Sunday, December 16, 2007

October 18, 2007 - Moving Decisions

When we thought about our move to Costa Rica, our original plan was to get rid of everything and take what we could in our suitcases. Well, after the first trip, we re-evaluated. We realized that we had finally found the ideal mattress and the ideal dual recliner, and so we shouldn’t leave them behind. Since these are large items, plan # 2 was to move a few things (our bed and chair), store some others that we weren’t sure about, and decide whether to move them in a second shipment after a few years. We held to that plan for a long time. But it seems we are more attached to our stuff than we realized…

So, if we are bringing stuff, we needed to know more - I scanned all the forums and blogs, looking for information on timing and cost for shipping stuff to Costa Rica. When I talked to people, they had some recommendations, but not much specific information – they either couldn’t remember, or they didn’t think it would apply to us. Finally, we got in touch with a real shipper and got real information .

The shipper needs 2 weeks lead time, and transit from the San Francisco Bay Area of California to the central valley of Costa Rica is 4-6 weeks. The shipping point by freighter is Long Beach, California.

There are two sizes of containers, 40 foot (40x10x10) and 20 foot (20x10x10).

The typical weight (used for estimates) for a 20 foot container is 44,000 pounds. If the 20 foot container is full, and there are no “special items *” or extra weight, the cost is $3500 for the shipping and $2900 for taxes. If the 20 foot container is more than 1/3 full, the cost is the same (this is the break-even point).

You can check whether the container is waterproof before approving it for your use. Simply get inside, close the container, and look for light (no light = waterproof).

The shipper recommended using a local mover, but not a chain for packing and loading the container. He estimated that a pack and load for a 20 foot container would cost $3000-3500, including materials. If we did it ourselves, materials would run about $800.

He had some recommendations about what sort of things to bring, and what to avoid. If you are bringing a car, you need the 40 foot container. The ideal car (for taxes, value, and usability) is a 1996 4-Runner or Pathfinder. Other things to bring include good ceiling fans (Casablanca or Hampton Bay), entertainment items (books, DVDs, CDs), and items that have sentimental value or are hard to replace. Others have recommended piano rods (dehumidifiers), bug zappers, weed whackers, blender, water purifier/filter, electrical parts (connectors, etc), ice cream maker, drain snake, and cutting board sheets (the flexible kind). Many have recommended good quality sheets and towels, and we have seen that the silverware and cutlery is often not what we are used to (few forks actually penetrate food – you have to use them like spoons).

Items to avoid include things that look like bombs to the screening mechanism, and therefore increase the likelihood of inspections (messing up your packing, increasing theft or confiscation). These are food, detergents, pet food, kitty litter, vitamins, and liqui-gels. If you do ship vitamins and Advil, put no more than one bottle in each box (spread them around).

* Other items to avoid are “special items” – basically anything that will have high taxes (and inspire theft or confiscation). These include:

· Refrigerators bigger than 25 cubic feet

· High-end, large appliances (Subzero, Viking, etc)

· “Big” Flat panel TVs

Given the cost of a single shipment, and the fact that 1/3 of a container will cost as much as a full one, we are fast leaning towards one move, all at once. Part of the reason for moving “lite” is that we will be moving from place to place in Costa Rica for several years. We had intended to spend only 3-6 months in each town, looking the just the right spot for us before settling in (and before moving *everything*). But after the last few trips, we feel that we could stay longer, move less, and make some decisions based on day/week trips and finding out more about what we like and dislike in general.

We’ve got some decisions to make, but if we end up with some wrong choices, we’ll figure out something – it won’t be catastrophic!

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