Golfito Duty Free Zone: Purchase Up to $2000 a Year
The small, south Pacific town of Golfito is a boon for expats setting up house, residents upgrading their electronics, or foodies expanding their wine collection. Golfito is more than a sport fishing hub: it is Costa Rica's largest duty free shopping zone. Products are not subject to import taxes, and thrifty shoppers from around the country take advantage of low prices on appliances and electronic goods. For years, purchases have been restricted to $500 twice yearly, but beginning July 2010, purchase limits will increase to $1,000 twice per year ($2,000 annually). Note: This limit applies only to Golfito purchases. The limit for bringing items into Costa Rica through the airport or mail services is still $500 per semester.
The Golfito Duty Free Zone was created to help send tourism to the region and to give Costa Rican residents tax relief. Because of these goals, there are several rules you must follow before making a purchase. First, you may only claim duty exemption twice a year. Second, you must stay overnight in Golfito before enjoying tax-free shopping; this requirement assures that tourism is brought to the region. To prove your overnight stay, you must request your shopping authorization card (TAC) at the Customs Offices (8 a.m.- 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday; 1 p.m.- 8 p.m. Mondays) on the day of arrival; you will need to present your current passport or Costa Rican identification card (cedula).
On your second day in Golfito, start shopping around. Stores are open 8 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 7 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sundays; all are closed on Mondays. Electronics and other goods often cost up to 50% less than in normal stores. When you have chosen an item, show the store personnel your shopping authorization card and make your purchase. You may make a purchase under $1,000 with one card, or you may combine two cards (no more) for a total of $2,000. Only first-degree relations -- parents, children, siblings and spouses -- may combine their shopping authorization cards.
Two-day Golfito excursions leave from the Central Valley almost daily (except Sundays, when the Customs Offices are closed). Excursions cost around $40 per person, including luxury bus transportation, hotel, and a trip to the Costa Rica-Panama border, where you can purchase duty-free goods on the Panamanian side. You may also drive, or take the public bus; the journey takes roughly 7-8 hours each way. If your purchases do not fit in the bus cargo hold or in your car, you should use a local transportation company. These shipping companies offer door-to-door service for 3% of the value of your purchase. For example, if you purchase a new plasma TV for $800, shipment to your home in Costa Rica will cost $24.
You may purchase the following quantities per ticket. Semesters are January-June and July-December:
Liquor: 12 Units/semester
Air Conditioners: 1/5 Years
Movie Equipment: 1/1 Year
Electromechanical Devices for Domestic Use: 2/semester
Coffee Makers: 2/semester
Water Heaters: 1/1 Year
Footwear: 6 Pairs/semester
Beer: 24 Units/semester
Chocolates and Other Sweets: $40/semester
Cigarettes: 30 Packs/semester
Sound Equipment: 1/1 Year
Ovens and Stoves: 1/2 Years
Washing Machines: 1/1 Year
Tires: 5 Units/semester
Personal Typewriter: 1/1 Year
Sewing Machine for Domestic Use: 1/1 Year
Dishwasher: 1/1 Year
Canned Goods: $40/semester
Refrigerators and Freezers: 1/2 Years
Watches and Jewelry Worth More than 500 CRC Each: 4/semester
Televisions: 1/1 Year
Record Players, Recorders, Video Cameras: 1/1 Year
Wine: 24 Units/semester