You’ve moved to Costa Rica and now you need to furnish your new house. Welcome home! Perhaps you rented a beach condo in Tamarindo or built the house of your dreams in the hills overlooking Mount Chirripó.
While much of the process of buying, building or renting a house in Costa Rica is similar to North America, often appliances aren’t included in the purchase or rental of a home here.
So where do you buy appliances in Costa Rica?
You’ve got some options, my new neighbor.
Shipping appliances to Costa Rica
Many Your Pura Vida Explorer clients assume they’ll ship their existing household items like appliances, furniture and decor from their home country when they move. While this is possible, more often than not it’s not a wise decision, financially and logistically. Why?
First, you’ll end up paying more than you’d expect. You’ll have to ship your belongings from your home city (say Chicago) via land to a major port (like Tampa) and then pay an international shipper to ship them to Limón on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. From there, they’ll need to be put on a truck and sent to your new home in Costa Rica.
Second, once they arrive in Costa Rica, you’ll get hit with high import taxes by the government of Costa Rica. Expect to pay thousands of dollars in import fees, depending on what you’re bringing in. The Costa Rican government does waive import taxes after you’ve received your temporary residency (on the investors/inversionistas, renters/rentistas, and retirees/pensionados visas), but your residency can take months to receive and it might not make sense to apply for it when you first move to Costa Rica.
Third, the whole process of shipping belongings from your home country to Costa Rica can take many weeks and it can be extremely stressful. There are cases where it is wise to import belongings from your home country to Costa Rica, but in a vast majority of cases, we recommend buying everything you need from Costa Rica, and occasionally bringing suitcases full of stuff on your trips back to your home country.
Lastly, you won’t want some of your belongings in your new tropical home. Some appliance (and car) manufacturers won’t be able to service them in case something goes wrong.
So, then, what about buying local?
Buying appliances in Costa Rica
Throughout Costa Rica, especially in the larger towns, you can buy appliances, TVs and other household items at stores like Monge, Gollo, speciality stores, or PriceSmart, a wholesale membership club. Almost always the store, or someone they know, will be able to deliver the item to your house, for a small extra fee.
But before you head to the store, be warned that appliances aren’t cheap. Expect to pay 30% more than you might in the United States. Much of the difference in price between what you’d pay in North American and Costa Rica is the cost of the import duties included in the price of the appliance, which gets paid to the Costa Rican government by the seller.
Costa Rican duties on products like this are high! Is there a way to avoid paying such high taxes?
Indeed, there is! And in typical Costa Rica fashion, it’s a weird little loophole.
Buying duty-free appliances in Golfito
Golfito, a small town in the extreme south of the country, draws visitors from all over Costa Rica for their “Deposito Libre,” a shopping zone offering a diverse range of products from electronics, appliances, clothing, and cosmetics. Thanks to a Costa Rican government initiative to get more people to visit the southern region of the country, products purchased here, up to $2,500 a year, are duty-free, which means substantial savings when furnishing a house.
Shoppers are required to officially register their purchases under their national ID or passport number, and these transactions are monitored to ensure they don’t go over the $2,500 annual limit. If you go with your partner or family, you each get $2,500 in duty-free purchases.
Sound too good to be true? It’s not, however realize that Golfito is a six-hour drive from San Jose! Do you want to spend many hours driving to and from Golfito (depending on where you live) plus a day of shopping, just to save a few hundred dollars? Most Ticos will tell you that the drive isn’t worth the savings if you’re just going to purchase one appliance. But if you’re furnishing a whole house and spending $2,500 for multiple appliances, or stacking savings with multiple friends or family members, and if you want to see a new part of the country, head south ready to buy!
Moving to a new country can be stressful and expensive, but we’re here to take away the stress (and help save you some money) so that you can thrive in paradise.
As always, Pura Vida!