The Spanish word for post office is correo. Mail from the United States can take up to two to three weeks to arrive in Costa Rica (occasionally it never arrives at all). Within the country, mail service is even less reliable. Outgoing mail is marginally quicker, with delivery to North America in 5 to 10 days, especially when sent from San José. It's worth registering mail; prices are only slightly higher. All overseas cards and letters will automatically be sent airmail. Mail theft is a chronic problem, so do not mail checks, cash, or anything else of value.

Minimum postage for postcards and letters from Costa Rica to the United States and Canada costs the equivalent of U.S. 65¢.

You can have mail sent poste restante (lista de correos) to any Costa Rican post office (specify Correo Central to make sure it goes to the main downtown office). In written addresses, apartado, abbreviated apdo., indicates a post-office box.

Post offices are generally open weekdays 7:30 to 5:30, and Saturday 8 to noon. Stamps can be purchased at post offices and some hotels and souvenir shops. These vendors will also accept the mail you wish to send; don't bother looking for a mailbox, as only a handful (usually in rural areas with no post office) have been authorized. Always check with your hotel, which may sell stamps and post your letters for you.

Shipping Packages

Shipping parcels through the post office is not for those in a hurry, because packages to the United States and Canada can take weeks. Also, packages may be pilfered. However, post-office shipping is the cheapest way to go, with rates at $7 to $15 per kilogram.

Some stores offer shipping, but it is usually quite expensive. If you can, carry your packages home with you.

UPS has offices in San José, Tamarindo, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, Sarchí, Nuevo Arenal, La Fortuna, and Limón. DHL has drop-offs in San José (Rohrmoser, Paseo Colón), Curridabat, Escazú, Heredia, Liberia, Limón, Ciudad Quesada, Jacó, Quepos, and San Isidro de El General. Both have central information numbers with English-speaking staff to direct you to the nearest office. FedEx has offices in San José; it offers package pickup service in San José and other centers, such as Limón; call for availability. Prices are about 10 times what you'd pay at the post office, but packages arrive in a matter of days. ("Overnight" is usually a misnomer—shipments to most North American cities take two business days.)

Express Services Main Offices

DHL (Paseo Colón, next to Budget car rental, Paseo Colón, San José, 40702. 2209–0000 in Costa Rica.

FedEx (Paseo Colón and C. 40, 100 m east of León Cortés statue, San José, 10103. 800/463–3339 in Costa Rica. Call for other locations.)

UPS (Pavas Hwy., 50 m east of Pizza Hut, Pavas, San José, 10109. 2290–2828 in Costa Rica. Call for other locations.)

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