03 Jul

Storing your vehicle in Costa Rica at an Almacen Fiscal – Part I

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!

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We needed to visit San Jose for two reasons:

  1. Amanda broke a tooth while flossing (what?!), so we’re going to a dentist (details in another post).
  2. 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.

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The office at Marker 2 is in the corner of the warehouse below. Park wherever you can and go inside.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!

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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.

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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
Phone: 2432-4648
Notes: Uncovered storage for 90 days is $660 USD.

Name: Terminales Unidas (Aeromar)
Location: San Jose Area (10.00063 N, 84.197067 W)
Phone: 2247-1927
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)

  • Em

    This is by far the most comprehensive, helpful information I’ve found on this topic. I haven’t even contacted any of these places but I can’t tell you how much stress you’ve relieved already! Thanks so much for taking the time to document this!

    • freedomwithbruno

      You are so very welcome! Really glad someone can put this stuff to good use. We’ll be updating in October when we pull Bruno back out of storage.

  • Jeff

    Thanks very much for posting this information. You wouldn’t happen to know if the procedures are similar is the truck is registered in Costa Rica? We need to store a large bus-type thing.

    • freedomwithbruno

      Hi Jeff, we’re thinking the process would be identical. There were many different types of cars, buses, vans, campers in the lot when we arrived. Mainly Costa Rica plates with only a few foreign ones. Best of luck!

  • sara m

    Hi Travis,

    We just picked up our car and reactivated our permit – the process we experienced is outlined below. Overall it’s easy – we just had a hiccup with a typo that caused us to have to double back (no fun after a red-eye flight!). Hope all goes smoothly when you pick up
    Bruno! (When we dropped off our car, the guy asked us if we had a name for her, and then told us “Bruno is here.”)

    **Recommendation before you start the process: Make a copy of your suspended permit and receipt from the Almacen Fiscal. The
    agent at the Aduana kept our receipt from the Almacen Fiscal, but we asked for a copy (she made one there).

    Step 1 – Aduana; Goal – Reactive temporary import permit

    Opens at 8am, but they take about 10-15 mins to warm
    up. This was about a 10 minute walk
    from where you pop out at the airport.
    If you landed early like we did, there is a cafeteria to the right of
    the custom’s exit where you can get a coffee and breakfast as early as
    7am.

    Documents we needed:
    1. Suspended permit
    2. Receipt from Almacen Fiscal
    3. Costa Rican Insurance receipt

    We had an agent who was not familiar with the process. She took about 10 minutes to figure things out, and made an error by not entering the “Movimiento” number in the computer system. It was unlike the process for suspending the permit where the agent took about 2 minutes. Total time was 30 minutes to the Aduana office.

    1. Tell the agent you’d like to reactive your permit. Hand over the suspended permit and receipt from the Almacen Fiscal. Show your insurance receipt (we never handed this over – she just glanced at it briefly).

    2. Answer a few basic questions (Where is your car? How long have you been gone?) and help her calculate the new end date for your re-activated permit based on the duration of suspension.

    3. She’ll type in the new information into the computer – walk away to get the print outs.

    4. She’ll come back with two copies (only one has stamp). Sign both, and keep the one with the stamp.

    Recommendation: Ask the agent to confirm they have entered the “Movimiento” number into the system. It appears on the receipt from the Almacen Fiscal and seems to be the unique identifier for your car between these two offices. Without a Movimiento number entered at the Aduana office, the Almacen won’t release your car. It never showed up in print on our reactivated import permit – even after we got it fixed in the system, so seems to be something you just need to do verbally to confirm.

    5. Move on to Almacen fiscal.

    We started walking in the direction of the Almacen Fiscal, and caught a taxi after about 5 minutes or so.

    Step 2 – Almacen Fiscal – Pay for stay in the lot and get
    car!

    1. Go to the office and hand over the reactivated import permit and receipt from their office that you received when dropping the
    car off.

    2. The agent types away for a few minutes.

    3. Receive back: The original of the reactivated import permit and two copies. The agent will tell you which one to keep out (he put a second stamp on the back of it).

