Planning an extended stay or moving to Costa Rica? Whether you’re a sun-seeking snowbird, an adventurous expat, or someone looking to briefly escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, packing smartly can enhance your experience in this tropical haven. In this guide, we’ll cover everything from household items and personal belongings to lifestyle choices and attitudes, helping you make the most of your Costa Rican adventure.

What to Pack for Costa Rica

packing for costa rica

1. Kitchen Utilities and Electronics:

  • Bring: We recommend bringing kitchen utilities and electronics from your home country, especially if you have high-quality items. Consider items like pots and pans, electric appliances, and even your beloved coffee maker.

Bringing familiar kitchen utilities and electronics is a wise move for those seeking a taste of home in Costa Rica. Having quality pots, pans, and electric appliances can enhance your cooking experience and ensure you have the tools you love. While Costa Rica offers its culinary delights, having your favorite kitchen gadgets can make your daily routine more enjoyable and efficient, providing a sense of comfort in your new surroundings. Your favorite brands and accessories may be more difficult to source here so if you have space to pack your favorites, it may make the transition that much easier on you.

2. Furniture:

  • Bring: Furnishing your new home? We suggest bringing furniture from the USA for better quality. However, weigh the costs, as buying locally might be more cost-effective due to high shipping fees.

Transporting furniture from the USA is recommended for those who prioritize quality and have specific preferences. Your home should reflect your style, and bringing furniture you love ensures that your living space feels comfortable and personalized. However, it’s essential to consider shipping costs, as buying locally can be a more economical option, especially for those who want to avoid hefty transportation fees. And it is best not to waste money on bringing furniture that will not hold up to the heat and moisture of this climate.

3. Personal Items:

  • Bring: Don’t forget your favorite cosmetics, toiletries, and seasonings. These personal touches can make your new place feel like home.

Carrying personal items like favorite cosmetics, toiletries, and seasonings is essential to many people’s daily routine. Your preferred products might not be readily available, and having these items on hand ensures that you feel at home from day one, creating a sense of comfort in your new environment.

4. Clothing and Accessories:

  • Bring: Pack beachwear, comfortable clothing, and sturdy footwear. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a good pair of closed-toe shoes for the evenings. Any sporting goods you own that are a part of your regular routine are a good consideration for bringing, too.

Packing beachwear, comfortable clothing, and essential accessories is vital for adapting to Costa Rica’s tropical climate. Lightweight, quick-dry clothing, a good pair of water shoes, and reliable sun protection are essentials for beach towns and outdoor activities. Small sporting goods items like simple yoga mats and weights are ubiquitous but if you have good quality items that you use regularly, consider bringing these along as they may be hard to replace. 

5. Electronics and Tools:

  • Bring: Consider bringing dual-voltage electronics and tools. Ensure they are humidity-resistant and can handle power fluctuations.

Bringing electronics and tools, especially those compatible with the local voltage, ensures you have reliable devices for both work and leisure. Consider the climate and opt for humidity-resistant electronics to prevent damage. Carrying tools is practical for DIY projects and maintenance, providing a level of self-sufficiency in your new home.

6. Health and Safety Items:

  • Bring: Pack a basic first aid kit, insect repellent, and any prescription medications. Consider bringing a dehydrator and a flashlight for emergencies.

Including health and safety items like a dehydrator, first aid kit, and flashlight prepares you for emergencies. Costa Rica’s diverse landscapes offer outdoor adventures, making good hiking shoes and insect repellent essential. Being proactive about your well-being contributes to a smoother transition and a more enjoyable experience in your new environment.

7. Residency and Legal Documents:

  • Bring: Start your residency paperwork early to avoid delays. Consider legal advice on residency laws and importation processes.

Starting the residency paperwork early is crucial for those planning an extended stay. Residency in Costa Rica comes with perks, such as tax-free importation of household goods. Being proactive in the legal aspects of relocation ensures a smoother process and fewer delays down the road.

8. Your Pets:

  • Bring: Your most precious companions are welcome to join you on your Costa Rica adventure (other than special circumstances — see our article on ‘Bringing Your Pets To Costa Rica‘ for more detailed information).

