Friday, March 11, 2011

Save Money by Buying in Golfito's "Deposito Libre"

I recently made the six hour car ride from Puntarenas, Costa Rica (where I live), to the port town of Golfito which is next to the border of Panama.  According to my boyfriend, Costa Ricans travel in droves to Golfito, mainly on the weekends, searching for huge savings on duty-free appliances, electronics or other such items at the famous "Deposito Libre".  Our mission on this trip was to find a large flat screen tv, a blu-ray disc player, a sound system, and some exercise equipment.

The town of Golfito itself is pretty small and has very little to offer in the way of entertainment. A single road runs for several kilometers through the center of the town.  Today, Golfito is mainly popular as a sportshfishing center.  It's pretty run-down in some areas, but you can see remnants of better times in the "Zona Americana", a more tranquil section of town with large two-story wooden houses built in the 1930's when the United Fruit Company had its headquarters here (this company pulled out of the area in the 1980's after a series of labor strikes).  In was in response to the economic decline resulting from United Fruit's retreat from the area that Costa Rica made Golfito a duty free port to keep the town alive.

We found a nice little restaurant called "Le Coquillage" to eat at.  It offered quaint views of the Golfo Dulce bay (see photos).
I thought the food was really good and inexpensive.  We ended up spending the night in "Las Gaviotas", which offered a modestly furnished room with cable TV, a small fridge, and a large tiled bathroom.  There was a pool and free internet as well.  This cost us about $52 for the night for both of us.

You may not understand why anyone would travel six hours just to save on some taxes.  The truth is, Costa Rica may add up to 40% of the cost of any item in value added taxes to certain items.  So it actually can make HUGE difference to save on these taxes.  When you enter the duty free shopping area there are about 50 shop locations, all pretty much selling the same kind of items and simlar brands.  However, shop around for a while and ask for written quotes at each store you enter. They will write down the price for you on a piece of paper which also shows the store # on it.  Later on you can sit down and compare your price slips and go back to the stores that made the best offer.

We were able to find a Panasonic 50" flat screen plasma TV for about $700.  This was comparable to what it is being sold for in the U.S.  We found the same TV in the capital of Costa Rica (San Jose) selling for $2000!  That one item alone made the 6 hour trip completely worth it even though we had to pay gas, an overnight hotel stay and meals.  If you're living in Costa Rica and are in need of electronics or appliances I definitely recommend checking out Golfito's Deposito Libre.

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