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Relocating to Costa Rica: The Top 10 Items You Should Bring With You

Costa Rica is a very pleasant and relaxing country to live in – but preparing to move here can be a very different story.

Knowing what to bring with you is one of the most difficult aspects of moving to Costa Rica. It’s extremely helpful – if not essential – to make a checklist of everything you’ll need before relocating.

A good way to start is by thinking about the challenges you’ll face. For example, the heat and bright sun can make the normally temperate climate uncomfortable during the summer. Many Americans also get sunburns, because they’re not used to being so close to the equator, where the sun shines longer and more directly.

Staying in contact with the rest of the world can also prove to be a challenge. Bring a smartphone, laptop, and other electronic devices to help you stay in touch with friends and family back home. These devices are much more expensive to purchase in Costa Rica.

Comfort foods are also difficult to come by and not easily available in Costa Rica. Bring some along for your trip to help your transition go smoothly.

While the cost of living is lower in Costa Rica, some items are actually more expensive than in the United States. If you simply can’t live without them, then plan to bring them with you.

Of course, luggage space is always an issue when moving to Costa Rica. Prioritize what you need and then take a look at what you want. Then do a cost comparison to see what essentials will prove too expensive to purchase after relocating to Costa Rica.

Here are 10 items that you should bring with you.

1. A Car

Costa Rica has a reliable public transportation system, but it’s mostly limited to the Central Valley area. A car is probably necessary if you’re planning on living in Puerto Limón or another remote part of the country.

However, don’t buy a car after moving to Costa Rica, unless you have no other choice. The Costa Rican government charges a 52.29% import tax on all cars that are less than three years old. The cost for older vehicles is even higher.

Even though it can be expensive initially to do so, you’ll save yourself a lot of money in the long run by bringing your own car to Costa Rica.

2. Important Electronic Accessories

Cars aren’t the only products that are more expensive in Costa Rica. Sammi, the author at My Tan Feet, bought an HP Pavilion G4 laptop for $380 in the United States. She wrote that she would have spent $700 to replace it after moving to Costa Rica.

You’ll save a bundle by bringing your own electronics. Make a list of all the electronic supplies you may need down the road and stock up on them. Electronic accessories that you may want to pack include:

  • An extra laptop battery

  • A spare laptop mouse

  • An OtterBox for your phone

  • Bluetooth components

  • An adapter for your plugs (Costa Rica uses 120 volt current, which only works on American devices using adapters)

If you buy these products in Costa Rica, you’ll probably spend twice as much as you would in the United States.

3. Family Heirlooms and Pictures

Family pictures and heirlooms are irreplaceable. It may be necessary to store some of them in the United States, but you’ll want to have a few of them in Costa Rica to make yourself feel more at home.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that you’re traveling a long distance with limited space. Try to be selective. You can also try scanning old pictures so you won’t need to take up space in your luggage.

4. Necessary Financial Documents

Your financial life in the United States doesn’t necessarily end after you move to Costa Rica. You’ll still have connections to existing financial institutions and debtors. Make sure you have the following documents before relocating:

  • Mortgage documents

  • W2s and 1099s for tax purposes (you must still pay taxes on this income even after moving to Costa Rica)

  • Banking details (assuming you’ll still be keeping your existing bank accounts)

  • Social Security paperwork

  • Information on any outstanding debt (i.e. credit cards, student loans)

These documents are virtually irreplaceable after you move to Costa Rica. Make sure you have enough copies on hand and store them safely.

5. Warm Weather Clothing

The most northern part of Costa Rica is only 11 degrees from the equator, and the entire country enjoys warm weather throughout the year. To stay comfortable, bring the following warm-weather clothes:

  • T-shirts made from lightweight materials (such as cotton, linen, or wool)

  • Long-sleeved shirts for the evenings and cooler months

  • Flip-flops and beach shoes

  • A pair of hiking shoes

  • Durable shorts

  • Lightweight pants for both formal and informal occasions

  • Linen or cotton blouses for women

Remember that Costa Rica is much warmer than most of the United States. The temperature rarely drops below 70 degrees, even in the middle of winter. Dress appropriately for the tropical climate.

6. Personal Legal Documents

You’ll need a variety of legal documents on hand while staying in Costa Rica. These documents will be needed to establish your identity and legal immigration status. They include:

  • Your passport

  • A photo ID

  • A 1040 tax form if you are moving near tax season

  • Social Security card

  • Birth certificate

Needless to say, these documents should be stored in a safe place.

7. Kitchen Products

Eating out in Costa Rica out can get expensive, and it’s usually necessary to cook your own meals to stay on a budget. Bring plenty of kitchenware to prepare your own food.

However, ask in advance if your new kitchen is already furnished. You may not need to bring many extra utensils, but you should have the following items on hand:

  • Coffee pot and grinder

  • Crock pot

  • Mini oven

  • Knife set

  • Colander

  • Stirring spoons

You may need other specialty items for certain cuisines. Make a list of common kitchen appliances that you use and make sure to pack them.

8. Items to Help You Deal With the Climate

The heat, bright sun, and annoying bugs are a few of the downsides of living in Costa Rica. Bring the following things to protect yourself from the elements:

Bug Repellant

Bugs are a serious problem in Costa Rica. Bullet ants produce more painful bites than any other insect in the world. Local mosquitoes and other insects can carry the Zika virus, dengue fever, and other serious diseases, so it’s crucial to use bug repellant to deal with them. Bug repellant is an absolute necessity if you plan on being outside for any period of time.

Unfortunately, these repellents are also much more expensive in Costa Rica. You’ll need to spend $8 for the same bottle that you could buy in the United States for $3. The cost difference can add up quickly.


Exercise caution when spending time in the sun in Costa Rica. You can get sunburned in as little as 20 minutes if you’re exposed to direct sunlight. At a minimum, you should have SPF 30 or better. It should be applied at least once every hour, especially if you’re going to be swimming.

Sunscreen is also a bit more expensive in Costa Rica, so stock up before your move.

Fan or Air Conditioner

The humidity and heat in Costa Rica can be very intense, even if you’re spending most of your time indoors. Bring a small but powerful air conditioner to keep yourself comfortable. If you can’t bring an air conditioner, then a strong fan is the next best thing.

9. Household Medications

Keep plenty of household medications on hand in case of an emergency. Fevers and stomach bugs can strike without warning, especially if you’re dealing with the stress of moving to another country and are exposed to foreign pathogens that your immune system isn’t used to. Wandering around in search of a drugstore is the last thing you’ll want to do if you get sick.

It’s always a good idea to have these medications on hand in case you get sick:

  • Tylenol, ibuprofen, and aspirin

  • Pepto Bismol

  • Benadryl

  • Melatonin

  • Prescription drugs for any serious ailments

You shouldn’t have trouble bringing some over-the-counter medications into the country. Make sure that you only bring enough to last a month or so to avoid any issues. If you need medication for chronic illnesses, then you’ll need a prescription from your doctor.

10. Other Essentials

There are other less-common essentials that you may need to buy before your move to Costa Rica. Andrea Fellman, a U.S. expat and blogger at Wanderlust Living, recommends bringing these items:

  • Peanut butter

  • Water bottles

  • Granola bars

Andrea wrote that a refillable water bottle can cost over $30. Stock up before leaving, and stay hydrated in the hot Costa Rican sun.

Start Making Your Checklist

Starting a new life in Costa Rica requires a lot of work and planning. It can also prove stressful, especially if you leave anything important behind. Make sure to take the time to create a checklist of essential things to bring with you before your move.

Is there anything else that people should bring to Costa Rica? Let us know in the comments below: