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What NOT to pack when you move to Costa Rica

What NOT to pack when you move to Costa RicaMoving to Costa Rica? Then, do you know what NOT to pack?

The title of this blog should probably have been “Honey, did you forget to pack my dill pickles?” You probably know where I’m going… You could pack half a supermarket when you move to Costa Rica, plus the hardware store. It’s easier to just pack than figure out what NOT to pack. But do you want to pay import taxes on stuff that you will throw away as soon as you arrive?

Do you remember the TV series MacGyver?

Well, in Costa Rica, they call everything that is makeshift a MacGyver. And your first year of living in Costa Rica will be one big MacGyver. You can leave that garage full of stuff that you might need one day or not behind. It is expensive to pay a moving company to move all that unnecessary stuff to Costa Rica while you can buy similar products here.

You will be surprised how much of the stuff you think you need that you really don’t. But if you really have that need, you can always go shopping in Costa Rica.

AND it is so exciting trying to find new ways to make things function. So let’s see if we can figure out what you should bring and what NOT to pack!

Rice ‘n Beans

After all my years of living in Costa Rica, I still don’t eat rice and beans or Gallo Pinto as it is called here. And I literally think culantro (cilantro) is repugnant. Of course, if you invite me for dinner and you serve me rice and beans, I’ll eat it. But you might never see me again!

What NOT to pack when you move to Costa Rica

You can buy loads of vegetables and fruits at the local farmers’ market and most of the stuff you were used to back home or just buy it more expensive in a supermarket. Just buy products with a label in Spanish on it, so it won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Try guaro instead of a whiskey next time, or eat a locally made tamal for Christmas for once. It will keep your cost of living much lower than buying all that gringo food. By shopping for local products, you will keep your cost of living down and adjusting to your new home country is good and honest work.

The most lovely Tica

My wife Dany, the best and most lovely Tica on earth, has learned to cook all the weird Dutch recipes imaginable as well as an Indonesian rice-table. Of course, she also cooks honest and delicious Tico food, like patacones, barbudos, chancletas, picadillo de papaya verde and picadillo de platano. I guess that’s one of the reasons I left my first wife…but back to the story.

What I am trying to say is that I didn’t bring a container load of Dutch and Indonesian stuff with me when I moved here. Dany is a great cook and she shops for the right spices and flavors in the supermarket.

20 boxes of beef jerky

I once met a man who brought his entire stamp collection with him. In no time the glue on the back of each stamp was messed up with the humidity we have here. I get people asking me how they can bring their gun collection with them. I saw one client unpack 20 boxes of beef jerky when their container arrived. And I have one friend from Texas who cannot live without his chewing tobacco.

What NOT to pack when you move to Costa Rica

The adventure of your life

It is amazing what people think they cannot live without. Now they are ready to start the adventure of their life and they worry about their quilting materials. Well, ladies, I have good news for you, they know all about quilting in Costa Rica too.


We all have our crazy needs, but you would be surprised how many of these crazy articles are readily available in the shops and supermarket in Costa Rica. Before you start packing all kinds of stuff into your 40″ container, you need to know that you possibly will have to pay taxes on that stuff when you container gets to customs. There is so much information online now, just Google what you want, just like I did when I was looking for “Quilting Costa Rica”, which is how I found that Tico Times article.

If you find that you cannot seriously live well without whatever you did not pack when you moved to Costa Rica, you can always do some shopping on the internet even if is pushes your cost of living up a bit. Or become a vegetarian, fruits and vegetables are cheap in Costa Rica.

The good part of not having certain things in Costa Rica is that when you go “back”, you’ll enjoy getting rid of these cravings so much more. At least I do.

Have you now figured out what to pack and what NOT to pack? Help yourself and spend some time thinking about it.

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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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