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
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.