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What do you need bring as a new Costa Rica expat and what not

What do you need bring as a new Costa Rica expat and what notWhat do you need bring when you move to Costa Rica? I bet you don’t know!


  • the house is sold,
  • the cars are sold,
  • you’ve had the garage and Craigslist sales,
  • the things you are keeping are packed and in the safe care of your mover-broker,
  • the utilities have been terminated,
  • address-change notifications sent
  • also set up a forwarding address of your new home in Costa Rica.

Limited space

You’ve said your goodbyes and you are ready to take all of the things you figure you can’t live without for the next six to twelve months. Except, you’ve got very limited space. And you can’t decide what do you need bring and which the indispensable items ought to be.

I can’t determine your priority items when you fly down here. But I can help by telling you what we found to be important, very expensive or hard-to-impossible to find in Costa Rica. Your space with carry-on bags and check-in luggage will be very limited. Most airlines have cut back on the number of free bags you are allowed. Be prepared to find out what do you need bring. You won’t have enough room in those bags for everything. Some frequent flyers and million-mile award members get an extra baggage allowance. If you don’t, pay for the extra bag(s). It’s worth it. Just don’t be over 50 lbs.; overweight baggage fees are not worth it. What do you need bring as a new Costa Rica expat and what not

Airline miles

One comfortable, but expensive way to get more bags with your airline ticket is to go business or first class. We used airline miles. So, the cost wasn’t an issue. One upside, which you would normally consider a downside, associated with using air miles is: these tickets are seldom non-stop. For us flying United Airlines, this meant we had a long enough layover in Houston.

Fortunately, the airline’s PetSafe crew had time to take our dog out of cargo and walk him (for an additional fee—set up and paid in advance).

Return ticket

Remember, we’re talking about quite a while to live without something you forgot to bring or can’t find a replacement for in Costa Rica. Inevitably, there will be a few items that you need to decide on what do you need bring. So, be resigned to it. The way it is set up here now, you’ll have to leave the country for, at least, 72 hours in 90 days. You will also have a return ticket. You won’t be allowed down here without one. So, you can always elect to use your mandatory exit to return to your old home in North America in three months, Then you can pick up things you forgot, have depleted or didn’t realize you would need.

All imported

Very few packaged products are manufactured here. So, it becomes more expensive primarily, because of the shipping cost to get it here. Also, probably, because there’s  less of it around and it’s more in demand.

My list

Here’s my list of considerations:

  • vitamins,
  • non-prescription drugs,
  • makeup,
  • toiletries are expensive and hard to find in volume packaging (aspirin and ibuprofen typically come in packages of 10 or 12).
  • Bring an assortment of band-aids; they are sold here by the each and less-expensive generics are not common.
  • Bring tubes of hydrocortisone and triple-biotic creams. If you have prescriptions, try to bring them with you. It will be difficult and probably expensive to get more prescriptions here until you are part of national CAJA medical program in seven months or more.

Where to buy

Your exclusive or favorite makeup may or may not be available here. If it is, it will be found at the Multi-Plaza Mall in Escazu, but it will be more expensive. Substitute your favorite brands for what the locals use and you’ll probably save a bundle over time.

Join PriceSmart, it’s Costa Rica’s clone of Costco. They are even selling some of the same or slightly re-packaged products and includes the exact same pizza and hot dog stand. For some of you in the South and Midwest, Costco is virtually the same as Sam’s Club—a “big-box store”. There are several Walmarts here, but you won’t find many discounts or house brands.

What do you need bring as a new Costa Rica expat and what notClothing

In most places in Costa Rica, it never gets cold and seldom gets cool, even at night. An exception may be at the higher elevations, but we haven’t spent much time up there—so, I’m not an expert. I packed a couple of sweaters and sweatshirts. And haven’t come close to putting one of them on in 3 ½ months. Pack your lightest weight clothes.

Another difficult decision on what do you need bring is what type of clothing. Bring wash and wear and no-iron garments: they are very expensive here. If you are used to wearing shorts, wear them around the house, pool and at the beach. But they are generally a social “no-no” here in public. Quality underwear and lingerie are quite expensive as well. We are close to the equator. So, the sun is hard on the skin.


Sunscreen is plentiful and necessary, but if you have a special need, bring plenty of your brand. Also, bring a non-DEET insect repellant. They are available here, but only in only a few choices. Quality, non-prescription sunglasses are even more expensive here, but cheap non-polarized versions are plentiful and even sold by street vendors.


If you or your wife are planning to do a lot of cooking and baking, bring an in-oven thermometer. Virtually every oven here has an oven temperature that can’t be trusted. Also, in-oven thermometers are impossible to find. If you or your spouse have some favorite cooking utensils, bring them if you can find room. Some of the more exotic spices and all aged cheeses are very expensive. Unsweetened cereal is hard to find and incredibly expensive. A 17 oz. box of Grape-Nuts is over $8.00 (2013 prices). So, bring a box and plan to nurse it along.


If you are planning to use electronic gear, it’s even more expensive here. So, bring in your carry-on anything what do you need bring. And bring a surge protector (or buy them here) for everything as there’s plenty of lightning in the rainy season that can fry your gear if it’s unprotected.

Setting up Skype and/or Vonage internet accounts before you come is also strongly recommended to keep in touch with family and friends. What do you need bring as a new Costa Rica expat and what not


Be sure to bring all of your account numbers and account info plus a few checks from active bank accounts. You can legally take up to $10,000 cash per person. Take precautions, but take as much cash as is comfortable. Also, don’t forget to bring your passport, Costa Rican binder and your contact lists.

I hope this article can give you some assistance in what do you need bring when moving here. Have a great trip and see you next week in Costa Rica.

The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica and used the services of GoDutch Realty to purchase a property in Costa Rica. In his blogs, Ticonuevo describes his own experiences of taking the step of moving to Costa Rica and getting a new life started.

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