Bring It With You or Buy It Here in Costa Rica?

Things To Bring To Costa Rica When You Move Here

I had read forums for years off and on but never found a good thread about what you should bring with you and particularly not one that is currently updated to today's economy in Costa Rica.

So here is a list of things we didn't bring that we wish we would have.

All of these things are either about price or quality so i will designate whether it's price, quality or lack of availability that made me add it to this list:

  • suntan lotion - price. This is near the equator and the sun is HOT. It will burn the hell out of you if you don't put sunscreen at least a couple times a day. However, sunscreen costs about TWICE what it does in the U.S. so bring a gallon or so.
  • men's underwear  - price, lack of availability. Oh sure you can find underwear but good quality cotton in larger sizes, uh uh. I like my underwear loose and so I'm not fat I wear extra large boxers for comfort. Guess what? They are super hard to find in sizes bigger than what I would call a U.S. "medium". In fact I went to one store which is owned by a Chinese family (many Costa Rican stores are now owned by the Chinese) and I bought some "Extra large" cotton boxers. (By the way the cotton is very stiff and not good quality soft cotton like I buy in the U.S.) Anyway when I got them home to try them on they were maybe a U.S. size "Small"! I took them back to the store and told the girl at the counter and she laughed when I told her they didn't fit because they were way too small. Draw your own conclusions!
  • plates and bowls, cups and glasses - lack of availability of non-Chinese items.

    I don't know about you but I am afraid of buying Chinese items to put liquid or food in because the Chinese are known for putting lead in glass. We have looked and looked and so far we have not found any plates or bowls that are not made in China.

  • Pots and pans - lack of availability of quality items and price. You can find pots and pans but if they're good quality you'll pay 50-100% more than in the U.S.  We so far have only found a German brand but aren't sure if it's good quality or not, plus the price is fairly high.
  • Coffee makers, blenders, toasters and other small appliances - price and quality - You will find many to choose from here but they will be about 50-100% higher here than in the U.S.. Example:  My Cuisinart coffee maker cost me $30 in the U.S.. Here it is selling for $70 at 2 different stores where I've seen it. Otherwise you will fiind Black & Decker - not my choice for kitchen appliances - and brands I never heard of but that don't look like high quality to me, at twice U.S. prices. i.e. a typical $20 "Mr. Coffee" will cost $40 here if you find one.
    Shoes - price, quality, fit. Bring 'em! Especially if you wear bigger than U.S. size 9, bring them or you will be very limited in your selection and pay a higher price.
  • Blankets, sheets and other 100% cotton items - Price, quality, availability. It is very hard to find a good selection of good quality cotton anything, and if you do find it, it will likely be 50-100% more in Costa Rica. So if you are like us and you like sheets and blankets that breathe, bring 'em! Or be prepared to look hard for them and pay a much higher price.
  • Tools - Price, quality. Good quality tools are expensive here. They are also heavy so this is a trade off vs. shipping cost. But smaller tools like pliers, wrenches, etc I would consider bringing especially if you use them a lot.
  • Electronics - price and availability. The price of all electronics here is high! Phones, computers, mp3 players, speakers - all these kinds of things cost more here! Example: My LG phone that I paid $350 for in the U.S. is around $600 here! And here the plans are high priced too so I would recommend buying your phone and then getting a service plan for it without including a phone. Computers - nearly double the price. MP3 players, speakers - much less selection here, off brands and lower quality. USB drives, headphones, watches, etc etc are going to be a lot higher in Costa Rica.

    You also won't get a cheap extended warranty like you can at Amazon or Best Buy and you may not find the brands you want here. So bring your electronics for sure! (Maybe even bring a backup!)

Do you have more things to add to my list? Things you wish you'd have brought? Or things you brought that you didn't need to bring? Please comment below with those things for our readers to see!


I am adding stuff here as I think of it:

  • Health items like your favorite herbal throat spray for sore throat, other herbal stuff like St. John's Wort, astragalus, ginseng, etc. You CAN get stuff here BUT it's going to be maybe double the price and they are not likely to have the brand you want nor the exact formula you like
  • Vitamins - the same as above. You CAN get vitamins here but you'll pay a lot more for them and the quality may not be as good.
  • Brown unbleached coffee filters - can't get 'em in Costa Rica! (If you know of a source please comment below and tell me where! We have searched high and low for them to no avail.)
  • A permanent coffee filter - also not available for the most part, except where the screen is some sort of plastic. I don't know about you but filtering my coffee through plastic is not what I want to do. I have seen #4 permanent filters in a metal that I THINK is stainless steel (?) but I have found NO #2 filters which is what I need for my Cuisinart.
  • Medicines - Depends on what it is. If it's generic it may be cheap here but it's probably cheaper in the U.S. now.
    Costa Rica USED to have cheap pharmaceuticals - but not any more. Not sure what happened... But I went in to buy my Flonase (fluticasone) for my nasal allergies and it now costs about $20 in the USA for a 3 month supply at my dosage. Here? $55! So bring your prescriptions! I think they'll allow at least 6 months worth though I'm not sure. I'd split them up into various piles, one in one suitcase and one in another etc... Checked baggage plus carry on...
  • Shoes - If you have big feet you may have trouble finding the size you like here plus they'll no doubt be more expensive unless you're used to buying expensive shoes. We always bought ours at Ross so we'd get great quality name brand shoes for like $12-20. Here you won't find 'em for that.
  • Pocket knives - more expensive here.
  • Coconut oil - How is this possible?! A country that produces coconuts by the ton charges double or more the price for coconut oil??!! It's true. Bring it!

I don't mean to imply that everything is more expensive in Costa Rica but lots of things are.

What is cheaper - and balances out the cost of living - are labor of almost every kind, fruit and veges, property, doctors, dentists etc.

Where else can you get hard labor or a maid for under $3/hour? Where else can you get a nearly 2 acre ocean view property for $55k?
Where else can you get dental implants for a third or so the price of the USA?





  1. Julie poisson on February 25, 2016 at 2:39 am

    Wow, I was just wondering if I could bring back fresh coconut oil from Costa Rica when I go !!,,,lol
    Thanx your list is very helpful !!!

    • miguelbgood on March 26, 2016 at 7:13 pm

      Yes you can but in my opinion the organic coconut oil in the USA is just as good if not better, and much much cheaper than in Costa Rica!
      At the local feria (fresh vegetable and fruit market) in San Ramon, for example, you CAN buy fresh cold pressed organic coconut oil but I doubt it is any better than what you get in the USA plus it’s more expensive, plus in the USA the “organic” certification is more trustworthy in my opinion.
      Hope this helps and let me know if you have any other comments or questions.

  2. Kathy on July 9, 2017 at 8:24 pm

    I have some questions.I am planning on moving. not sure where been looking at atenas,an San Roman. Do you get a lot of fog there where you are ? I am trying to figure out how to get 3 dogs down there . Been reading different sites an i came up with shipping them through a pet shipper but what I seen was about $1600.- $2700. a dog for a 20 pound dog 2 of my dogs are German Pinschers 1 was imported from Australia then I have a European Dobermann imported from Russia . I need to no if this is the only way to get them out of here is with a pet shipper an I read where some was saying Dobermanns are not welcome. any info on this ? wait on the other questions till i figure this out , as far as I no when I went to Guatemala i had reservation
    for me an the 2 dogs an lady in front of me had a dog an they would only allow 2 dogs per flight.

    • miguelbgood on July 13, 2017 at 6:13 pm

      Hi Kathy, re bringing dogs, I am sorry but I don’t know anyone who’s done that so I can’t be of much help.
      I can answer that yes there is quite a bit of fog where we live. But 2 things:
      1) this is an unusual year for weather here. We’ve had much more rain and fog than EVER according to locals; and
      2) global climate change being what it is I don’t think anyone can predict whether an area is going to be fog free or not, or have less fog next year or etc. Again sorry, I’m not much help on that.

      I can answer a lot of questions but I’m striking out today! Please ask anything else, I’m always willing to try.
      Right now the best bet for you is to ask this question on Costa Rica forums. ARCR or Yahoo Living “group” or Forums are 3 I can mention.

      • Kathy on July 14, 2017 at 8:50 pm

        in the mean time I found a place to get dogs in.What kind of problems will I have finding a rental that will take 3 dogs. and do you know anyone that rents long term. Don’t know the area but want to be in a safe area it is just me coming .
        been reading all over trying to find info.

    • miguelbgood on October 9, 2017 at 9:58 pm

      Hi Kathy, I don’t know much about dogs, sorry. But yes we get quite a bit of fog in parts of San Ramon. Where I live it’s not as bad as the north side up by Los Angeles Sur but we do get a fair amount.

  3. miguelbgood on July 18, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Hi Kathy, Are you looking in the San Ramon area for rentals?
    People around here do rent long term, they prefer it often because they have an empty house and want the income for as long as possible.
    However, yes, having 3 dogs is going to limit your options.
    Your best bet is to look on the site gringocentral (dot) org and also ask on the San Ramon facebook page. I don’t have the link but you should be able to find it, if you are looking in San Ramon.

    I do my best to answer questions here but I only know what I know, and since I don’t have dog experience I’m afraid I’m not much help re that area of knowledge.

    I do know my friend had 2 dogs and 3 cats and was looking for a cheap 3 bedroom rental and he had a hard time finding one around here. Cheap being under $600 for 3br which is really lower than what the going rate is for 3br. In fact if you can find 2 br for that you’re doing well. He did find a place at the beach but I lost contact with him after that… I think it was a very remote beach where they were having trouble finding a tenant.

    Your best bet in my opinion would be to come here without the dogs for a while first and see if you can find a place you’d like. Even a 2 week exploratory trip might help… The longer the better.

    Also it’s best to live in an area before committing to a long term rental, to make sure you like it.

    Some of the realtors like sanramon-properties (dot) com list rentals. Try looking at real estate sites for the area(s) you are interested in; some offer rentals. Google realtors for the area(s).

  4. Ivette M Abadin on August 19, 2019 at 8:08 am

    I am an American citizen living in England and planning to move to Costa Rica before the end of this year. My husband is Costa Rican. We would like to ship some of our personal belongings. What type of companies do you recommend? Do you know how much is the taxes for foreigners? or would it be better to bring our stuff as a national coming back?

    • miguelbgood on January 8, 2020 at 8:19 pm

      No I don’t know about shipping. We just brought what we could carry, 6 suitcases at a time, two times. You are allowed to bring in a certain amount of stuff without taxation. However we were never stopped at Customs so it was a non-issue. Usually they don’t bother. But they CAN.

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