Monday, April 30, 2007

Busy, busy, busy

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been so busy lately! I am such a slow poke when it comes to getting my items up on Ebay. Generally it takes me 30 minutes per item! But I have been plugging away and so check back often since I am continually adding new fun stuff. Click here for all my items (and thanks for bidding!). Like I said before, I hate to give some of these treasures up but moving to Costa Rica is much more fun and exciting to me right now than having a huge display case full of "things".

Our realtor has been in contact with us a lot this past weekend. The company's lawyer is in the process of writing up our purchase agreement! Yeah! We still need to wait until the other couple's option runs out but they only have a few days left so we are very hopeful!

We had a garage sale on Saturday which helped us empty part of the garage. The plan is to have one at least one day every weekend until we move. Then we'll take all the unsold items to Salvation Army. Speaking of Salvation Army, we took another van full of clothes again today. Who knew we had so many darn clothes! It's kind of scary!

Anyway, I hope to get more useful information posted soon. So, please stay tuned!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

More info about moving to Costa Rica

We will be using Charles Zeller as our broker. We met Charles at the ARCR seminar in November and his discussion on shipping impressed us enough that we trust he knows what he is doing. His expertise has been and will be helpful. I hate to make this a long post, but I feel that the post Charles added to the ARCR forum best describes the necessary info for packing (so below is a post I copied that Charles himself put on the ARCR forum):

How are duties assesed ?

CR Customs Law has 3 articles that cover the import of USED housheold goods.Used for CR Customs means that the article was used more than 6 months before shipping to Costa Rica.

Once your goods arrive to Customs in CR you have to declare the value of your goods, and based on that value you will be charged the duties.

You can not declare just any value, it has to be the the CIF value ( Cost + Insurance + Shipping) and it has to be logical and reasonable, if not it will not go trough.

Only 7 categories of items are duty free:
1. Personal effects : Means anything that you can wear sa: clothes, shoes, hats, purses etc.
2. Personal Videos
3. Personal CD´s Does not mean you have to appear in the video or sing on the CD´s its your personal collection of music and videos.
4. Personal pictures
5. Books
6. Hand tools for domestic use ( No guys, no power tools)
7. Portable gym equipment ( Whatever that means)All other categories are taxed at the same percentage duties as new ( 14% up to 57% depending on the category or Customs classification)

Therefor its advisable to get proffesional help from someone who has experience in importing household goods.
CR Customs is a tax collecting agency just like the IRS in the USA.
We Customs brokers are like tax accountants, that help you file the papers at Customs in such a way you pay the least amount of duties. Not just any Customs broker will do, you need one that has experience in houshold goods, just like in the States, there are accountants specialized in dif fields of business.

On the avarega a 1x20 container full of used household goods pays about $ 1500 in import duties and a 1x40 $ 2000. Why not double for the 1x40, reason is that the shipping charges are part of the CIF value and shipping a 1x40 container compared to a 1x20 container costs only about 25% more.

Now about the other question: Where does the container go when it arrives at port of entry:
1. Be aware that US Customs has the right to inspect your container before it leaves US soil. They sometimes do and they will charge you the cost of the inspection.
2. When it gets to Costa Rican port, the authorities have the right to inspect its contents to make sure it matches the declared goods on the Bill of Lading. This is not inspection to asses duties but just to make sure it is what is declared.
2. The broker has to request to have the container transferred to a private bonded warehouse. I try to use one under the Airport Customs authorities, because they are very efficient.
3. The container gets unloaded at the private bonded warehouse, items counted to see if they match the declared quantity and the empty container is returned to the Steamship line. The goods remain at the private warehouse until Customs authorizes the release.
4. The Customs broker has to make up the declaration of value. To do so, they will preform a preliminary inspection to make sure that all is as declared on the Bill of Lading and packing inventory. Customs brokers are cosigners on the declaration)
5. Once the declaration of value is filed and preliminary inpsection made, the estimated duties are paid.
6. CR Customs will decide to release the goods or send an inspector out to verify the values etc.
7. Once everybody agrees on the values and papers filed, then the release is given.
8. The goods get loaded into a local truck and delivered to your residence.

Because the bonded warehouse are private, there are some very good and safe ones that have cameras and guards watching over your belongings .

