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Moving to Costa Rica: Packing tips on what you should bring


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Our family moved to Dominical, Costa Rica six months ago and one of the hardest parts of the move was knowing what to bring and to try to not overpack. Do we really need all of these shoes? How many bottles of bug spray should we bring? Can we find decent pots and pans in Costa Rica?

While we had visited Costa Rica multiple times in the past, we had never been there for longer than two weeks. I was full of anxiety and nerves on what to pack but thanks to advice from fellow bloggers we were able to fit all of our necessities into 8 pieces of luggage. When you move to a new country its difficult to know exactly what you will need, but we feel we brought just the right amount of items from home to Costa Rica.

Moving to Costa Rica

Are you moving to Costa Rica?

Check out my packing tips on what you should bring with you on your move!

Warm weather clothing

Costa Rica has a tropical climate so packing lightweight clothing is key. If you live in the rainforest like we do, know that the rainy season can get chilly so make sure you bring a lightweight rain jacket. Here are some essential clothing you will need:

  • Swim suits (3-4) and coverups

  • Sandals/flip flops

  • Water shoes

  • Sun hat

  • Sunglasses

  • Several pair of shorts (denim and workout)

  • Sports bras

  • Dry fit shirts and towels

While most days I'm wearing work out or beach attire, I did bring a couple dresses and jeans for when traveling to San Jose or for going out to a celebratory dinner. I've only worn them a handful of times but I am glad I didn't bring any more than just a few. You really won't wear anything fancy for most of your time in Costa Rica.

Decent hiking shoes

Whether you are going to be zip lining, hiking to a waterfall or even bird watching in Costa Rica, make sure you bring lightweight hiking boots. The terrain in the mountains and rain forests are not the place to bring sandals or even tennis shoes. During most hikes, you may pass through creeks or it could rain so you need to make sure they are waterproof so they will dry quickly.

Our family likes to buy our shoes from Merrell, an outdoor shoe brand for men and women. Their boots/shoes are ideal for the rainforest and hold together very well.

Your favorite toiletries

Due to so many American's moving to Costa Rica, there are multiple brands in their stores you will recognize like Dove and Suave. However, they are way more expensive. So if you can bring certain shampoos, makeup and even feminine products you will save yourself money and the hassle of trying to find the brands you love in Costa Rica.

I use Aveda hair products which you cannot find in Costa Rica. I stocked up on large bottles of shampoo and conditioner to last a few months. While this isn't essential to a move, it helped keep some normalcy in my day-to-day living and adjust to the culture shock of our new home.

Razors

Like all other imported goods, razors and razor blades are more expensive in Costa Rica and your options will be limited. I packed several boxes of replacements to last a few months but have since switched to a safety razor. They are more cost effective and much better for the environment. Win-win!

Over the counter medicine

In Costa Rica, most medicines are sold by the pill which you have to purchase at the pharmacy, and can be more expensive. My advice is to bring large bottles of your preferred pain reliever and cold medicine. I also packed children's cold medicine which we surprisingly needed the first weeks we moved to Costa Rica. It was nice having something familiar to give my daughter while we were still figuring out the medical system in the country.

I didn't bring NyQuil and I wish I would have. While the pharmacies are great and have plenty of cold medicines, sometimes a girl needs some Nyquil when its been several days of horrible sleep due to a chest cold.

Sunscreen/insect repellent

There is plenty of sunscreen and bug spray sold in Costa Rica, but its double the price! We brought down several bottles of each and every time we head back to the States I always grab a few more.

Also, the natural products are very hard to find here. I prefer to have the least amount of chemicals in my sunscreens and repellents so I'm happy that I brought my own. You will use both products almost daily and its much more cost effective to bring them with you.

Coffee Grinder

For some reason it is near impossible to find a coffee grinder in a country known for some of the best brew. Coffee beans have so much more flavor and if you are lucky enough to call Costa Rica home, you will want to take full advantage of having this flavorful stuff at your fingertips. I slipped my coffee grinder into my checked bag and we use it every morning. It is one item I am extremely happy I brought with us.