    4. Take the copy he tells you to keep out and go down the hall to the right of his window to pay. (They accept credit card!) You’ll receive a receipt.

    5. Take the receipt of payment and the newly-stamped permit and go to the building inside the lot itself.

    6. Hand them over, he’ll ask to see your driver’s license (we had two owners of the car listed on our import permit, and he asked to see both of our licenses). He’ll take one person in your party to retrieve your car.

    Note – they used red chalk to track any existing scratches or damage on the car. They did this after we had dropped the car off, and they were scratches we hadn’t noticed, so we were a little confused at first.

    7. Drive away!

    Happy to answer any questions!

    Sara

    • freedomwithbruno

      Hello Sara! Your comment couldn’t have come at a better time – we read it the night before we were about to pick up Bruno! We had other hiccups that we’ll be detailing in new post, caused by the fact that Bruno had been stored for longer than 90 days. How long was your car stored for? I’m assuming it was less than 90 days, if they allowed you to reactivate your permit. Do we have your permission to reference your notes in our new post? Credit given to you, of course. Let us know! Happy travels.

      • sara m

        Hi Travis, Absolutely – please share these notes freely! We only stored our car for about 10 days, so didn’t run into any trouble with the timing of the permit. Thanks again for all your posts on bordering crossings!

      • Jeffrey m

        Hello!! So did you pick up Bruno?? How did it go ? The longer than 90 days- was that a major issue?

  • Jeffrey M

    Here’s a question:
    Storing at Aeromar, how long did the process take from when you pulled up to when you were all done?

    • Amanda

      Hi Jeff,
      We probably spent about 2-3 hours at Terminales Unidas (Aeromar) in the morning and then were unlucky to catch the customs folks at Aduana Santa Maria out for a long lunch on a Friday. Once we got our paperwork in their hands though, it was at most a 30 minute exercise.

      You can definitely store the car for more than 3 months. We were just over that, at 96 days. Something we did not know is that after 3 months of storage, you need a brand-new TIP from the Aduana. No big deal, just more paperwork. We also had to buy new Costa Rican car insurance, as that does not get suspended when you store your vehicle. It simply expires.

      None of this matters when you’re initially storing the vehicle; nobody cares how long you’re leaving it for. You’ll deal with it all on the back end when you pull the car out. We’re working on a post to come out in the next couple of weeks with more details, but if you have questions that need answering asap, send me an email (Amanda@Freedomwithbruno.com) and we’ll answer as best we can!

      Thanks for reading! Good luck storing your vehicle!

      • Jeffrey

        Yes thank you for the reply!! It sound like you can do it in a day, I was budgeting 2 days from when I get to San Jose driving driving until my flight departs. Very helpful post wow I feel more confident now and ready to charge!

        Are there any more tips or insights you care to share? Was Bruno’s battery dead or all
        Good?

        I shall keep watching your blog , very well done. !!

  • Jeffrey M

    I am looking to store my car long term, for more than three months, you think that will work?

