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What to bring when relocating and what not

Estimated Reading Time: 7 Minutes

What to bring when relocating and what not

What to bring when moving to Costa Rica? I bet you don’t know!

There is stuff you love and there is stuff you think is important. When you’re asking what to bring when relocating, you should probably make a list.


  • The house is sold,
  • Also, the cars are sold,
  • You’ve had the garage sales and Craigslist sales,
  • What’s left you are going to bring, to Costa Rica. It’s all packed and in the safe care of your mover-broker,
  • Utilities have been terminated,
  • Address-change notifications sent
  • The forwarding address of your new home in Costa Rica is set up.

Should you just bring everything you think you need?

Limited space

You’ve said your goodbyes from friends and neighbors.  You have decided what to bring because you can’t live without it for the next six to twelve months. Except, you’ve got very limited space. So you have to reduce even more. Now you can’t decide what to bring and what not.

I can’t determine your priority items when you fly to Costa Rica. But I can help by telling you what we found to be

  • Important,
  • Very expensive
  • 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 to bring. You won’t have enough room in those bags for everything.

If you don’t have extra air miles, pay for the extra bag(s). It’s worth it. Just don’t go over 50 lbs.; overweight baggage fees are not worth it.

Airline miles

Some frequent flyers and million-mile award members get an extra baggage allowance. 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.

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

Return ticket

Remember, You’ll have to live quite a while without something you forgot to bring or can’t find in Costa Rica. Inevitably, there will be a few items you thought were not necessary. So, better resign to it. The way it is set up now, you’ll have to leave the country in 90 days. You need to have a return ticket, you won’t be allowed to enter Costa Rica without one. So, you can use your mandatory exit to return to North America in three months. Then you can pick up or buy the things you forgot.

All imported

Very few packaged products are manufactured in Costa Rica. 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.

Should you just bring everything you think you need?

My list

Here’s my list of considerations of what to bring:

  • 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.
  • An assortment of band-aids; you can buy them here by piece. Less-expensive generics are not common.
  • 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. It will take seven months or more to be part of the national CAJA medical program and they might not even cover it.

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. Or you can buy online.

Join PriceSmart, it’s Costa Rica’s clone of Costco. They are even selling some of the same or slightly re-packaged products. They also offer 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.

Should you just bring everything you think you need?


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 on those elevations. 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 to 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. 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. 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.

Should you just bring everything you think you need?


If you are planning to use electronic gear, it’s even more expensive here. So, bring in your carry-on anything you need to 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.


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 in 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 on what to bring when relocating to Costa Rica can give you some assistance.  Have a great trip and see you soon in Costa Rica.

The Author

The author of this blog, Ticonuevo, is a US expat who moved to Costa Rica. He and his wife 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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