Thursday, September 18, 2008

Get yer mail here

Herein you get one of those rare posts where I actually give you what may be useful information.

Ex-pats who move to Costa Rica from the U.S. usually are leaving an entire life behind, even temporarily, and that means a whole lot of mail. I've found the Costa Rica mail system spotty at best; many, many things I've had sent directly to my post office box here in the country never arrived, including a magazine subscription (until they started sending it in manila envelopes!), anything from the IRS (not that I really mind), and a rather substantial check that was stolen and then illegally cashed. So I don't put much faith of anything of importance actually reaching me via my CR post office box. I haven't had a problem getting postcards, though, I guess the people working at the correos can plainly tell there's nothing to steal there.

Sending from Costa Rica is a different matter entirely. So far (knock on wood), I've never had a thing go missing that I've sent from here. And the postal rates are about half of what you might pay in the U.S. (guessing here, but I know sending mail from Costa Rica is very cheap). So I don't really use my courier service except for receiving mail.

Which brings me to my next point: What is the best way to get mail from the U.S.? Answer: A courier service. These are basically mailboxes in Miami, Florida, where you have things sent, and then the company gets them to you from Miami to Costa Rica. There are several companies to choose from; personally, I use Interlink/Trans Express and have for the past nearly 8 years. I've rarely had a problem, though none of the companies are without their drawbacks. For one thing, they are expensive. Most companies charge a flat rate (I believe Interlink's is $15 per month), for which you get a certain number of pounds of mail, and then they charge you per pound after that. I get a lot of books from the U.S. that get sent through Interlink, so my bill runs anywhere from $50-100 per month. One thing I do like about Interlink is that they don't charge any additional "handling/customs" fees or taxes on any media, including books, DVDs, CDs, etc. Other companies, I have heard, do that. However, you usually will get smacked with rather hefty taxes for other goods, especially electronics and sometimes even clothes. I remember when I was pregnant with son ordering some maternity clothes because I couldn't find anything here I liked, and having to pay like an additional 50% in taxes on everything I'd ordered. Ouch. I don't think that is exclusive to Interlink, though; all of the companies have to charge import duties on certain things because they go through customs when they enter the country.

There are two other companies people use that are popular: JetBox and Aerocasillas. From what I've heard, Interlink is the least expensive. But of course, do your own research and see what option works best for you. There is a Mail Boxes Etc. here as well, but I've heard of nothing but problems from people who use that service (such as mail never arriving, being charged various amounts for the same item depending on who the clerk is that day, etc.).

If anyone else has any other service they used that I haven't mentioned, or any comments about MBE, JetBox or Aerocasillas, please leave a comment!

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