Like clockwork, six days a week, it's amazing how addicted
we have become to receiving our mail However, thanks to technology, our demand
and need for amassing large amounts of printed cellulose is
decreasing; but the perceived need is still there.
Now, after long thought, you
have decided to
pull the plug and retire (in true expat style) and move to
Costa Rica. And all that important mail you were
receiving back home will follow you here... right? Just
fill out a change of address card! Except, there is
only one problem... we have no addresses here.
the most part, there are no street names or numbers (and
needless to say) there are no house or building numbers.
We seem to take for granted that just because we have mail
delivery and absolute location identifiers back home, the
same thing will exist wherever we go. Such is not the
case and especially here in Costa Rica.
This means you must develop a new "mail
strategy" and put it into place BEFORE you ever leave the
hallowed shores of North America.
Today, virtually all physical mail
received at home can be delivered to you electronically.
That even includes magazines and newspapers. There are
some exceptions and most involve legal documents and tax
forms. But even for those documents, there are viable
strategies that will virtually guarantee accurate and
The first step in developing a mail
delivery strategy is to ELIMINATE the need to even receive
any mail. Here is what you should consider doing:
STOP ALL CATALOG DELIVERY.
They are probably available on on line anyway
Email all your friends and
acquaintances and tell them that if they want to contact you,
they should do it through email, SKYPE, MagicJack or some other form of
Inform all creditors, financial
institutions, insurance companies, utility companies
etc. that effective immediately you no longer want to
receive paper statements. Everything must be
delivered via email. They will be happy to comply
because it cuts their costs dramatically.
But in reality, there are some things
that can not be delivered electronically; tax forms is a
good example. Here is one possible solution.
Establish a forwarding address back
home. Preferably the home of a stable individual.
I chose one of my son's who owns a house and is tied to
Before leaving the US, I filled out
a USPS Change Of Address Form.
Start Here. This way, any mail that is still
sent to your old address will now be forwarded to your new
"go to person." Additionally, you can also
instruct the Post Office to NOT INCLUDE anything that is
defined as "junk mail."
Periodically, I do a SKYPE call to
my son to review any mail he may have received on my
behalf. 99% of all the stuff he gets he is told to
toss it out. However, things like year end
forms, he will scan and email me the JPG files.
That works for almost everything.
There are always going to be situations
where you will need to receive a hard copy of something from
back home. This should be the exception and NOT the
rule but since I am not privy to your business here are
a few options you can employ.
Option #1: Have a friend
with access to a local Post Office Box receive the
occasional mail parcel for you. Your friend will
be required to pick up the mail for you but since this
is only the exception (and not the rule) your friend
should be OK with it. You'll owe him a beer.
Option #2: Get your own PO
Box. Go to the local Oficina de Correo and rent
your own box. Expect to pay about $10 a year but
just don't be surprised if you are put on a waiting
Option #3: Engage the
services of a mail forwarding service back in the
States. For a monthly fee, they will give you a
physical mailing address (not just a box number).
They can filter out junk mail and send you the
balance. Some forwarding companies will even scan
the outside of the envelope or its contents. Then
through an internet link, you can view each item and
select what items to throwaway or to forward.
Forwarded items are then packed and sent to a local
receiver in Costa Rica. The most popular service
is provided by a company called
This is the last and probably least assured of all the
options but you can have the Post Office actually
deliver mail to your house, even without an address.
My friend George Lundquist informs me that the Correos
WILL DELIVER to your place of residence, also known as "direción,"
but you must make a special request to the local Oficina de Correo.
Utility companies will also send your bills to a local
pulperia (small general store) or to the Cruz Roja (Red
Cross) facility in your community. You may also
request that all local mail be delivered to your
direción but keep in mind, deliveries are only made
once a week.
These options all work well but now
let's complicate matters even more.
Now The Fun Begins...
You are now living in the Costa Rican
home of your dreams whose physical location is
"Trescientos metros al sur de la cerca blanca en la
carretera principal." That's three hundred meters south
of the white fence on the main road. But wait... with
no mail delivery, how will I be notified when (and where) to
pay my utility bills?
Costa Rican utility companies feel it
is your responsibility to pay your bills but it is NOT their
responsibility to tell you when. Yes it is a bit of a
paradox but that's the fun of living in a foreign country.
To pay your bills, you will need to visit your local utility
office, bank or supermarket, walk up to the designated
"payment" window and pay your bills in person and
(generally) in cash.
Costa Rican utility providers assume it's your
responsibility to pay your bills but not their
responsibility to notify you.
If you are fortunate to have ePay
capability at your bank, you can probably pay all your bills
from the comfort and convenience of your PC. Just remember, if you don't pay
your bill and on time, they will probably shut off your
service. And if you think that is inconvenient, try to
get the service restored when you can't speak Spanish!
We take for granted many of life's
pleasures. Living in North America has spoiled us.
Living in Costa Rica will be an adventure. Don't
expect all the things you have come to love and appreciate
back home to be available here. Just keep
telling yourself... "I'm not in Kansas anymore!"