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Planning for a smooth long-distance move to Costa Rica? The world has become a lot smaller since I moved here.
That was 40 years ago this year, and it seems like it was yesterday. There was no internet back then. And we spent 11 hours between flights, in the middle of the night, in Tocumen International in Panama. The airport was closed, you couldn’t even buy a cup of coffee.
Travel is now so much easier, and so is communication. We’d write letters, not emails. An international phone call was expensive, there was no Magic Jack or Skype.
Nonetheless, if you’re not a professional traveler, a long-distance move is still a big deal. And, of course, you don’t want to belong to that group of expats that fail in that move and become unhappy.
Therefore, I’ve put together 10 simple tips to follow to make it affordable, successful, and most of all smooth long-distance move to Costa Rica.
1. Start in Time
You have to start putting the planning together well in time. Moving to Costa Rica is something that you don’t do overnight. Only losers do that!
So, start planning at least a year ahead. That will give you plenty of time to get a serious plan together.
2. Make a Checklist
Fortunately, the best place to get started is the internet. That way you can learn from others and their mistakes. There are many online moving abroad checklists that will save you a lot of time and effort. Don’t try to make your own, learn from those who are experienced such as Expatica.
3. Start Reading
Take the time to do your research. Always look at the date on the article, it might be old and not up to date. A great source is our own blog or Ivo’s blog. because they are specifically about moving to Costa Rica.
4. Move Off-Season
Trying to calculate the total cost of the long-distance move seems like a good idea. You can best plan of moving to Costa Rica in the offseason. Not only will your airline tickets be cheaper. You’ll be able to save quite it bit of cash on other things during non-peak season.
5. Find a Mover
Assuming you have already bought or rented a home, it’s really important you find a moving company. I suggest you find one in Costa Rica and ask for referrals in your area. The reason is that anyone can pack a container and ship it to a Costa Rican port. BUT the Costa Rican company will have to get your container through customs, which is the most difficult part. Learn how to keep the import tax on your household low by talking to your mover. Discuss if you will need to take insurance on your belongings with the moving company.
6. Prioritize packing
You will arrive in Costa Rica long before your household container will. Be aware of a delivery window. So prioritize what you will need to bring with you on your flight. But you don’t want to pack all your belongings either. You will need only a couple of blankets but bring a ceiling fan instead. Bring only those winter clothing that you will need to travel. But don’t forget to pack sunblock.
Get rid of all the stuff that you don’t need. Give it away, sell it on eBay or consign. Do not pack food, it might get confiscated in customs.
7. Essentials Bag
Every family has different essentials. Sit down and think about it, then make a list. Think about how long it will take between packing and receiving your belongings in your new home in Costa Rica. Which important items will fit in one bag?
8. Document Storage
Put all your important documents in a safe place. You don’t want to wonder where you put them when arriving in Costa Rica.
9. Your Pets
If you have pets, their move will need much more organization than your own. Pets need paperwork done and might not be able to fly with you. Direct flights to Costa Rica are much easier on pets than a long-distance move with transfers. Do your homework, check our pet travel guide.
Don’t bring more than $10,000 per person when boarding your flight. Take into account that opening a bank account in Costa Rica is not so easy and quickly done, so bring enough. Check if your credit card company charges for cash withdrawals. Also bring small bills for tipping during your travels, baggage carts, and other needs.
Moving to Costa Rica is a big step, and it is not for everyone. But if you just follow the guidelines, you’ll experience a smooth long-distance move, I promise!