Movers, Agents and Relocation Specialists
I cannot even begin to tell you how important this is! Choosing the right mover can save you a ton of time and MONEY!
Let's talk about the overall process here.
Money saving suggestion! Moving internationally is expensive. You pay by the hundredweight (units of 100 pound). Think! Examine carefully the items you want to bring. If a couch is old, some beds too... that scratched dining room table? Hand made furniture is cheap here! Cheap as in price, not in quality! You can easily spend $7,000 to $10,000 on a move. That can buy a LOT of nice new furniture here in Costa Rica. Clearly, electronics, some appliances and other items are expensive here so those must come... heirlooms too, that great old mantel clock maybe... but think carefully about whether you really need that old furniture.
Movers and Agents
First, you are going to need TWO movers. You will need one mover for your home country who will be in charge of getting your goods from your home to Costa Rica, usually through a port such as Miami. Be sure to select and work work closely with your Costa Rica mover to make 100% SURE all the items are on your manifest and what is in the boxes is exactly what the manifest says is in the boxes. Errors like that can be very costly and a real problem fix. Further, a good Costa Rica mover can tell you how to save money on import duties!
Basically, you (or the mover in your home country) can pack the boxes. You can save if you do it yourself, BUT, I would 100% recommend that you use a professional mover to pack anything that is either delicate or of high value. A good mover knows how to pack mirrors, art work, etc so they arrive in perfect condition. Items like large screen TVs may need special packing and reinforcement. I had an antique table with delicate legs and my mover built a box to ship it. Arrived in perfect condition! This is one of those great times to know your limits. Of course it is more expensive to have them pack it for you! Now consider how much to replace it or repair it if you do not pack it securely.
So you are all packed. Your local mover will then deliver a container (or partial) to your home. The neighbors will be thrilled! Then you are you mover will load it and seal it. Again, I suggest you let your mover do his job!
They will then send your container to a Costa Rica port of entry, often Puerto Limon.
In Puerto Limón, the ship will be unloaded and the container taken to a customs warehouse. Customs may or may not examine it... and import duties must be paid., Your Costa Rica mover will explain this to you. There, they will remain until you, your Costa Rica Mover or agent comes to pick it up. If it is your mover, they will then deliver it to your home.
Seems simple enough, right? In principle, it is, but in reality, it is far more complex.
First, I suggest that you retain the Costa Rica based mover FIRST. Why do that? Because most experienced Costa Rica movers have counterparts in most countries... people they have worked with many time before. They can direct how items are packed, how boxes should be labeled, how to avoid over taxation by using the wrong type of insurance. They can give YOU some very handy hints on how you can minimize the tax bill here by properly valuing your stuff.
BUT! You will not be required to use the local mover recommended by your Costa Rica mover. While there are a fairly limited number of reputable Costa Rican movers, there are about a zillion US based movers.
When I moved here, I called eight. YES EIGHT including the one my Costa Rica mover recommended. They all sent salesmen to the house, counted rooms of furniture, nosed around, asked questions and wanted to send me a quote. At that time, I told them I was shopping for the best deal and as I felt all the other seven movers were honest and reputable, the best price would get the deal so long as I felt they were reputable. Sometimes in life, maybe it is not always best to choose the very cheapest. Brain surgery comes to mind!
Every one of them told me that shipping rates (tariffs) were set by the state, or the US government, or whatever. THAT friends, was horsepucky! While two quotes were almost identical, there was a $1,800.00 difference between highest and lowest bids, and most of THAT was in the cost per hundredweight. So check with several movers to see what they offer and suggest. The rates charged by US movers are NOT set in stone, and they have ways to sharpen those numbers! I did not try to do this at the Costa Rica end as I was scared to death of moving here, and I wanted a friendly-faced mover at this end.
Once your possessions arrive in Costa Rica, they are placed in a warehouse for inspection and collection of taxes. Here again is where your local Costa Rica mover can help. While most won't do anything illegal (mine didn't) the ones who have been in business here for years know all the employees in those warehouses and at aduana (customs)! The process can either go fast or slow, and if there is a question, a ruling can either go for or against you! The good agents here know how to get things to go your way. Choose your CR mover very carefully and get a bunch of references from neutral sources (i.e. do NOT ask the mover for references!). Use the various forums and user groups elsewhere in this web site, and ask people who now live here who they used and if they had problems.
Relocation Specialist Companies
The complexities of an International move have always been a bit scary. For years, there have been relocation firms used by business to move their employees. Now, however, there are NEW companies, sometimes located in-country and these may be used either by businesses or individuals.
These firms can often do an extremely competent job of easing the pain or maybe the scariness of an international move. Being in-country, they know local schools, churches, importation laws and may well have connections with movers and agents. Most will assist you after you arrive doing anything from helping you open a bank account to assist in getting your drivers license. For some people, an international move is just too complex and too nerve wracking and a relocation specialist is the answer. While they will certainly add significantly to the overall cost of your move, you may feel the extra cost is worth it. They may be just the thing to help with the complexities ahead of you.
Whether a mover, agent, or relocations specialist... Especially for the Costa Rica mover, ALWAYS check them out and ask for references from people who have actually used them and are actually now living here. A phone call is often best.
Remember that if you insure your shipment, you are providing customs with a handy list to evaluate the cost of your goods AND therefore giving them free reign over how much import duty (tax) to charge you. Check with your Costa Rica mover about this!
Also, use the local Costa Rica User Groups to get an idea if the company is reputable and has performed as promised.