More questions, please contact me
Charles Zeller --------------------
Ship to Costa Rica

28 years of experience moving people to paradise
Off: 506-258-8747
Fax 506-258-7123
Toll free US and Canada: 866-245-6923

Charles quoted us approximately $6500 to ship all of our things in a full container load (FCL). I hope everything goes well and I will definitely keep you updated after our move is completed.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Full Container Loads (FCL) -not for everyone

So, you're thinking of moving to Costa Rica? Do you need to ship all of your possessions? The answer is "No, of course not." Shipping things down is not for everyone.

If Patrick and I had decided to move to Costa Rica 15 years ago, we probably would have gone with a single suitcase each! Now that we are a family of three, our priorities have changed. As with anything in life, everyone has their own preference and agenda.

We have decided to move our things for many different reasons. One reason in particular is because I hate to shop! I know this may sound strange, but when I find something I like, I stick with it. It's not uncommon to find me wearing a shirt with a small hole in it or frayed collars- it just means it's a favorite of mine. Same with furniture. It takes me forever to pick out something I would actually consider using in my house. Once it's purchased, it will stay there until broken or damaged in some way. Then it will only be replaced if it is a necessity. Bottom line, I am frugal.

Since we will need to furnish two houses (given that we actually buy the property we like with the guest house) means that no matter what we ship, I will still need to go shopping once we get there. Maybe I'll enjoy it? I am looking forward to buying two handcrafted rocking chairs in Sarchi. Sarchi is known for great handcrafted woodwork especially hand painted oxcarts. I haven't been there yet but a shopping trip tops my list of must-do activities once we are settled in our new place. Here is some good info regarding Sarchi:

Back to shipping a FCL, we think this is OUR best option. Some people only need to bring a few things. Everyone we talked to said the most important items to bring with you are computers and stereo equipment. Mostly quality electronic items are hard to find at good values in Costa Rica. I will post more details regarding full container loads tomorrow.

Azure enjoying a drink in Tortuguero

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Our troubles with packing a FCL (full container load)

I just wanted to write a quick note about our packing situation.

We have been packing everything we feel we need to take with us into plastic containers. This isn't typical stuff like most people consider as necessary: family heirlooms and pictures. Our idea of necessary consists of books, Cd's, computer software, DVDs, computers, printers, and only SOME furniture.

My Mom thinks it sad that I have thrown away all of my childhood memorabilia. My husband on the other hand thinks it is hilarious that I still have them. Things like tennis trophies from tournaments I entered when I was 7, cereal premiums, and my Six Million Dollar Man trading cards. Well, I am a pop culture junkie so some of those things were hard to part with. At least I feel better that some of them are going to good homes (check my E-bay sales -just search for items by seller go-doggo:!

The point is that we can only take what fits in a FCL. At first we were thinking, "we can't possibly fill a 20ft container!" But now we have sectioned off a portion of our garage to match the inside dimensions of the container. YIKES! We actually need to cut back on our treasures!

How will we survive, we wonder, with only 10 boxes of books instead of 20 or 30? Have I mentioned yet that books are outrageously expensive in Costa Rica? I priced new paperbacks at $16-18 for the $7.99 variety here in the States. Most books were $28-32. We can't live with that when we are the type of family to read 2-3 books a week each! We currently live at the library...
Anyway this is getting long winded so I will end for today. More on this tragedy later this week!

These girls were obviously happy to see us! (taken while on the bus during ride to San Jose from canals of Tortuguero National Park)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Hotel Fleur de Lys -places to stay in Costa Rica part 5

We enjoyed our brief stay at the Hotel Fleur de Lys in February '06. We were still part of a group and given a suite since Azure was with us. The suite opened into a sitting area with a futon and bar (which seemed strange to me). Off this sitting area was a bedroom with a king bed, large closet, and tv. Two separate entrances into the bathroom which was entirely made of black marble (yuck)! Mom and Phil had a smaller room with a queen bed and bath. This room was barely big enough to walk in!

The hotel itself was decorated with local art work which was wonderful. All of the art is available for purchase and they also have a small gift shop with an assortment of items such as tshirts, cigars, pottery, paintings, etc.

The restaurant around the corner, Nuestra Tierra, is highly recommended! Lonely Planet reviewed this restaurant and placed it as one of the best budget places to eat in San Jose (we agree so far!). The first time we ate there was a Monday evening around 8pm. I mention this because a couple men were playing the marimba and it really added to the enjoyment of our last night in San Jose. The delicious food will keep us going back. We even made a point to eat there again in November when we returned to San Jose. The casados (local dish of rice, beans, steak or chicken, salad, and plantains) set us back only $5!