  • Robert Shannon

    Firstly, thank you for this! It is complete, and accurate. Using it I myself I went thru the procedure yesterday. Here are my notes from my experience:
    1. I drove to San Jose on June 1, 2016 from Samara, where I have been staying.
    2. I stopped by the Terminale Unidas to ask about the hours they are open, and that they had a space for me. 9-5, and yes.
    3. I returned at 9:30 am on June 2, 2016. I was met at the terminal area by a man named Rodriquez. He took me under his wing and assisted me thru the entire process with the office and the yard folks. I have little spanish vocabulary and his help was just what I needed. He kept saying to me “No propina”. However I tipped him $5000 colones when all was done.
    4. The whole process took about one hour, including the final park and cover. I asked for and received 2 copies of the original TIP and their receipt. I told them I wished to store it for 4 months. The receipt states the vehicle will be considered abandoned after one year.
    5. They were quite busy. They wanted me to leave the vehicle before they took pictures and said they would drive it in to the yard later, and that I could leave. I explained that was not going to work, as I needed to put my fabric car cover on it and secure it against winds. So after a few minutes they took the pictures, then we drove to the lot in the back, where I was allowed to park it and put the cover on.
    5. As I was doing this, the man who had taken the pictures and went with me to the back lot walked away with my original TIP and receipt, which I failed to realize and therefore did not retrieve before going to the Aduana.
    6. I walked out to the road, and there was a taxi parked at the curb. He took me to the Aduana for $1000 colones.
    7. After waiting in line for 45 minutes, I approached the desk and handed over my 2 copies of the paperwork. The clerk asked for the originals. That is when I realized I did not have them. The clerk was not bi-lingual, but she was very nice and we did our best to communicate. In the end she called over to the Terminale Unidas and confirmed they had the papers and that they would bring them over to her. My permit expired on this day, so I received a copy of the permit that has the word “finalizado” written across the top. It was 11:40. So start to finish, with 2 small glitches, it took 130 minutes. Nice.
    8. A final note: I entered and exited Costa Rica several times during the life of this permit. In from Nicaragua, a return to Nicaragua, into CR, then out to Panama for 30 days, a return from Panama.

    • Amanda

      Thank you for the update, Robert! Glad to know the post is still valid and that everything worked out for you. Even with the most detailed steps, I think hiccups are unavoidable – part of the “fun” of any process 🙂 Happy Travels!

  • Chris

    If you are just passing through Costa Rica to go South, do you have to wait 3 months before you can bring your car back into Costa Rica (i.e. you spent 1 month in CR then continued into Columbia spend 2 months there can you come back or do you have to wait)?

    • Amanda

      A 90-day permit is the max you can get at one time. Once that 3-month permit has expired, you have to wait to re-enter. If you’re only planning on being there one month, best to get your permit for only one month. I think you would have less trouble trying to re-enter later. The forums at http://overlandsphere.com/overlandtravel/americas/central-america/costa-rica may have more up-to-date information.

  • Terry Edwards

    I would like to thank you for all this information and some other websites I read about this subject, I’m sure many people have taken advantage of this free info that you put a lot of work into. I dropped my motorcycle here today, 21 November 2016, its actually parked right beside 3 other adventure bikes, another KLR and a BMW. My lack of spanish made it challenging, there was nobody that spoke english around. In all though, I was only there an hour. I walked to the Aduana in about 15 minutes as I drove by it before hand. I tried to check El Coco as well but the road was closed and I couldn’t figure out how to get there. At the Aduana lady was an absolute bitch. She even had a nice personal call in the middle of everything. ONE KEY NOTE that I didn’t remember reading anywhere was that she required me to email her a copy of my flight to prove I was leaving the country. It was lucky I even had one because I wasn’t planning on booking it till I had this sorted but just to warn others. She wouldn’t proceed without it and she kept a copy with her paperwork. She gave me back my original import permit, the original from the warehouse, and the TVIP suspendo form. Cost will be 30 usd for the first week and 3 usd a day after that. Form says moto will be considered abandoned after 1yr. I don’t think I got there until 10am and I left Aduana just before noon and that included walking there.

    • Amanda

      Hi Terry! We’re really happy our post is still providing useful and relevant information for travelers, despite being a year and a half out of date. Your taking the time to document your recent experience, is highly appreciated. I definitely think the lady we dealt with at the Aduana is the same one you encountered – had a good laugh over your accurate description 🙂 While we traveled Costa Rica, it was often rumored that you would have to provide proof of intent to eventually leave the country, but we were never asked. Thank you again for providing this important update, as it is sure to trip some people up. Safe Travels!

  • Laura Ford

    Do you guys happen to know if you have to suspend the Vehicle Import Permit if you are leaving the country – even if you are planning on returning before the 90 days is up?

    • Amanda

      Hi Laura,

      As long as the rules haven’t changed, i’m fairly certain you don’t need to suspend your TIP if you plan to keep within your permit dates. The only reason we suspended ours (as well as stored it) was because the car was going to stay in the country longer than 90 days. Hope this helps!