Developing Your Mule Network...

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The term "mule" is generally given to a person who (knowingly or unknowingly) transports contraband across international borders.  I too use that term to describe friends and family that bring items of necessity while visiting us here in Costa Rica.

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  • Fact: Costa Rica is not generally known for selling high quality merchandise.  If you want something good, bring it from the States.

  • Fact: The high cost of shipping goods to Costa Rica is overshadowed by the insanely high Customs duties you pay for imported goods.

  • Fact: If you can find your gringo product in a Costa Rican store, be prepared to pay through the nose for it because... see previous factoid!

So with that said, we rely on visitors to "mule in" (bring us) some of these very important items like Levi's Jeans, Off Insect Repellant, Sun screen, DVDs, Software and the list goes on and on.  Oh yeah... 16 year old Lagavulin single malt scotch!

When we know we have a confirmed guest coming in country, we ask them (politely) if it will be OK if we order a few things from an online retailer and ship the items to their house for subsequent, duty-free importation into Costa Rica.  The cost savings can be astronomical. 

Check out this example...

I just upgraded my video editing software.  It's retail price was a staggering $2500.  However, I had a special upgrade promotion that allowed me to pay only $495.  Had the software been shipped to me direct by the manufacturer, Costa Rican Customs (Aduana) would have assessed me a duty of 50%, based on the "retail" price of the software.  That's $1250 tax on top of the $495 product price.  That's friggin insane! 

Instead, I had the software shipped to my friend David, along with a new underwater digital camera, and a bottle of (you guessed it) 16 year old Lagavulin, single malt scotch.  David packed the merchandise (legally) into his checked luggage and I received it when he and his wife came to stay for a few days.

Developing your mule network is essential to your Costa Rican survival.  Oh, and one final note... it's polite to offer yourself as a mule when returning from trips back to the States.

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