First World castoffs can be had for gigantic discounts at pacas

.M. Costa Rica/Shahrazad Encinias Vela Most stores only use point-of-sale advertising.

The high prices of clothes in Costa Rica may come as a shock for most tourists, especially those coming from other parts of Central America where costs are far lower. But there is a secret to bargain retail shopping in this country, and that is to go to tiendas de ropa americana.

These stores, better known in Central America as pacas, offer designer clothes for about 1,500 colons, approximately $3. Prices vary with stores, but there is always a rack or two that sells clothes for 400 colons, less that $1. Most products are used, but there are also brand new items.

The concept of these stores are like the Goodwill and Disabled American Veterans stores in North America.

There are high end designer clothes, but those are a little harder to find. To snag designer clothes such as Banana Republic, Calvin Klein, and Guess visitors can expect to dig through piles of clothes.

Not just clothes are for sale. There also are shoes and purses. At the the bigger stores there are announcers, similar to the one’s at the grocery stores, who get on the microphone and promote the specials. Offers of brand new Nikes for 10,000 colons and a pair of Pumas for 15,000 colons (from $20 to $30) were heard in one store. The stores also carry bedding from sheets to pillow cases and comforters. All are used, but sold at a decent price.

Although the clothes and other fabrics are clean and ironed, all items were bunched into black plastic garbage bags for who knows how long. So washing is obligatory.

The overly large bags full of clothes when delivered are called pacas. The clothes can be purchased at the tienda de ropa americana. The name is that because a lot of clothes that are popular in the United States such as Lucky Brand, Levi’s, Mudd Jeans, Wrangler and Route 66 become available in Costa Rica at far lower prices.

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