales in Costa Rica

Humpback whales have been wintering in Costa Rica’s warm coastal waters for thousands of years. How you can you time your visit to be here when the whales arrive?

One way to perfectly time the arrival of Humpback whales is to have a home to call your own! Then you will never miss whale watching season, and you’ll have a place to enjoy year-round.

Whales leave the Pacific northwest in the late fall as the water begins to cool. They travel south for 5,000 miles arriving off the coast of Costa Rica in December and staying until April. Their South American brothers depart the southern Pacific, as that hemisphere’s winter approaches, and spend July through November in Costa Rican waters. Their migration is the longest of any mammal in the world–they journey up to 11,500 miles round trip! There are no long layovers for these travelers. One humpback was recorded making a 3,000-mile trip in only 36 days.

Beautiful bay for watching Humpback Whales in Costa Rica

When the humpbacks arrive, do they do what other tourists do? Lay around a pool with an umbrella drink in hand? Of course not, and they are not here on vacation. Humpbacks use the months in warm water to go about the serious (yet fun) business of finding a mate, breeding, and rearing their young. Since one female will have multiple male partners during her lifetime, competition for her attentions is fierce. The magnificent displays of breaching, lob-tailing, tail- and fin-slapping, rolls, lunges and dives ending in a flourish of the tail are all for the benefit of the ladies. Males also attract females by singing and making elaborate bubble displays. Eleven months later, a baby whale is born that weighs up to one ton and is 12-16 feet long. That seems to be where the female whale’s fun ends, but from the displays of affection that pass between Mama and Baby, it doesn’t seem as though she minds motherhood too much. The baby stays by its mother’s side for up to a year.

The two migrations do not overlap, so there is an opportunity to see humpback whales in the waters off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica nine months out of the year. The Antarctic migration has the most whales and peak season is August to October. This is also a great time to come and visit.

Costa Rica’s northern coast has fewer whales passing by, but humpback whales and other types of whales are often spotted on catamaran, snorkel, or dive tours during the peak months of the migration. Every year though, a female whale comes to Bahia Culebra in the Pacific northwest and birth a calf. If you are fortunate enough to spot the whale near your boat you will never forget it. Watching the mother teach her baby to rise and breath or dive is just an incredible site. Humpbacks are a friendly species that interact with bottlenose dolphins and other whales. Not all the antics have to do with mating. Whales have been observed playing with other species in various locations around the world.

It needs to be mentioned that Costa Rica does not allow swimming with dolphins or whales. Of course, if you are swimming and they approach you, it means they are unaware of the rules and you are not at fault. But resist the urge to dive from your boat and join them.

If seeing a humpback whale is on your bucket list, make plans to visit Costa Rica when they do: August and September. Have your camera in hand and your sense of awe at the ready. You are about to have an experience you will never forget.

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Travel Insurance for Costa Rica

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many countries are requiring tourists to purchase travel insurance prior to visiting, and Costa Rica is no exception. Even as a seasoned traveler, it may not have been your habit to acquire travel health insurance. But in the new reality of pandemics, it is something to be considered even if not required.

Beautiful Costa Rica luxury Villa overlooking the Pacific

The government of Costa Rica is currently requiring tourists to purchase health insurance covering the exact number of days you plan to be in Costa Rica. The insurance must cover medical and accommodation (lodging and food) expenses for 14 days of quarantine should your stay need to be extended due to exposure to the virus. The coverage amount required is $20,000 USD in Covid-19 medical coverage if you use a Costa Rican insurance company. Currently, there are two companies approved to sell Covid insurance: INS (the government insurer) and Segicor (a private company). Policies can be purchased on their websites. Segicor’s rate is a flat daily rate, which usually makes it less expensive for shorter trips than INS. The INS rate is variable taking into account your age and length of stay. INS is reportedly less expensive for longer stays.

