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Costa rica

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A cross-border guide to Costa Rican ecommerce, shipping, and importing goods 


If you are looking to grow your ecommerce business into Costa Rica, you’ve come to the right place. In our guide, created by Zonos' cross-border experts, you will find up-to-date duty and tax rates, landed cost breakdown examples, and detailed information on restrictions, trade agreements, required import documentation, and more.

Zonos grade for Costa Rica’s ease of importing goods: C 

Ease of doing business3 / 5- There are no notable trade barriers affecting the entry of most goods and services into Costa Rica.
- Costa Rica’s lacking infrastructure and fiscal deficit hinder the ease of doing business.
Landed cost fairness3 / 5- The duty and tax rates are moderate.
- Costa Rica’s duty and tax de minimis are both low, so most imports will have duty and/or tax charges, which can result in a relatively high landed cost.
Flexibility of legal regulations3 / 5- Costa Rican customs procedures are complex and bureaucratic, but improvements are being put in place.
Availability and accessibility of shipping5 / 5- Most major carriers ship to Costa Rica, and its close proximity to the United States (U.S.) allows for easier shipping.
Accessibility and variety of payment methods5 / 5- Costa Rica accepts a variety of online payment methods, such as credit/debit cards, ewallets, PayPal, and bank transfers.
Market opportunity4 / 5- The immature state of Costa Rica’s economic framework creates an unfavorable market.
  • Costa Rica’s geographic proximity to the U.S. presents a large market of potential consumers.
  • Costa Rica’s high percentage of internet users gives sellers the potential for high ecommerce success. |

Key stats for Costa Rica 

Population5.14 million (2021)
GDP$61.5 billion United States dollar (USD) (2021)
GDP per capita$9,750 USD (2021)
Internet penetration81.2% of the population use the internet. (2021)
Ecommerce users~50% of the population shop online. (2021)
Leading product categoriesEntertainment, electronics and IT, clothing, shoes, and jewelry
Preferred online payment method(s)Credit or debit cards, ewallets, PayPal, and bank transfers
LanguagesSpanish and English
CurrencyCosta Rican colón / CRC / ₡

Landed cost for Costa Rica 

Landed cost is the total price of getting a purchase to the customer's door, which includes product price, shipping, duties, taxes, and fees such as currency conversion, carrier, broker, customs, or government fees.

Costa Rican de minimis, tax, and duty

Further explanation of duty, tax, and de minimis is provided below the table.

Duty and tax de minimisValue-added tax (VAT)Range of duty rates

| - Duty de minimis: $50.00 USD

  • Tax de minimis: $50.00 USD
  • Applied to the CIF value of the order. | - Standard rate: 13%
  • Applied to the CIF value of the order. | - Range of average duty rates: 1-15%
  • Average rate: 5.6%
  • Applied to the CIF value of the order. |

De minimis value

Duty and tax will be charged only on imports into Costa Rica where the total CIF value of the import exceeds Costa Rica’s minimum value threshold (de minimis), which is $50.00. In the Costa Rican colón currency, $50 USD is roughly equivalent to ~₡32,790 (April 2022). Anything under the tax de minimis value will be considered a tax-free import, and anything under the duty de minimis value will be considered a duty-free import.

VAT - Value-added tax

The standard VAT rate is 13%. There are certain items that are exempt from the VAT, such as staple foods, school uniforms, etc.

Import duty

Costa Rica’s import duty ranges from 1-15%. The average duty rate is 5.6%. The Costa Rican Government has been lowering duty charges over recent years.

Other import fees

Excise tax: Some imports incur an excise tax. These items include wine and beer, new and used vehicles, and some appliances.

Surcharge: Certain imports can also incur a surcharge from Costa Rica’s Central Bank (Banco Central de Costa Rica). However, surcharges are usually only on goods that are also manufactured in Costa Rica or in other parts of Central America.

Landed Cost Examples

Below are sample landed cost breakdowns for Costa Rica (one below the de minimis threshold and one above), which were calculated using Zonos Quoter:

Landed cost for a shipment to Costa Rica below the de minimis value:

Landed cost for a shipment to Costa Rica above the de minimis value:

Trade Agreements

Costa Rica has at least 15 trade agreements that offer a zero or highly discounted duty rate for goods manufactured in participating countries.

Costa Rica is a member of the World Trade Organization

As a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Costa Rica must abide by the most-favored-nation (MFN) clause, which requires a country to provide any concessions, privileges, or immunities granted to one nation in a trade agreement to all other WTO member countries. For example, if one country reduces duties by 10% for a particular WTO country, the MFN clause states that all WTO members will receive the same 10% reduction.


Customs resources 

Customs refund in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Customs authority

Embajada de Costa Rica

Customs and Trade Archives - CostaRicaLaw


Shipping and compliance 

Top courier services

  • DHL Express
  • FedEx
  • UPS
  • Skypostal

Depending on the courier, additional shipping fees may include tracking, insurance, fuel surcharge, remote delivery charge, chain of signature fee, overweight or oversized fee, special handling fee, or dangerous goods fee.

Documentation and paperwork

Prohibited, restricted, and controlled imports into Costa Rica

Many government agencies may be involved in regulating imports.

Prohibited items

  • Acids
  • Animal products
  • Chemicals
  • Cosmetics
  • Drugs, non-prescription
  • Flammables
  • Foodstuffs
  • Ice, dry
  • Infectious substances
  • Log and timber products from Liberia
  • Oxidizers
  • Plants and plant products
  • Poisons
  • Radioactives
  • Telecommunications equipment
  • And more

Restricted items

  • Ozone-depleting substances
  • Asbestos
  • Cosmetics
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Natural products with pharmaceutical use
  • Medicines are restricted
  • Weapons and ammunition

Legal regulations for businesses

Import permits

Import permits are required for the following:

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Cosmetics

  • Drugs

  • Medical devices

  • Chemicals

  • Food products

    • Must be registered the first time they are imported
  • Certain chemical products

    • Solvents and precursors
  • Toxic substances

  • Insecticides

  • Pesticides

  • Agricultural chemicals

Tips for exporting from Costa Rica 

Exporting from Costa Rica

Next steps

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  • Decoding Australia - Australia’s growing ecommerce sales and high internet penetration makes it a great country for expanding your online business.

  • Decoding the UK- Find out all you need to know to expand your online business into the third-largest ecommerce market in the world.

FAQ

What are the most popular online stores in Costa Rica?

The most popular stores are as follows: Amazon.com, eBay.com, Encuentra24.com, and Mercadolibre.co.cr.

References