The Costa Rican postal service operates with relative efficiency and effectiveness. However, the service has been known to suffer from occasional bouts of slowness and unreliability. From time to time, mail from abroad will be opened, delayed or lost. Generally, it is best not to send anything very valuable by mail.
The main post office in San Jose is the Correo Central, open Monday through Saturday. Letters are better off being mailed from here than from the few available street-side mailboxes.
Because the Costa Rica customs office tries to prevent foreign merchandise from illegally entering the country, packages larger than a regular sized envelope could be subject to high duty charges. If you receive a larger than ordinary package, you'll have to visit the customs office, Aduana, to have your package inspected and to pay a customs charge on each item in the package. In addition, items such as medicine or food must be examined by the Ministry of Health.
Packages sent out of the country that are larger than a regular sized envelope are checked by the Aduana, and may be permanently confiscated if they have any doubt as to the package's origin or destination.
If one is spending a significant length of time in Costa Rica, a post office box (apartado) can be rented. Having your mail sent to a box is more reliable than having it sent to a street address.
Here are a few tips for getting and receiving the most from the Costa Rica, Post Office system:
+ You'll find post offices everywhere in Costa Rica. However, the most reliable of them is the Main Post Office in San Jose. Post Offices outside the Capital are so slow that your mail will probably reach its destination quicker if you hold onto it and post it at the San Jose Main.
+ General Delivery will hold a letter addressed to you for a month at a cost of ten cents per letter.
+ Important: you'll need your passport to retrieve your mail from General Delivery. Tell your friends to address letters to the name that appears on your passport. The postal people will not hand a letter over to you if it is addressed to somebody else. This means the clerk will not give you a letter addressed to Smokey Smith if your passport identifies you clearly as Amanda Smith, no matter how vociferously you explain that your family always called you Smokey because your baby sister couldn't pronounce Amanda.
+ As a rule, you can rely on your hotel to post your letters for you, even when you're traveling in the boondocks.
+ If you are sending packages, be prepared to hack your way through a forest of red tape, custom regulations, etc. For best results bring your package to the Office for inspection before you close it up.