Published on Monday, August 2, 2021
By Garland M. Baker
Exclusive to A.M. Costa Rica
There is a secret way to get those hard to find items in Costa Rica delivered right to the door anywhere in the country. Correos de Costa Rica, the local postal system, has a service call Box Correos which rivals the big name companies like Aeropost, JetBox, and Xpress Box.
For those that do not know about Costa Rica shipping services, they are courier businesses that specialize in receiving articles in the United States and other part of the world for customers in Costa Rica. Upon receipt, the items are checked for hazardous or forbidden materials and then forwarded to a clearing house in the country where they are taken through customs.
The difference between Correos de Costa Rica and the other services is that the government mail agency further forwards the imported goods on to one of its 110 branches and then delivers most packages to a person's or company’s doorstep.
The big name companies do this too, if the receiver is in the Central Valley or close to a branch office, but not for someone out in a remote area. Correos de Costa has 110 branches, 18 distribution centers, 750 motorized vehicles, and around 2,000-plus postal workers. None of the other courier companies even comes close to that infrastructure.
Sure, things purchased in the United States and shipped here using one of the courier services costs more money, but when in a pinch, the cost is worth it. Most services offer calculators, which pretty accurately outline the charges. The Box Correos calculator can be accessed at the company site. Consult the websites of the other service providers for their calculators.
To use Box Correos, one first needs an account, which can be obtained at the company "Getting Started" site. Accounts are free, no strings attached.
Here is an example of the full process of ordering some Silhouette glass frames on eBay, and sending them to Cobano, Puntarenas, using Box Correos, the costs involved, and the time it took. Note: It is essential to always get a tracking number when shipping an article and uploading that number to your account in the section called “Prealerts.” Having a credit or debit card on file also speeds up the service.
These are actual steps made by this author in July to write this article. Four items were purchased and received with no glitches:
1.) Set up account, 2.) order the frames on eBay, and send them to the Box Correos receiving address in Doral, Florida, 3.) added shipping tracking number to prealerts, 4.) order arrived in three days, 5.) Box sent order received notice, assigned a local tracking number, and shipped the article to Costa Rica, 6.) article arrived in two days, cleared customs in one day, and was put in Correo de Costa Rica’s mail system and, finally, 7.) glass frames received after two days. Total time, not counting weekends and holidays: eight days.
Here are the costs of the buying the glass frames and shipping them to Costa Rica using Box Correos:
• Cost of frames, $50.
• Shipping to Doral, Florida, $5.
• Customs charge, $15.
• Shipping to Costa Rica charge, $5
• Box service fee, $3.
Total cost including frames: $78.
Silhouette frames are impossible to obtain in Costa Rica and cost new around $500 in the United States. The eBay used frames were almost new and cost $50, so paying a total of $78 was a bargain.
The other items purchased were a special Microsoft keyboard, a model not made anymore, small tools for Silhouette frames, and some socks. A spreadsheet was kept for each item, and every stage was input to track time. Everything bought pretty much followed that of the glass frames. The only inconveniences were the weekends and holidays.
Here are the caveats: Box is not great about responding to emails. In an interview with an attendant in Cobano, when quizzed about communications, “. . . Box does not even write us when we write them, let alone the consumer,” he said.
Aeropost and JetBox’s calculators are more accurate than most other services. People forget that shipping costs do not just consider weight but also package dimensions. A big bulky package which is light, may cost more than one that is small but heavy.
Customs duties are set by Hacienda, the tax department. The list is extensive. Shipping services use abbreviated versions.
There are many forbidden items. Obviously, anything hazardous, but also anything that needs a health permit is not allowed without special permission. One example of what people try to bring in all the time that are not acceptable is vitamins because all food stuffs, and drug items, no matter how innocent, need a permit from the health ministry.
Why was Box Correos singled out for this article? Because the author lives on the Nicoya Peninsula, far away from a big city. Box is the only reasonably priced service available for those who live in rural districts.
In San José, JetBox, Aeropost, Xpress Box or one of the many other services might be a better bet, but kudos to Correos de Costa Rica for offering Box as an alternative for the digital nomads who prefer to live far away from the beaten path.
Editor’s note: Garland M. Baker solves problems for expats in Costa Rica. He is a 49-year resident and naturalized citizen. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Baker has undertaken the research leading to his articles with A.M. Costa Rica. Find the collection at crexpertise.net. A free reprint is available at the end of each piece. Copyright 2021. Use without permission prohibited.