Costa Rica

Packing List

This list has been compiled by Volunteers serving in-country and is based on their experience. Use it as an informal guide in making your own list, bearing in mind that each experience is individual. There is no perfect list! You obviously cannot bring everything on the list, so consider those items that make the most sense to you personally and professionally. You can always have things sent to you later. As you decide what to bring, keep in mind there is a 100-pound weight limit on baggage. And remember, you can get almost everything you need in-country.

Baggage & weight limit: The Peace Corps limits the size and weight of baggage and will not pay to transport baggage that exceeds these limits. The allowance is two checked pieces of luggage with combined dimensions of both pieces not to exceed 107 inches (length + width + height) and a carry-on bag with dimensions of no more than 45 inches. Checked baggage should not exceed 100 pounds total with a maximum weight of 50 pounds per bag.

Peace Corps Volunteers are not allowed to take pets, weapons, explosives, radio transmitters (shortwave radios are permitted), automobiles, or motorcycles to their assignments. Do not pack flammable materials or liquids such as lighter fluid, cleaning solvents, hair spray, or aerosol containers.

General Clothing

Clothes should be conservative, sturdy, easily washable, and free of the need for ironing, if possible. While it’s important to bring practical clothing and special clothing/gear for personal trips and treks (such as quick-dry, moisture-wicking zip-off pants, etc.), do keep in mind you will be international development professionals, not long-term backpackers, hikers, or campers during your two years of service: Your overall attire should reflect this for both professional and security reasons. Volunteers should pack enough for one to two weeks without having to wash clothing. Buying new clothing in Costa Rica is generally cost prohibitive to Volunteers; however, many Volunteers shop at any number of used clothing venues (“Ropa Americana”) as an affordable alternative. Women should know that although many Costa Rican women wear short skirts, doing so is likely to attract unwanted attention from men. Most families have washing machines (but not like in the U.S.), clotheslines, and in select few cases spin dryers (no heat), meaning that one's clothing will be stretched or hung out in the sun, causing fading as well. These factors are important when deciding what to bring.

  • One fleece vest/jacket and one sweater or sweatshirt
  • One or two swimsuits
  • One lightweight rain jacket or poncho to wear over a backpack or bag
  • Quality umbrella (it rains almost every day in many parts of Costa Rica during the rainy season)
  • Cap or hat for sun protection
  • Running gear (if you run)
  • Socks (primarily black or white)
  • Belt(s)
  • Pajamas
  • One or two dressy outfits for your swearing-in ceremony or nightlife (on breaks or for workshops)

For Men

  • Plenty of pants for work (chino, khaki, denim)
  • Buttoned shirts 
  • Several T-shirts (quick dry)
  • One pair of dress pants
  • One pair of casual pants (for hiking, painting, etc.)
  • Shorts (khaki and athletic) 
  • Boxers or briefs (at least a week’s worth)
  • One tie (sport coat optional) for formal occasions/swearing-in

For Women

  •  Pants for work (denim, cotton, khaki, wrinkle-free)
  •  Tops for work (T-shirts, blouses, polo shirts, cotton shirts, etc.)
  •  One pair of dress pants
  •  Shorts (khaki and athletic) 
  •  Casual skirts or dresses
  •  One or two dressy outfits
  •  Bras and/or sports tops
  •  Underwear (at least a week’s worth)


With the exception of flip-flops, the selection of affordable shoes available in Costa Rica is more limited than in the United States, particularly in larger sizes (over size nine for women or over size ten-and-a-half for men). You may want to bring a two-year supply of shoes. Give preference to shoes that are waterproof and/or can be washed.

  • One pair of sturdy walking or tennis shoes
  • One pair of running shoes, 
  • One pair of waterproof rubber-soled boots (all parts of the country are muddy during the rain season)
  • Two or three pairs of comfortable dress shoes for work and more formal/professional events (can include open-toe shoes/dressy sandals for women)
  • Flip-flops or sturdy sandals can be used during leisure time in your community, but not in training or professional work environments (schools, offices, etc.)

Personal Hygiene and Toiletry Items

    Regular toiletries (soap, shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, etc.) can be found here in-country (prices are slightly higher). If you prefer certain brands, bring them with you, understanding that at some point you’ll have to either settle on a locally available brand or pay to have them shipped from the States.

    • Three-month supply of any medications, to last through pre-service training; copy of prescriptions
    • If you wear glasses, bring two pairs (contact are not recommended due to elevated rates of eye infections and contact solution is hard to find)
    • Any particular brands of over-the-counter medicine you need (the Peace Corps provides some over-the-counter medicine, but usually has only one brand and sometimes it’s generic)
    • Any homeopathic, macrobiotic treatments or multivitamins you use (the Peace Corps does not provide anything of this nature)
    • Fast-drying towels—two bath, one beach, and one hand
    • Sunscreen and mosquito repellent, if you have a very strong particular preference for a certain type (the Peace Corps provides one kind of each; mosquito nets are provided)
    • Refillable razors (very expensive in Costa Rica)
    • Tampons can be found in/around San Jose and major city centers, but they are very expensive. Some female Volunteers recommend bringing a year's supply.
    • Hair dryer/straightener (if you use either in the States on a daily basis, you’ll probably appreciate having it in Costa Rica) 


    • A favorite pillow and pillowcase(s) (available in-country if you choose not to pack them)
    • Flashlight
    • Sturdy (larger) backpack or duffel bag for three- to four-day trips (many Volunteers say this is essential)
    • Day pack or small backpack
    • Inexpensive water-resistant or waterproof watch
    • Small travel alarm clock
    • Money belt (optional)
    • Leak-proof water bottle
    • Pocket knife
    • Radio, MP3 player (with electrical cord)
    • Lint roller
    • Scissors
    • Light sleeping bag (preferably waterproof)
    • Digital camera
    • Photos of family and friends
    • Inexpensive jewelry
    • Travel games
    • A deck or two of playing cards
    • Journal
    • A pair or two of cheap but strong sunglasses
    • Favorite resources for working with children and youth (games, art supplies, icebreakers, etc.)
    • Cheap items to use as rewards (e.g., stickers, decorative pencils, or erasers)
    • A book or two in English (to read and exchange; Peace Corps/Costa Rica has a library of novels and resource materials) to hold you over until you get into the Peace Corps office
    • Rechargeable batteries (regular batteries are available locally, but they are expensive and/or of lower quality)
    • Locks for luggage
    • Laptop computer (almost all Volunteers find access to a laptop/netbook essential for work and entertainment). Please be advised that the Peace Corps is not responsible for loss or damage to your laptop computer or any other personal articles. Consider taking out personal articles insurance to safeguard against loss or damage
    • If you plan to travel to other countries for vacation, you may want to bring extra money to suit your travel plans; credit cards or traveler's checks are preferable to cash. There are ATMs in larger cities, and most towns so you may want to bring an ATM card to access a bank account in the U.S.
    • Small gifts for host family and friends (not required); knickknacks for the house; pictures, books, or calendars of American scenes; souvenirs from your area; hard candies that will not melt or spoil; photos to give away. 

    Items You Do Not Need to Bring

    The following items are either available in Costa Rica or provided by the Peace Corps:
    • Mosquito net
    • Spanish-English dictionary
    • Travel books about Costa Rica or Central America (there are plenty in the Peace Corps library)
    • Graduate school exam prep books