It is important to note that most grocery stores in Costa Rica only sell ground coffee and to find beans you may have to head to a coffee farm or a cafe. So if you are not planning on making an extra trip for coffee beans you can skip the grinder. However, if you want some of the best coffee beans I suggest getting Dota coffee. It is my personal favorite and not as expensive as that popular Brit coffee. It can be found in certain cafes throughout the country or you can make the trip to Santa Maria de Dota to visit the processing plant. Its well worth the trip!

Pots and pans

Nice pots and pans are hard to come by in Costa Rica. If you aren't using a shipping company to move to Costa Rica, it may be difficult to bring these items on the airplane but it is doable. I purchased a cast iron pan and stuffed it in my suitcase to bring down and I am so happy I did. Most pans you find in Costa Rica are cheap and covered in teflon which we all know is horrible for our health.

KitchenAid mixer & blender

While it will be almost impossible to pack a mixer into your checked bag, if you are shipping items down make sure you pack a KitchenAid mixer or a similar brand. Mixers can be found anywhere in Costa Rica but they are way overpriced and pretty bad if you ask me. We have one that cost $90 and it is worthless. I never use it and stick to my hand mixer.

Blenders are similar in that they can be purchased in almost any store, but they are more expensive for a decent brand. So if you like daily smoothies or making your own sauces pack a blender.

Airtight food containers

When you move to Costa Rica you know that insects will be an issue and it can be quite annoying to get used to them. Whether its the dry or rainy season, and no matter where you live the threat of bugs invading your kitchen never seems to end. I had read from several bloggers before we made the move that it was smart to bring your own airtight food containers with you, and I am so glad I listened!

In our eight pieces of luggage we brought with us, I carried several Oxo containers with a pop and seal lid. You can find similar ones in Costa Rica but once again, they are more expensive and I don't feel the seal is as strong. I once had sugar in a Costa Rican container and overnight sugar ants had made a feast out of it.

Certain spices

Most spices in the United States and Canada you can find in the local grocery stores. However, there are a few I have never seen or went through dozens of stores to actually find.

  • Dried sage - I tried finding dried sage in Costa Rica around Thanksgiving and came up empty. I looked everywhere!

  • Dried dill

  • Tarragon

  • Chili powder - Some stores carry chili powder but it can be hard to find.

  • Himalayan sea salt - Most salt in Costa Rica is fluoridated and its hard to find sea salt so we opted to bring Himalayan sea salt with us

  • Indian & Asian spices

Electronic accessories

I know I'm playing a broken record, but anything that needs to be imported into Costa Ria is double the cost which includes all of your phone and computer accessories. Our family brought several iPhone chargers, computer chargers, hard drives and camera accessories. It does make your luggage more heavy but some of these items are hard to find and will end up costing you an arm and a leg!

Linens & Towels

If you aren't planning on living near San Jose, your options for decent bedding quality and towels aren't great. Costa Rica lacks high-end sheets and towels which can be a major change if you are used to high quality bedding. Most places don't even put the thread count on the packaging since its not even worth bragging about.

Also, most towels (especially kitchen towels) have little to no absorption. While this is more of a nuisance than a necessity it can help you transition to your new home more smoothly when little things like towels and linens feel like home. So if you prefer higher quality linens and towels throw some in your luggage and you will be thanking yourself later!

Miscellaneous

  • Flashlights - power outages are common so we always keep several flashlights around the house just in case.

  • Daypack

  • First Aid Kit

  • Waterproof/fog-proof binoculars

  • Pocketknives

  • Kindle - English books can be hard to find

I hope this post was helpful for your move to Costa Rica! While most items from home will be more expensive, its reassuring to know that you can find most things you are used to in Costa Rica. Happy packing!

#movingtoCostaRica #movingabroad #whattopack #expatfamilycostarica #lifeinCostaRica #livinginCostaRica #CostaRicatips #CostaRica

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