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Duty Free Shopping in Golfito, Costa Rica

March 26th, 2014

SaveOccasionally I get submissions from other bloggers here in Costa Rica and sometimes, I hear about an article written by one of them that would be a great additions to The REAL Costa Rica Blog.  In this case, I contacted the author and requested permission to reprint one of their Blog articles. I got a really good deal from blogger Pat Wegner who writes Blog: Mi Chunche. Don’t bother looking up chunche as you likely will not find it.  It means, for lack of a better word, thing or thingy… maybe even whatchamacallit…  a damned fine and handy word to know if living in Costa Rica and you have no idea how to say some word in Spanish.  Great catchall word!

Anyway, Pat’s fine article appears below and explains the processes and procedures for making a trip to the Southern Zone to do some serious shopping, especially for appliances, electronics and other highly taxed items.  As you will read, it IS an investment in time and money, but if buying a ton of hard goods, can be a very cost saving trip.

Duty Free Shopping in Golfito By Pat Wegner

Have you ever considered a duty free shopping spree in the Pacific town of Golfito?  If this article is of interest, read on!

There is a wonderful little hotel called Hotel Mar y Luna with a nice restaurant/bar where you can stay overnight to qualify for duty free shopping. They only have 14 rooms, so you need to plan ahead to book reservations. Here is their website .  You can also find many other hotel and restaurant options in Golfito on TripAdvisor.com.

The Golfito Duty Free Zone, known at the Deposito de Golfito, was created to help bring tourism to the region and to give Costa Rica citizens and residents some tax relief.  In order to meet these objectives, there are a couple of rules you must follow before making a purchase:

1. You may only claim duty exemptions twice a year.

2. You CANNOT shop in the Duty Free Zone until the DAY AFTER you request your authorization to purchase duty free goods.

These rules encourage shoppers to stay overnight in the Golfito area and helps assure that the goal of increased tourism is brought to the region.

You must request your Tarjeta de Authorización de Compras, or TAC (shopping authorization card) at the Aduana Office of the Ministerio de Hacienda (Customs Offices) in the Deposito on the day before you intend to shop.  The TAC is issued free of charge.

Deposito de Golfito – Hours of Operations

Day of the Week

TAC Issued

Shopping

Tuesdays

From 8 AM until 8 PM

From 8 AM until 3:30 PM
Wednesdays through Saturdays

From 8 AM until 8 PM

From 8 AM until 4:30 PM
Sundays

CLOSED

From 7 AM until 3 PM
Mondays

From 1 PM until 8 PM

CLOSED

You will need to present your current passport, or a Costa Rica identification card (cédula or DIMEX) to obtain the TAC.   This is just an 8½ x 11 sheet of paper that shows your purchase allowance with a ledger where each of your purchases will be recorded. The TAC will also list prior purchases that you may now be restricted from buying again. (For example, you can only buy an air conditioner once every 5 years.)

The Deposito de Golfito is a walled compound with several rows of stores laid out like an open air mall. There is a secure parking lot at the entrance to the Deposito. If you are there in the rainy season (roughly May-Early December), be sure to bring an umbrella.

Outside of the Deposito compound, you will find the streets of Golfito lined with lots of shops, but you must actually be in the Deposito to purchase duty free goods. If you get there early enough, you can go shop prices after you pick up your TAC. You just can’t buy anything on day one.

If you have access to the internet, you can check consumer reviews on products, compare the Golfito prices to some of the online vendors, and big box stores, and confirm that the sales price is actually a good deal.

On your second day in Golfito, start shopping in the Deposito.

Most of the stores accept all of the major credit cards for purchases. There are no restaurants in the Deposito, so don’t plan on eating breakfast or lunch there. You will find a couple of kiosks selling beverages and chips.

50% Off!

Electronics and other goods often cost up to 50% less than in normal stores in Costa Rica. When you have chosen an item, show the store personnel your TAC (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.

Each person may purchase up to $1,000 twice per year ($2,000 annually).  It is important to note that this limit applies only to purchases made in the Deposito at Golfito. The limit for bringing duty free items into Costa Rica by Airports, Sea Ports, or Land Borders, is still $500 per semester.

If you don’t use all of your duty free allowance in the first semester (January through June,) the unused balance will rollover to the second semester. For this reason, some folks prefer to shop in the Deposito during the second semester with the combined limit of $2000 per family member.  The busiest shopping times of the year are before Mother’s Day on August 15th and before Christmas.
You may purchase the following quantities per TAC:

 

Item Quantity Frequency Per Semester* / Every Year(s)*(Semesters are January through June and July through December)
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 Paris 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
Percolators 2 Semester
Irons 2 Semester
Stereos 1 Semester
Refrigerators and Freezers 1 2 Years
Watches and Jewelry worth more than ¢500 CRC Each 4 Semester
Televisions 1 Year
Record Players, Recorders, Video Cameras 1 Year
Consumables
Chocolates and Other Sweets $40 USD Semester
Canned Goods $40 USD Semester
Alcoholic Beverages & Tobacco Products
Beer 24 Units Semester
Liquor/Spirits 12 Units Semester
Wine 24 Units Semester
Cigarettes 30 Packs Semester

 

There are lots of options for toting your purchases around in the Deposito. Many of the stores, will hold your purchases for you until you have finished all of your shopping. Then you can go back to each store to pick them up. Each store is numbered, so make sure you keep a list of the store numbers where you made a purchase. You don’t want to forget, and leave anything behind at the end of the day.

Another option is to hire an authorized handler with a large cart, or dolly. These handler usually charge about ¢3000 (about $5.50 at today’s exchange rate) for a couple of hours.  They will negotiate the price with you. Once you have settled on a price, they will go with you from store to store to pick up your purchases, and load them on the cart. They will deliver all of the goods to the conveyor belts in the Aduana (Customs) inspection area, but they are not allowed to exit the Aduana with you.

When the Aduana agent has approved your purchases, you will be given your receipts and you may leave the area. Just outside of the Aduana, you will find another team of authorized handlers that you can hire to tote your purchases to your vehicle, or shipping agent.

** Make sure you are finished with all of your shopping before you go to the Aduana, because once you exit, you will not be allowed to re-enter the Deposito for additional shopping, even if you didn’t use all of your TAC allowance. If you still have anything left on your allowance, you will have to wait 72 hours before you can come back and request a new TAC.

Throughout the Deposito you will find folks milling around trying to “sell” you some of their unused TAC allowance. If you negotiate with one of them to use their TAC, they will have to go with you to shop and you will need to be sure they exit the Aduana area with you so you can retrieve the purchases they made on your behalf.  Be careful that they do!

If you require transportation for large items, you will find shipping companies just outside, and to the right of the Aduana (Customs) inspection station. These shippers will accept your purchases and transport them for you. The going rate in 2013, for this service was ¢15,000, plus 3% of the purchase price. That is $60.00 if you buy $2,000 worth of goodies!

Note:  This was for delivery in the Central Valley. Delivery normally takes two days. (editor note: If you live in Guanacaste, the price will be substantially different!)

Happy Shopping Spree!

Clearly, a trip to Golfito to load-up on hard goods may well be worthwhile.  Consider however, the costs involved.  A few hour drive (and back) from Golfito will use up some gas, currently just under $6.00 per gallon.  Then add the cost of the hotel, maybe 4-6 meals, the cost to transport the stuff back to your home base… It can add up, so probably, you need to really evaluate the cost benefit ratio to make sure Golfito really is a good deal. Maybe sharing a trip or asking someone to get you something on their TAC if they have space.

Regardless, thanks to Pat Wegner for a finely written article!

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