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What to Take When Retiring Abroad to a Third World Country Like Costa Rica

retire in costa rica

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More About Finding an International Shipper

Our friends John and Pat moved about the same time we did. They had a totally different experience than we did, especially when it came to loading their Suzuki (which they call Subie.)  They hired a flat bed truck to make loading the car easier. It wasn't.

"Hook, snap, buzz and I'm sitting in Subie, 4 feet up in the air, completely blinded by torrential rain. Everyone ran for cover. As the rain let up a little, I could see a concerned little confab going on among the movers. Rolled down the window, a little, "What's wrong?" "The wrecker's bed is about a foot lower than the container's." Crap.

They eventually got it loaded but not without some scary moments.

what to pack when moving overseas

Should You Buy a New Car?

We bought a new Smart Car when we were in the states and we shipped it to our new home.

Costa Rica's tax system for automobiles penalizes you based on the age of your vehicle. Cars that reach the ripe old age of 6 or more years are assessed tariffs at the highest rate... 79.03%, while cars 0-3 years old pay the least in taxes at 52.29%. And cars that are 4-5 years of age are assessed at the rate of 63.91%.

As far as importing a car, it's not a do-it-yourself deal. Each car is valued based on some mysterious formula that the government has come up with. In addition, every car must be inspected and registered on the national vehicle registry. It can take up to two additional weeks from the time your container arrives until your car is registered. Leave it to a professional.

Stuff I Wished I Brought

There are consumable items readily available in the U.S. that are not readily available or are very expensive in Costa Rica. That's a fact of life. So I'll mention the non-consumable hard goods that I wish we would have brought:

Aside from a good used car, here are some hard goods I wished I would have brought with us:

  • Clothes Washing Machine: The house we bought had a clothes washer, but we sold a newer better quality washer in the U.S.

  • Clothes Dryer: We thought we could live without one because my wife prefers hanging the clothes on the line. But during the rainy season, clothes don't dry even when it doesn't rain because the humidity is so high.
  • Umbrellas, Boots, Rain Slickers, Rain Ponchos: I got "sell-it-so-I-don't-have-to-pack-it" fever during one yard sale and sold ALL our umbrellas. Even the giant ones that golfer's use. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

bring comfortable sofas and chairs when moving to costa rica

  • Outdoor Furniture: It's expensive here and cheap quality.
  • DVD's and CD's: If you get tired of them, expats will trade for different movies and music. I thought I would like streaming audio and video, but I don't.
  • File Cabinet: Had one, sold it for $3. Replacement here: $120. You will still have important papers that you will need to store securely and efficiently. Bring a good, solid, secure filing cabinet.
  • Comfortable Recliner or Couch: They don't exist in Costa Rica. Seriously. Furniture here is solid wood with no padding or padding made of cheap foam rubber. I lust for a La-Z-Boy recliner.

Bring Items for Your Hobbies

This is where some soul-searching is needed. If something's really important to you (please click here to go to page 3)

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Mark and Nancy Van Patten are in their mid-sixties and retired to Costa Rica in July 2011 to live on their social security income. He blogs at GoingLikeSixty.com about baby boomer stuff and living in Costa Rica and she blogs at KeepingYouInStitches.wordpress.com about knitting and other stitchery as well as her "adventures" in Costa Rica. If you have questions, please put them in the comments and they will respond - eventually. After all, they are retired... In friggin' COSTA RICA!

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1 Comment

  1. Tina


    I can't believe the taxes on automobiles. Are they trying to discourage you from importing cars? Are they trying to discourage you from putting wear and tear on their road system (infrastructure) in Costa Rica? That's just so bizarre.

    Am I reading it correctly?


    Tina Boomerina