Customs and Duties

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Customs and Duties

You're always allowed to bring goods of a certain value back home without having to pay any duty or import tax. But there's a limit on the amount of tobacco and liquor you can bring back duty free, and some countries have separate limits for perfumes; for exact figures, check with your customs department. The values of so-called duty-free goods are included in these amounts. When you shop abroad, save all your receipts, as customs inspectors may ask to see them as well as the items you purchased. If the total value of your goods is more than the duty-free limit, you'll have to pay a tax (most often a flat percentage) on the value of everything beyond that limit.

When shopping in Costa Rica, keep receipts for all purchases. Be ready to show customs (aduanas) officials what you've bought. Pack purchases together in an easily accessible place. The Patrimony Protection Department recommends obtaining a letter (free) from its office in the National Museum attesting that high-quality replicas of pre-Columbian artifacts are in fact copies, to avoid customs hassles. In practice, few people request such a letter, and problems with such souvenirs are infrequent. The only orchids you can take home are packaged in a tube and come with an export permit.

If you think a duty is incorrect, appeal the assessment. If you object to the way your clearance was handled, note the inspector's badge number. In either case, first ask to see a supervisor. If the problem isn't resolved, write to the appropriate authorities, beginning with the port director at your point of entry.

It usually takes about 10 to 30 minutes to clear customs when arriving in Costa Rica.

Visitors entering Costa Rica may bring in 500 grams of tobacco, 5 liters of wine or spirits, 2 kilograms of sweets and chocolates, and the equivalent of $500 worth of merchandise. One camera and one video camera, six rolls of film, binoculars, and electrical items for personal use only are also allowed. Make sure you have personalized prescriptions for any medication you are taking. Customs officials at San José's international airport rarely examine tourists' luggage by hand, although all incoming bags are x-rayed. If you enter by land, they'll probably look through your bags. Officers at the airport generally speak English and are usually your best (only, really) option for resolving any problem.

Pets (cats or dogs) with updated health and vaccination certificates are welcome in Costa Rica; no prior authorization is required if bringing a dog or cat that has up-to-date health and vaccination cards. The Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal can provide more info.

Information in Costa Rica

Costa Rica Customs (2522-9000 in Costa Rica. www.hacienda.go.cr.)

Servicio Nacional de Salud Animal (2587–1600 in Costa Rica. www.senasa.go.cr.)

U.S. Information

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (www.cbp.gov.)

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