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How to Relocate Your Household & Pets to Costa Rica

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Knowing how to relocate to Costa Rica is not difficult. For the most part, expats will need to choose a shipping method, decide whether or not they want storage, and then send their goods on their way. The hard part will be keeping track of all of your paperwork. Costa Rican customs require itemized lists, purchase receipts, and even lading and airway bills to claim your goods.

This section takes you through the physical steps of the relocation process. We cover what you need to know from importing your vehicle to electronics and even cats and dogs to the Pura Vida (“pure life”) country.

So, what does it take to relocate to Costa Rica? Read our relocation guide to find out.

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Moving and Shipping Household Goods

Knowing how to move your household items and belongings to Costa Rica can be frustrating. As with many countries, customs regulations are not always clear, and you may be asked for multiple forms of documentation.

How to Ship Household Items and Belongings

When moving your goods to Costa Rica, it is possible to do so via land, air, or water. Unless you are from neighboring Nicaragua or Panama, moving your items by land may be the most complicated because your goods will need to move through several different countries. This option is only possible for expats already based in North, Central, or South America.

Shipping your items by boat or plane are the best methods when moving to Costa Rica. Air freight will be more costly, but they will also arrive sooner. You will even have the option of your goods landing the same day that you do.

Moving your goods by boat will be cheaper, but time consuming. Depending on where you are moving from, cargo ships can take three to six months to reach their intended destination. However, if you are moving to Costa Rica and do not yet have long-term accommodation secured, this may be a convenient option.

What to Pack When Moving to Costa Rica

Although you can easily find household items and goods in Costa Rica, it is always a good idea to bring some comforts of home. As with any country, Costa Rica may not have some of your favorite brands that you are used to from back home, so it is always a good idea to pack some extra.

Some items that expats have found useful to bring to Costa Rica are:

  • pots and pans, because ones in Costa Rica may not be as durable as some foreigners are used to;
  • electronics such as wireless keyboards and back-up hard drives, which can be very expensive to purchase in this country;
  • high-quality sheets and towels;
  • durable footwear;
  • name brand, over-the-counter medicines for headaches, allergies, etc.

Expats who enjoy Asian cuisine should also consider bringing special spices as these can be hard to come by, or very expensive, in Latin America. Sunscreen is also expensive, so it is worth bringing your own for at least your first few months in the country.

Customs Regulations for Costa Rica

When packing your items, be sure to keep a detailed list of what you are bringing. If you are shipping several boxes, it is advisable to label each box and have a corresponding list per box, so that you can identify items more easily.

You are allowed to bring up to 500 USD worth of non-taxable items into Costa Rica. This includes your personal use household items and belongings. Any amount deemed more than 500 USD will be subject to a duty tax.

Customs officers will typically require commercial receipts, lading bills, and airway bills in order to collect all of your things. If you have shipped items via a postal service, they will only require your post invoice.

Documents Required to Claim Your Items

  • Valid passport
  • Inventory of your packed goods including a declared value for each item
  • If you bring electronics, you will need to list the brand name and serial number for each piece
  • Insurance documents for any large items
  • Deeds of sale (especially if you are bringing a car)
  • A letter stating why you are bringing these goods to Costa Rica

All documents presented to customs will need to be translated in Spanish.

Costa Rican Customs Allowances

In addition to your own personal, used goods, you may also bring the following into Costa Rica:

  • 400 cigarettes;
  • 50 cigars;
  • 500 g of tobacco;
  • 5 liters of liquor.

You may also bring your car to Costa Rica but be aware that it will be subject to high import and tax duties depending on the make, model, year, size, and overall value of your vehicle. To bring your car you will need to submit the following:

  • vehicle registration;
  • proof of purchase;
  • EPA smog test that is approved by the exporting country.

You will need to bring the original and copies of each document.

Prohibited and Restricted Items in Costa Rica


Items on this list may be subject to extra inspection or require documentation. Be sure to keep all invoices and receipts.

