Duty-free purchases turn out to be a pretty good idea

A variety of taxes raise the price of these products by as much as 116 percent. A.M. Costa Rica/Zach McDonald

Tourists come to Costa Rica to escape the daily life of bills, work, and responsibility. They come in droves to relax, explore and have fun. But there is something that is not in the advertisements to come to this country, and that’s taxes. Costa Rica, jokingly referred by some as “Taxa Rica,” has become the land of tariffs. The presumed inexpensive vacation has evolved into such; a presumption.

Liquor is a holiday staple, and buying bottles at the duty-free stores inside Juan Santamaría airport is cheaper by far than purchasing them inside the country. And that includes Costa Rica national liquor.

International liquor importers (and eventually the consumer) have to pay at least five different taxes before selling a product in Costa Rica. The only exception are goods that enter and remain in the duty-free area of Golfito.

All foreign beer, spirits, and wines are assessed a 15 percent tariff. All alcohol beverage products then face a 13 percent sales tax plus a 10 percent consumption tax. On top of that, for liquors alone, there is a 10 percent tax from the Instituto de Fomento y Asesoria Municipal Descentralización Democrática y Fortalecimiento Local and a final 8 percent tax from the Instituto de Desarrollo Agrario.

A one liter bottle of the famous Stolichnaya, Russian vodka costs $10 at the duty-free and sells for 11,020 colons at a local grocery in San José. That’s approximately $21.59. The store price is 116 per cent more than at the duty-free shop.

A reporter survey validates the idea that prices at the duty-free store are considerably less than the price in groceries, something that is not always the case.

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