If you use an international company, the minimum amount is $50,000 USD for health and $2,000 in case of quarantine. Tourists entering Costa Rica have reported using other international insurance providers that have been accepted by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute. To confirm your insurance will be accepted by the Costa Rican government, you will need to complete an Online Epidemiological Form (Health Pass) within 48 hours of your flight (NO earlier). You will be asked for personal information like your name, age, nationality, passport number, flight details, and accommodation arrangements in Costa Rica. You will then upload your insurance policy so that the Tourism Institute can verify it in advance of your arrival. If approved, a QR code is generated, which you will show on your mobile phone to immigration officials in the airport upon arrival.

One day (we hope) Covid-19 will be a thing of the past, and we will all be able to travel freely again without the fear of being attacked by a lethal virus while innocently sitting in an airport waiting room. But, you may ask yourself: is travel health insurance a good idea even in “normal” times? There is no better way to ruin a relaxing vacation than with a freak accident or sudden illness.

It may be that the local insurance company where you live will cover health care costs on foreign soil. To find out, you should call the customer service department of your health insurance company to verify whether their medical coverage extends to regions outside the U.S. Some insurers cover emergency situations. Some coverage may have limits on the amount of time you are covered so triple check. Medicare and Medicaid do not cover foreign health care costs. With regard to Canada’s healthcare coverage, the government website clearly states that it does not pay for hospital and medical bills incurred while abroad nor does it cover the expense of medical evacuations.

Some insurance companies allow you to add foreign coverage to your existing policy at an additional cost. Be aware that there are a lot of options offered by insurance companies – read the fine print. Other factors that may affect the cost are the country or countries you plan to visit, length of stay, and the total cost of the trip. An excellent tool to simplify the process of comparing and choosing an insurer is the website Simply submit your trip information and you will receive multiple quotes from the best insurance companies, customized to fit your specific needs.

Should you have the misfortune of finding yourself visiting an emergency room during your visit to Costa Rica, be assured that the health care system here is one of the most advanced in Latin America. Public and private medical attention is readily available throughout the country, and that is no exception in the Playas del Coco area. Recently, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Health affirmed that no patient will be refused medical care because of their nationality or undocumented legal status.

Travel health insurance covers emergency medical treatment may be just the thing to relieve that last little bit of nagging worry prior to your trip, allowing you relax completely during your visit to the tropical paradise that is Costa Rica.

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Ship your stuff or not?

Shipping to Costa Rica

Your move to Costa Rica is a chance to start over, start fresh. Surely you won’t need to ship all your personal belongings to Costa Rica. You are going to get rid of everything and live the simple life. Well, not everything. In fact, there are a few sentimental things you simply can’t part with, like pictures and that antique vase. Those things will fit in a suitcase, you decide. Should you ship the rest?

But what about Grandma’s dresser? In fact, maybe it would be better just to ship down all your old stuff and not have to buy all new things when you get here. Wouldn’t that be simpler? Surely, they wouldn’t charge much for my old junk. What would it cost? How long will it take? Which items will they tax? Will they arrive damaged? Suddenly life doesn’t not seem so simple.

So which is better—ship items to Costa Rica or buying them here? You will need to ask: Is what I want, and/or need, available in Costa Rica? How do I go about shipping things to Costa Rica and what does it cost? How much will I pay in import taxes?

With the exception of Grandma’s dresser, most of what you need or want is available in Costa Rica. International retailers like Walmart and Pricesmart (similar to Costco) are countrywide. Appliances can be found there as well as in local appliance chains such as El Gollo and Casa Blanca or Monge. Well-known brands such as Samsung, Whirlpool, Oster, Frigidaire, GE and others are available . Check out these stores’ websites to compare prices. Many household items–from linens to lamps–can be found at inexpensive prices in Pequeno Mundo, a national chain with a store in Liberia, Guanacaste. Better quality home goods can be found in stores such as Cemaco and Aliss in the Central Valley. Unless you have a favorite platter or vase you cannot live without, it is unnecessary to ship household items. You will find what you need here at comparable prices.
If you choose to ship Grandma’s dresser and that oh-so-comfortable recliner to Costa Rica, your possessions can be packed in an ocean freight container. Stackable steel cargo containers measure approximately 8 feet wide by 8 feet tall and come in 20- and 40-foot lengths. The 20-foot model will accommodate a 1- 2 bedroom household, and the 40-foot model is large enough to hold the items from a 3 -5 bedroom household. A vehicle can also be shipped in the container, but it takes up a lot of floor space and you can’t pack up to the ceiling unless you build some sort of framework over it. If you have just a few items to ship, you can place your items on one or more pallets and ship them in a shared container. This is called a “less than container load” (LCL).

