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Our tips for moving to Costa Rica

Our tips for moving to Costa RicaI titled this blog, “our tips for moving to Costa Rica” it easily could have been titled “our moving nightmare.” It seems that even when you are careful, get recommendations and follow expert advice, everything still can go to heck in a hand basket.

As I have already covered some of our moving to Costa Rica experiences in my previous blogs, I will skip over much of the detail and just hit a few of the relevant “lowlights.” Even though we were careful and went by the book, there are things happened to us that you may be able to avoid.

After soliciting moving quotes, we selected an experienced Costa Rican international mover given to us by a trusted “recommender.” This C.R. mover was bonded as was their U.S. agent that packed us in California. (We wanted to insure our load and bonded agents are required to allow the client’s possessions to be insured while stored and in transit.)

The shipping manifest

Bonded movers are required as part of their bond to: pack and box everything; label each item or box with a number; and identify it and its contents on a shipping manifest they create. Our movers were at our house in California for three and one-half days inventorying, packing, crating, labeling and physically moving our belongings out of the house and into their moving truck. One problem we had was Spanish was their first language (only one of the movers spoke some English and he was not the foreman). This proved to be a significant communications obstacle as the foreman had the final say and made all of the decisions for the crew. We were never certain if our questions or wishes were being fully comprehended and acted upon. If you can, insist when contracting with your mover that the moving crew speaks your language. (Here, perhaps, one could argue for our learning Spanish before we left California.)

We watched the process as carefully as we could between interruptions, but as it turned out, our crew loaded 42 items more than were listed on the manifest. When it was finally counted by Costa Rica customs when the container was unpacked in Costa Rica, there were 42 more items than were entered on the manifest. For instance, there were three bundles of garden tools that had only one number and only one line entered on the manifest. If you do nothing else, be certain that each and every item or box has a separate number and is entered separately on the shipping manifest. Not having this match up when being unloaded caused some of our essential items to be held by customs for an additional six months.


Label all your boxes you are shipping to Costa Rica

Label all your boxes


Moving insurance coverage

I mentioned our desire to insure our possessions and there are three types of moving insurance coverage available when bringing your belongings here in a shipping container.

1) Basic insurance: is included with your container shipment by the shipping company at no additional cost and covers the whole load, on the sole occurrence that the ship sinks at sea and your whole load is lost.

2) “By weight” insurance where you can insure your whole load for any losses incurred during storage or its transit by sea. This is the most comprehensive and the most expensive.

3) Value inventory covers a specific insured inventory, which you create before the move giving a replacement value to specific items. This list is given to your bonded mover, who arranges for this insurance. Usually, you include in this insured value inventory your most expensive or irreplaceable items and give them each an insured value.

We chose to insure using insurance option #3, “value inventory.” We first capped our insurance limit at $30,000, for coverage which would cost us about $1,050. We made our list of items we wanted to insure, gave them a value and then pared the list or the item value down until we had an insured list of items with replacement values totaling $30,000. It was surprising when doing this list at how many of our items had to be left off of the value inventory in order to cap the coverage at $30,000.


Insure your household before shipping to Costa Rica

Insure your household before shipping to Costa Rica


An extremely long move

When everything we were going to receive was finally delivered and compared to the manifest there were a number of items damaged or missing. I suppose when you think that we moved out of our house in February 2013 and our final delivery wasn’t made to our house in Costa Rica until April 2014, it is not all that surprising. Also, our possessions went from our house into boxes, into a moving truck, were trucked 320 miles and unloaded onto shelves and pallets in a bonded warehouse and left for five months, then loaded into a shipping container and transported to the dock in San Pedro, CA, then unloaded for a U.S. Customs exit inspection, reloaded into a container, sent to a bonded warehouse at the dock, loaded by crane onto a ship and sent through the Panama Canal to the port of Limon, Costa Rica, unloaded by customs, sent to a bonded warehouse in San Jose, loaded onto moving trucks and driven 45 kilometers to our house and unloaded. All of this caused or belongings to be moved many times and touched by many hands.


Free Download Household Container manifest for Costa Rica

FREE download Household Container manifest


Inventory of damaged and missing items

We put together our list of damaged, broken and missing items. Our estimate to replace or repair everything came to $5,600. However, our insured valued inventory included only a part of the missing and damaged items and the “value inventory” claim we have submitted is for $2,800 less the $250 deductible. We made our best effort to negotiate our loss claim and on insurance company’s final offer $2,140. My strongest recommendations: think hard about how much of your belongings you want to insure and find the time to take photos and make descriptions of your valued possessions. It will ultimately save you lots of time and grief and put your negotiations with the insurance company, if required,  on much firmer ground.

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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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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