We drove Bruno to San Jose! Costa Rica has a population of 4.5 million people, and the metro area around San Jose represents 2.1 million alone. Guidebooks set our expectations low and prepared us for a drab city, but compared to the other Central American cities we’ve driven through, San Jose is pretty modern!
We needed to visit San Jose for two reasons:
- Amanda broke a tooth while flossing (what?!), so we’re going to a dentist (details in another post).
- We need to put Bruno in long-term parking storage (details below).
Bruno is a foreign vehicle and Costa Rica has issued him a temporary import permit that only lasts 90 days. This cannot be extended, and the only way to renew it is for Bruno to leave the country for 3 months then re-enter. We don’t want to do this.
So if we want Bruno to stay in Costa Rica for longer than 90 days and do not want to permanently import him, then our only other option is to store him at an Almacen Fiscal, which is a government bonded warehouse. Doing this will suspend our temporary import permit (TIP), freezing the remaining days on our TIP while Bruno is in storage. Once we return to take Bruno out of storage, our TIP will then continue to count down.
Huge thanks to the blog 30 for Thirty, which provided the guidance necessary to accomplish this task!
For anyone else who may end up in a similar situation, here are the documented steps:
We shopped around for the cheapest Almacen Fiscal in Costa Rica, calling various locations in broken Spanish. The best we could find is Terminales Unidas next to the San Jose airport, which charges $30 USD for the first week and then $3 USD per day after that.
Here is a satellite view of Terminales Unidas. Marker 1 is the entrance (GPS: 10.000500, -84.197167). Tell the guard you’re there to put your car in storage. He took a look at our foreign plates and seemed very familiar with the process. He directed us to the Servicio Al Cliente office at Marker 2 below.
The office at Marker 2 is in the corner of the warehouse below. Park wherever you can and go inside.
Take your Temporary Import Permit into the office and tell them roughly how long you’d like to store your vehicle. They will make some copies, then send you back out to take your vehicle to Marker 3.
Marker 3 is the gated entrance to the parking lot. Hand them the photocopies received from the office. They will take pictures of any existing damage on your vehicle. If you plan to leave items inside your vehicle, they will also take photos of anything inside.
The parking lot attendants (for lack of a better name) will sign the bottom of your photocopy and send you back to the Servicio Al Cliente office before you park your car for good. Back at the office, they will print a form that you need to take to the Aduana (Customs) at the San Jose Airport when you’re done at the Almacen Fiscal. This form is what customs will need to suspend your TIP.
Marker 4 is the secured parking lot. The guys at the gate will let you know when you can proceed to park (they will escort you inside). They will also keep a key to your vehicle during the period it is parked there.
After you park, you’re done with Terminales Unidas. No money is exchanged until you come back to claim your vehicle.
You can walk back out to the main street and catch a taxi for $5 USD or less to the Santamaria Aduana which is just down the road (GPS: 9.997424, -84.210994).
Wait in line (they take lunch from roughly 12:00-1:00), then hand them your Temporary Import Permit with the printed form from the Almacen Fiscal. They will suspend your permit and hand you back a sheet that says how many days you’ll have left when you come back to reactivate your permit!
It is an unsettling feeling to leave our big four-wheeled friend… know that we will return for you, Bruno!
**UPDATE** The back end of this process, getting Bruno back out of storage and reestablishing our permit, was accomplished in October 2015. Our experience is documented in Part II of this post!
Quick recommendation: If at all possible, use the same person to do all car paperwork even though you may both be owners and drivers. We ran into some additional issues in October because our original TIP was in Travis’ name and then Amanda did all the paperwork to put Bruno in storage. This caused mucho confusion. Right off the bat, from the time you first enter the country, it’s best to stick with one primary person on all car documents and confirm that the other is a valid driver.
Below is a list of all the Almacen Fiscals that we checked for pricing. If anyone discovers a cheaper alternative, please post a comment. For now, here are the other locations that we called (prices as of June 2015):
Name: Almacen Fiscal El Coco
Location: San Jose Area
Notes: Uncovered storage for 90 days is $660 USD.
Name: Terminales Unidas (Aeromar)
Location: San Jose Area (10.00063 N, 84.197067 W)
Notes: Uncovered storage for 90 days is $300 USD.
Name: Depósito Aduanero Peñas Blancas
Location: Penas Blancas Area
Phone: 2677-1050 (http://www.dapb.co.cr)
Notes: Covered storage is 3000 colones per day ($5.66/day)
Name: Almacen Fiscal del Pacifico, Alfipac
Location: Puntarenas (or San Jose?) Area
Phone: 2634-9000 (http://www.dapb.co.cr)
Notes: Storage is 2500 colones per day ($4.72/day)
Name: Deposito Aduanero Lagunilla
Location: San Jose Area
Phone: 2261-7705 (http://www.dapb.co.cr)
Notes: Storage is 3000 colones per day ($5.66/day)