As far as cost goes, when you opt to use an entire container, you pay a set price no matter how much or how little you pack into it. The cost of a shared container is based on volume and weight. You will want to contact a shipping company and ask for a quote.

I did a quick search for the cost to ship a container from ports on the East Coast of the United States to Puerto Limon, Costa Rica’s Caribbean port. The search revealed an average cost of $1200 for a 20-foot container and $1700 for a 40-foot container. However, the costs don’t stop there. You will need to pay warehousing fees until your shipment can be inspected and import duties calculated. Customs officials will review the inventory of your shipment and assign a value to each item, whether new or used. Generally the tax is between 13% and 49% of the assigned value. A list of items and their tax rate can be found at Reviewing these lists will help you decide whether an item is worth importing. After paying the import duty, you will need arrange for transportation of your goods from the port to where you live, and if that is Guanacaste, the land transportation could be as much or more than the ocean passage.

If you are considering importing a vehicle, be sure to consult the official government website Enter the make, model, and features of your vehicle, and the calculator will tell you how much the tax will be. Be warned that vehicle import duties range from 52% to 79% of the Blue Book value. You are better buying a new one here.,

As you can see, it is extremely important to do your due diligence before deciding to ship everything you own. Knowing what is and isn’t important to you will be a lot easier when analyzed in the light of time, effort and costs. The answer to the question of whether you should ship your things or not is very individual, very personal. If you make an informed, well-thought-out decision, your move to Costa Rica will be as easy and refreshing as you always dreamed it would be!

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Build a Home in Costa Rica, Save on Taxes

Are you thinking of building your dream home in Costa Rica? I have done it 2 times already. It can be a very fulfilling experience; it can also be a nightmare if you don’t choose the right builder. Fortunately, I got lucky with both contractors I selected.  They were great.

New home being built in Costa Rica
A Lot of people are intimidated by the idea of building a home in Costa Rica, even if they have visited the country many times.  Also, the thought of building a home when you may not be here to watch every step of the construction can be scary as well – there are just too many unknowns. However, if you choose the right contractor, it is not as bad as you may think.

When building a home, it is important to know that in 2019 the Costa Rican government passed a law stating that all services used in the construction of a home are required to pay the mandatory 13% VAT, or value added tax. The good news is, the Costa Rican government has rolled back that law due to the Covid-19 pandemic in order to help re-activate the building sector.

What does this mean for you? If you decide to build that dream home in Costa Rica it will cost you less provided you start construction before August 31, 2020.

Here is a breakdown and timeline for paying less taxes:

Law 9887 adds a new transitory V bis to law N. 9635, Strengthening Law Public Finance, to Promote Economic Reactivation, and its reforms, establishing reduced rates for engineering, architecture, topography services and civil works construction when such services are provided to projects that are duly registered before the Costa Rican Engineers and Architects Association (CFIA).

1. From September 16, 2020 to August 31, 2021 (inclusive) will be fully exempt from the VAT.
2. From September 1, 2021 to August 31, 2022 (inclusive) a reduced rate of 4% VAT.
3. From September 1, 2022 to August 31, 2023 (inclusive) a reduced rate of 8% VAT.
4. From September 1, 2023 forward, these services will be taxed at the standard rate of 13% VAT.

What does this mean in real dollars? Well, that all depends on what you are building and how big the property is. Some engineers and architects charge a percentage of the size of the and scope of the work. Others charge a flat fee.
If you are considering building your dream home make sure you save this article and confirm with your builder, engineer, architect and surveyor to make sure you are not charged extra.

Want to keep up with everything that is happening here in Costa Rica?  Join my email list!

Want more information about Costa Rica in general visit

Interested in owning a property in Costa Rica, checkout some great options here