Pets feel like family for many people and that is why it is essential to consider how to bring them when moving to Costa Rica. If you love it here, they are likely to love it, too. Prepare by ensuring up-to-date vaccinations and obtaining health certificates for your pet. Choose a pet-friendly airline with an appropriately sized travel crate for safety and comfort. Pack accordingly for Costa Rica’s warm climate, including a portable water bowl and medications. When ready to move, seek advice from veterinarians, pet relocation services, and expats who have successfully moved with their pets.

What to Leave Behind when Moving to Costa Rica

Moving to Costa Rica

1. TVs and Large Appliances:

  • Leave: TVs are readily available in Costa Rica, and the risk of damage during transit isn’t worth it. Consider buying large appliances locally to save on shipping costs.

Leaving TVs and large appliances behind is advised due to their accessibility and the risk of damage during transit. Costa Rica offers a variety of electronics, and purchasing locally ensures compatibility with the local power supply. Avoiding the transportation of large appliances also helps cut down on shipping costs and potential complications with customs.

2. Expectations of a Cheaper Lifestyle:

  • Leave: Costa Rica may not be as cheap as you think. Adjust your expectations to match the local cost of living.

Shedding expectations of a significantly cheaper lifestyle is essential for a realistic perspective on the cost of living in Costa Rica. While certain expenses may be lower, adjusting your expectations prevents disappointment and allows for a more accurate financial plan. Those who find the most personal success when relocating are those who move here searching for health and lifestyle benefits rather than financial boons.

3. Unrealistic Job Expectations:

  • Leave: Job opportunities for expats may be limited. Be open to remote work or creating income from abroad.

Understanding the limitations of job opportunities for expats is crucial. Remote work or creating income remotely is often a more viable option. Leaving behind unrealistic job expectations enables a smoother transition and a more adaptable mindset.

4. Negative Attitude and Bad Habits:

  • Leave: Bring a positive mindset and leave behind any negative attitudes. Embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle for a stress-free experience.

Leaving behind a negative attitude and unhealthy habits is fundamental for a successful and enjoyable relocation. Embracing the Pura Vida lifestyle involves cultivating a positive mindset, leading to reduced stress and a healthier, more fulfilling life in Costa Rica.

Additional Tips For Packing When Moving

Moving to Costa Rica tips

1. Transportation:

  • To import cars tax-free, obtain residency first. Understand the residency application process and the conditions for car importation.

*See our recent article on the new law allowing for Duty-free Importation of Vehicles and Household Goods

2. Consider Local Purchases:

  • Explore local markets for furniture and appliances. Custom-made furniture from local artisans can be affordable and unique.

3. Financial Planning:

  • Plan your finances wisely. Keep funds in a U.S. bank and withdraw as needed in Costa Rica. Consult legal and financial professionals for personalized advice.

4. Packing in Plastic Storage Containers (A Golden Tip):

  • The consensus among seasoned expats leans heavily towards the use of plastic storage containers, particularly those featuring wheels for added convenience. 
  • Praised brands like Sterilite footlocker trunks with wheels ensure durability during transit. 
  • Implementing security measures, including zip ties and locks, safeguards your belongings, while a meticulous labeling system, complete with an inventory sheet on each box, streamlines unpacking. 
  • Check with the airline for container size and weight restrictions, ensuring compliance for a smooth journey. 

For those with flexibility, exploring alternative shipping options, like consolidating items into a cubic meter, proves a cost-effective solution. Staying informed about potential embargos in Costa Rica and adhering to TSA guidelines for inspections are additional tips garnered from positive experiences shared by movers. While this method resonates positively with many, individual experiences may vary, emphasizing the importance of tailoring your approach based on personal needs and circumstances.

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Moving to Costa Rica is an exciting adventure, but careful planning is key. Bring the essentials that will enhance your daily life and leave behind unrealistic expectations. Embrace the Pura Vida lifestyle, and you’ll find yourself adapting seamlessly to your new tropical paradise. If you have any further questions, please reach out to our friendly team of expert relocating assistants by commenting below. Safe travels and welcome to Costa Rica!

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