The picture above is everything I took with me on the plane. But I also shipped a few small boxes from California to here, just things that I couldn’t fit into the suitcases but also didn’t want to give away or sell before leaving. Unfortunately, of the 4 boxes shipped, 2 were caught in customs. We received notice at the hotel that the boxes were at the El Roble Post Office in Puntarenas, about a 3 hour drive from where I live.
So I rented a car and drove down to El Roble on Monday, thinking I’d get there when they open at 10 and be home by 2. I gave myself an hour just in case there was a line. Well, there were only a few people in line in front of me but it was still an all day affair. I had heard often about the red tape at the Costa Rican government agencies and only a week into living here, I have fully experienced it.
The boxes had to be opened and inspected at the post office. The two people there wrote down on the form that all items were used (so I wouldn’t be charged taxes as I wouldn’t be selling the items). From there, I had to get a copy of my passport at the copy shop down the road and then return it to the post office. Then I had to drive a few miles down the road to the Customs Building where I waited for over an hour and a half even though there were only two people in front of me (but only one agent who was actually working). When it was my turn, I handed the paperwork to the agent and he got up and walked to the back of the office. Not a word was said. About 30 minutes later, he returned. I saw that he was charging me about $90 for the items (when it should have been free) but I didn’t care. He was taking forever to fill out the information in his computer database and I just wanted this day to be done. From there, I had to drive back into town to the bank and pay the fee. Then I had to return to the Customs Building and give them the receipt from the bank which they then gave me another receipt to take back to the post office, where I could finally claim my items.
When the post office rep saw how much I paid, he was in shock. I told him that I know, I shouldn’t have paid, but I just didn’t care at that point and didn’t want to argue with the agent. He shook his head and said the agents are like turtles, so slow, and they don’t do things correctly.
I finally left El Roble just after 3 and with one stop for gas, I returned home at 6:30.
I know there will be more days like this in the future as I try to open bank accounts, get a license, etc but for now, I’m just glad this day was done. And for sure, I will be making a point to use all items in those two boxes. The one saving grace was that on the drive home, even though it was pouring down rain, the old dirt road had been paved and that was like a small miracle for me.
Cost of a day at customs for car, gas and fees: $300; Plus an entire day lost of work.