  • Items that are brand new
  • Large appliances
  • Electronics
  • Weapons and ammunition


  • Explosives
  • Pornographic and subversive
  • Narcotics and illegal drugs
  • Used tires
  • Medicines (with an exception of prescription medication and over-the-counter items)
  • Animal products
  • Bulk agricultural items

Home Good Storage

Expats often find themselves in need of either long- or short-term storage. In a country with a housing market like Costa Rica’s, this is especially useful as new immigrants wait to find the perfect home. Why lug your goods between temporary accommodations when you can instead keep them stored until you are ready to move into your new house?

Vaccinations and Health Requirements for Costa Rica

The vaccinations required for Costa Rica are standard to what expats will need for the majority of countries around the world. Many expats may have received these as booster shots in their home country.

What Vaccinations do I Need for Costa Rica?

The following are the Costa Rican immigration vaccination requirements:

  • hepatitis A and B;
  • meningitis;
  • typhoid;
  • polio;
  • measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR);
  • tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis (TDAP);
  • chickenpox;
  • shingles;
  • pneumonia;
  • influenza.

Health Requirements for Costa Rican Immigration

In addition to the standard vaccinations, foreigners from certain countries will also require extra shots.


You are also required to have a rabies vaccine if you are traveling from a country deemed high-risk.

Yellow Fever

Expats from the following countries will be required to have a yellow fever vaccine: Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Guyana, and Venezuela. Nationals who require this shot must get it at least ten days before you travel to the country.

Health Risks

While living in Costa Rica, expats should be wary of the following insect-borne illnesses:

  • Chagas’ disease;
  • Dengue fever;
  • Leishmaniasis;
  • Malaria.

A particularly dangerous food-borne disease is leptospirosis.

Drinking Water

It is generally safe to drink the tap water in Costa Rica, especially in the cities. However, expats should consider purchasing water purifying tablets and drinking bottled water at restaurants or in the countryside.

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Moving with Pets

Are you thinking of moving to Costa Rica with pets? Whether you are moving to the Pura Vida country as a solo expat or with your family, this often includes bringing your furry friend with you. Luckily, bringing a domestic animal to this country is fairly hassle free as long as you follow all of the necessary steps.

How Can You Bring Pets into Costa Rica?

When taking your dog or your cat to Costa Rica, you must make sure you have the correct documentation to prove they have received a rabies vaccine. The timeline for when your pet must have received this vaccine varies depending on if you are traveling from a high-risk country or not. In general, dogs and cats should have been vaccinated at least 30 days before their arrival in Costa Rica. A blood titer test is not required from any country.

Pets must also arrive with a certificate of health from a licensed veterinarian. This certificate must be issued no more than 14 days before the pet’s arrival in Costa Rica. It must also be translated into Spanish. You will also need to bring a letter that states your animal’s breed and market value.

Vaccinations for Dogs

Dogs traveling to Costa Rica must have also received the following vaccinations:

  • distemper;
  • hepatitis;
  • leptospirosis;
  • parvovirus.

Vaccinations for Cats

Cats traveling to Costa Rica must have the following vaccinations:

  • feline viral rhinotracheitis;
  • calicivirus;
  • panleukopenia;
  • feline leukemia.

Ticks and Tapeworm

In addition to a rabies shot and the different vaccines for cats and dogs, your pets must also be treated against ticks and tapeworms no more than 15 days before arriving in the country. You must provide proof of this treatment.


Pets entering Costa Rica are not required to have a microchip, but it is recommended, especially if your animal arrives separately from you.

Importing Puppies and Kittens

Puppies and kittens less than three months of age may enter Costa Rica only if they have a health certificate that is endorsed by the government agency charged with importing/exporting animals in their origin country.

Is There a Mandatory Quarantine in Costa Rica?

Pet location to Costa Rica does not require quarantine.

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