The Spanish word for post office is correo. Mail from the United States can take up to two to three weeks to arrive in Costa Rica (occasionally it never arrives at all). Within the country, mail service is even less reliable. Outgoing mail is marginally quicker, with delivery to North America in about 10 days, especially when sent from San José. It's worth registering mail; prices are only slightly higher. All overseas cards and letters will automatically be sent airmail. Mail theft is a chronic problem, so do not mail checks, cash, or anything else of value.
Minimum postage for postcards and letters under 20 grams from Costa Rica to the United States and Canada costs the equivalent of U.S. $1.10.
You can have mail sent poste restante (lista de correos) to any Costa Rican post office (specify Correo Central to make sure it goes to the main downtown office). In written addresses, apartado, abbreviated apdo., indicates a post-office box.
Post offices are generally open weekdays 7:30 to 5:30 and Saturday 8 to noon. Stamps can be purchased at post offices and a very few hotels and souvenir shops. These vendors will also accept the mail you wish to send; don't bother looking for a mailbox, as there are only a handful (usually in rural areas with no post office).
Shipping parcels through the post office is not for those in a hurry because packages to the United States and Canada can take weeks. Also, packages may be pilfered. However, post-office shipping is the cheapest way to go, with rates starting at $5 per kilogram.
Some stores offer shipping, but it is usually quite expensive. If you can, carry your packages home with you.
UPS has offices in San José, Santa Ana, Tamarindo, Liberia, Jacó, Manuel Antonio, Sarchí, Nuevo Arenal, La Fortuna, and Limón. DHL has drop-offs in San José (Rohrmoser, Paseo Colón), Curridabat, Escazú, Heredia, Liberia, Limón, Ciudad Quesada, Jacó, Quepos, and San Isidro de El General. FedEx has offices in San José and Heredia; it offers package pickup service in San José and other centers, such as Limón. All three have central information numbers with English-speaking staff. Prices are about 10 times what you'd pay at the post office, but packages arrive in a matter of days. "Overnight" is usually a misnomer—shipments to most North American cities take two business days.
Express Services Main Offices
DHL. Paseo Colón, next to Budget car rental, Paseo Colón, San José, San José, 40702. 2209–6000; www.dhl.co.cr.
FedEx. Paseo Colón and C. 40, 100 m east of León Cortés statue, San José, San José, 10103. 800/463–3339; www.fedex.com.
UPS. Pavas Hwy., 50 m east of Pizza Hut, Pavas, San José, San José, 10109. 2290–2828; www.ups.com.