Tourist Car Import in Costa Rica

Getting your car through Costa Rican customs

This was the procedure in January of 1999. Some things may have change slightly. Now you need a vehicle emissions certificate before you ship it. See this from the US Embassy in Costa Rica and this from the Costa Rican Embassy in the US. --- When you show up at the customs agency there will be people offering to help you get your car through customs for a fee (these are not customs workers). They will ask for $100 to $150 and say that will include all the fees by customs. You do not need them as this is the procedure. Customs opens at 8am. Get to each place early, as the day goes on, the lines get longer. You will need: your passport and two copies of it; and one copy of the page that was stamped when you entered Costa Rica your car title and one copy of it. your driver's license and one copy of it. your bill of lading and two copies of it. You get the bill of lading from the shipper or customs agency that your shipper uses in Costa Rica. The first thing you do when you get it is to put your name and passport number on it. Also you must find out at which parking area they have placed the car. You now need to get insurance from an INS office. Ask for tourist automobile insurance. One copy of the bill of lading and one of your passport will be taken. The cost (January 1999) is $10 for 3 months. This tooks about 1 hour, they also open at 8am. Next you must go to a bank to pay a customs fee. Ask at the customs agency which brach does this, but in Limon the branch is right at the agency. This fee is $30. This took about 10 minutes. They open at 8am as well. Now get the customs application to fill out. It will have these instructions on top. Now get a customs inspector and you will have to take a taxi ($4 round trip) to the parking area. You will have to sign in, and will not be able to take any bags near the cars. The inspector will write notes about the car on the bill of lading. This took about 90 minutes. After this take the taxi back to customs where you will give all your papers to another customs agent. You will then just wait until it is processed. This took about 3 hours. You will then get a permit and these are the rules you abide by (it's in both Spanish and English). Now take a taxi back to the parking area ($4 again). Give your permit to the clerk and you now have to pay for parking which is $10 for 10 days or any portion there of. If it was there for more that 10 days the is is $1 for each additional day. You must also pay for fumigation of your car, $3. After this they will go and retrieve your car and bring it out to you. This all took about 30 minutes. The shipping company will have drained all gasoline from the tank, so the first thing you need to do is find a gas stations and fill it up (as of January 1999 it costs about $1.20/gal). Also there will be writing all over the windshield and glass of your car. This will require a razor blade to scrape off. Total cost is about $61 and count on spending a full day. The first bus from San Jose to Limon leaves at 5am and gets there at 8:45. So you may consider leaving the evening before and spending the night in Limon. The Park Hotel (Tel. 798 0555) is in walking distance of everywhere you need to go. It costs $38/night and has air conditioning, cable TV and a telephone in each room. But do not eat there, their food is bad.