The hotel does have a restaurant but we didn't eat there since Nuestra Tierra is literally around the corner. Others in our group said the food at the hotel was good...

The Fleur de Lys is located as the Eastern end of downtown San Jose. It is within walking distance of the Central Market and the pedestrian mall. Some of the best local art at the best prices can be found across the street from the Nuestra Tierra in the Artisan Market.

Website for Hotel Fleur de Lys:

(the photo of the hotel is taken from their website)

sorry this picture of Nuestra Tierra was taken from the window of the bus!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Samoa Lodge- place to stay in Costa Rica part 4

I highly recommend a visit to the Samoa Lodge in Tortuguero. The grounds are beautiful, staff wonderful, food delicious, and the canals are magnificent!

How's that for a recommendation? I mean every word of it! The Samoa Lodge is located along the canals of Tortuguero National Park in the Northeastern corner of Costa Rica. Motorized vehicles except boats are banned in the park. The only mode of transportation is via the canals that were built as a roadway.

When we visited last February, the mini-bus drove over extremely rough roads after leaving Siquirres. That part of the drive took an hour if I recall correctly(?). Once we arrived at the docks, everyone was piled into a flat boat with a roof -we did get a short break for treats and restrooms while they loaded our luggage onto the boat. Then we took off through the canals slowly at first then at break neck speed. I believe we were all somewhat disappointed by the quick ride (30 minutes) and at the same time relieved that we arrived at the lodge to unwind. Immediately upon arrival, the staff appeared with yummy fruit drinks! I knew instantly that this would be my favorite part of the trip.

Our package at the lodge included 2 nights stay, 2 trips to the village of Tortuguero where we toured the Caribbean Conservation Corporation for turtles and hiked through the national park, a morning canal trip with a naturalist, and all meals.

This is the website for the lodge:

We really enjoyed the pool!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

One step closer to our home purchase in Costa Rica

Friday the 13th was not so bad for the Jones family. Our realtor called last night to let us know that Manuel, the owner of the house we want to buy in Costa Rica, hasn't heard from the other potential buyers in 3 weeks. He was to receive a down payment from them last week and supposedly his lawyer can't even reach them! Good news for us.

So we are going ahead with a title check, inspection, and purchase agreement. If purchasing property in Costa Rica, make sure you always have a lawyer you trust working for you. The lawyer will need to translate all of the paperwork, which is obviously written in Spanish. Also, another important task the lawyer will need to do is check the title. The lawyer needs to ensure the person you are buying the property from is the true one and only owner.

Costa Rica is known for bad property exchanges. People don't need a license to sell property in Costa Rica so everyone tries to get in on the money. What typically happens: a "realtor" or "owner" will sell the same property to several interested parties. After "purchasing" the property, the buyers will find out that they don't actually own it and there is nothing they can do about it. The only way to avoid this scam is to have a lawyer do a title check. Don't avoid this step because no matter how trust worthy the owner or "realtor" seems, there is always the possibility that he has no right to sell you the property.

As a matter of fact, we were starting to get nervous about the money we wired to our realtors company last month because there are no guarantees. But it all seems to be going well. We did receive a receipt for the money from Scotia Bank. Whew! I'll just feel better when this is all done and we have moved in - ah! life in the slow lane!

It's a Jungle out there! Photo taken from the Rain Forest Aerial Tram in Braulio Carrillo National Park

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Rain Forest Aerial Tram - places to stay in Costa Rica part three

Our first time to Costa Rica was February 2006. We booked an Eco-tour through Traveland (which I just found out through a Google search is no longer in business!). Anyway, part of the package took us to the Atlantic Park Rain Forest Aerial Tram which was wonderful!

We arrived mid-afternoon and immediately viewed a video about the process involved in building the tram and how it is Eco-friendly. We were of course reminded not to touch anything in the rain forest so that it would continue to grow naturally. Then the storms came and we spent a bit of time in their terrific gift shop. We realized we wouldn't be able to wait out the storm so we bought ponchos for $7 each (not too bad!) and hopped into one of the trams. The ride lasted about 90 minutes and we were accompanied by a naturalist. Leo, our designated naturalist for our stay, taught us all about the flora and fauna of the park. He answered all of our questions and pointed out everything we need to know about the rain forest. Even though it was pouring rain, we had a great time and learned a lot.

Luckily, our visit also included dinner, a late evening hike with Leo, a stay in one their bungalows, and a morning hike with Leo. We also took our own hike to see the snakes and butterflies. Everything was perfect and Azure liked this part of the vacation the best.

Check out the website for the trams here:
(there is one on the Atlantic side and one on the Pacific side of Costa Rica)

The price may seem high to some but it is well worth it. Keep in mind though that this is not a zoo so you are not guaranteed to see any wildlife. During our stay, it was raining too much to see anything during the tram ride although some people that went earlier saw a tapir. We did see a sloth in a tree near our bungalow and in the morning before we left we saw entire flock of toucans. The naturalists recommend morning time for best views of birds and animals.

Looking down at one of the trams and enjoying dinner at the lodge

Leo, our naturalist

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Happy Easter

Just a quick post to wish everyone a Happy Easter!

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Booking flights & hotels - or places to stay in Costa Rica Part 2

This is just a quick post to help those who use internet booking tools to make the most of their money. I book everything through the internet and we travel a lot. I've saved hundreds of dollars doing it myself. I realize some of you reading this post will know all of this info but for those who don't, here are my top 4 tips:

1. Use to find the best flights then book directly from their recommendations-they allow you to even specify the times you would like to fly on a sliding scale. They also show you the best days of the week to fly to your destination

2. Always clear your cookies (and cache) before each search or booking. Trust me on this one. It makes a HUGE difference. Just the other day my Mom was booking a flight to Calgary. She found a flight for $413 on Kayak via Frontier Airlines. I verified the flight included taxes when she called to discuss it with me. When she went to book it, the price jumped to over $1000. I suggested she clear her cookies and sure enough she booked the flight for the original quoted price.

3. Make sure you join the reward program for all airlines and hotel chains -some of them can be interchanged now so you can almost always find a way to redeem them. I just booked an entire week in Milwaukee (for Summerfest) at the Radisson for free using Gold Points.

4. Check the hotel reviews on Trip Advisor - remember that not everyone has the same expectations so read as many reviews as possible and take each one with a grain of salt. Averaging them out should give you a good idea of what to expect.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Best Western San Jose downtown- Lots of options for places to stay in Costa Rica -part one

Just some thoughts on where to stay during your visit to Costa Rica.

Thinking back on our last visit to San Jose, some people thought we were crazy to stay downtown. Now I would admit, for some less travelled tourists, this would not be the best option. But on the other hand, if you have an open mind and are accustomed to big cities and noise, this is the perfect place to be for a short stay in the capitol before heading out to your other destinations in Costa Rica.

Let me explain. Downtown San Jose is very loud, dirty, and not particularly safe at night. The reason you would want to stay downtown is for convenience to the museums, theater, and Central Market (which is highly recommended). Also, there are numerous restaurants, casinos (if you are into that), and great shopping all downtown. The key is take a taxi in the evening which will only cost you $2 at most. You can safely walk downtown during the day but always remember that pickpockets are prevalent so leave your wallet in your safe at the hotel and only carry enough cash for what you need to spend for that day. You can always go back to the hotel for more cash or stop at an ATM if necessary but you really don't want to be a target if you can help it. Wear older clothing and no jewellery and you won't stand out as much (but you WILL still stand out).

We stayed at the Best Western this March. The hotel is located a few blocks north of the Central Market. This made for a short walk but is NOT an area for the faint of heart. The entire area was surrounded by drug dealers and prostitutes at night (but we had no problems walking during the day). Best Western did a good job of secluding the hotel so if you only got in and out of taxis you would never come in contact with these people. The hotel did have several security people on duty around the perimeter so even having a car in the lot was okay because there was a huge fence surrounding the lot which was guarded during the day and locked at night.

These are photos I took from our 5th floor room at the Best Western. As you can see, the neighborhood is not great but the pool is nice. We paid $60 a night for the room which included a great breakfast, two free drinks every night, and free airport shuttle. The staff was great and I would consider staying there again.

Stay tuned for more info about staying in Costa Rica. I will also try to get ALL of my hotel reviews up on Trip Advisor soon.