Rescue mission: our VW t2 will ship to Holland (wait, what?!)

A rescue mission to get our VW t2 Combi Westfalia out of Costa Rica onto a ship to sail to Rotterdam! This month it has been 8 years ago since we bought a 1972 VW t2 Westfalia campervan in Mexico City that we drove to Costa Rica in 2017. She has been in storage in Costa Rica for all those years we have been in the country (almost 3). It is impossible to get permission to circulate with our foreign plates and importing an antique car has proven to be impossible. This makes us very sad and as we plan to leave Costa Rica this summer, we don’t know if and when we can return due to coronavirus.


Nów might be the last chance to get her out and back into our lives!


So we decided to organise a rescue mission for our VW t2, put her in a container and ship her from Puerto Limón in Costa Rica to Rotterdam in The Netherlands. On our Dutch business blog we started a crowdfund campaign to help finance this rescue mission. It is possible to buy a voucher for a camping trip in the summer / fall of 2020 or 2021 in the campervan once it arrives in The Netherlands. With this, you can experience the best way to see and explore The Netherlands yourself ánd help us finance this rescue mission.

In this post I take you along in the exiting journey of getting Nina down from San Jose on an auto ambulance, to the harbour, into a container and onto a ship. The kids are in awe. They cannot wait to see Nina and come along to pick her up in Rotterdam. All of this in one blogpost, so here we go! Do you want to read how we bought her in Mexico first? Check out this 2012 blog about buying a Volkswagen t2 Combi Westfalia in Mexico City.

Rescue mission VW t2: Getting the paperwork in order
Ever since we arrived in Costa Rica in 2017, paperwork has been a big headache for us and when our recent plan to ship her arose, the paperwork was the first thing we wanted to secure. We googled to find a customs agent in the port of Limón and chose to contact one who’d posted a container with a car in it on the web. At least it would be someone with experience, we figured. With that one call we found Sr. Leonardo, an experienced customs agent who sat down with a Costa Rican fiscal custom agent to get permission to ship this campervan out of the country. Early may we got the green light for shipment!

Rescue mission VW t2: Getting a quote
The next step was finding a reliable quote for handling and shipping the campervan from the port of Limón to the port of Rotterdam. We used an Indian website called SeaRates that gave us a really good quote. It is a lot of money to transfer to a website, so we were a little hesitant. We eventually decided to accept the (slightly more expensive) quote of a local agent, to make sure the shipping agency actually exists in the real world and to keep the money in the country. The quote we accepted was 3400 USD including the exportation, handling, strapping, insurance and the shipping itself. The campervan will be taken in with the shipping agent who needs about a week to prepare the campervan for shipment.

Rescue mission VW t2: Getting Nina the campervan down to Puerto Limón
Nina has been in storage with a great mechanic in San José, the capital of Costa Rica. We could park the campervan there and he would let her run regularly. He prepared the campervan mechanically: change filters, oil, put gasoline in it, check breaks and transmission. He will put Nina on an auto-ambulance with our friend Marco (we used his services before when entering the country in 2017) and he’ll drive ±250 kilometers down to the port of Limón. There we will meet him, unload Nina and get some stuff out of the van. We will drive Nina to the shipping agent to start the exportation process. We plan to take the kids with us to the harbour so they can experience it and see Nina depart.

Rescue mission VW t2: Strapping and loading and shipping the campervan
Once the paperwork for exportation is concluded, Nina will be driven into a 20ft container, strapped and loaded onto the ship. The ship will sail on May XX in about 20 days from Costa Rica to Holland. Once arrived, we will use the services of a Rotterdam based company to unload and process the paperwork for import in The Netherlands. We plan to pick up the campervan at their location, secure proper temporary insurance meanwhile and drive it to our home in Haaksbergen.

We have researched the steps that we need to take in order to legalise the campervan in The Netherlands and get her antique Dutch plates. Clearly there are many things to arrange before we can start that process. As you can see, this is a dynamic post that we will update once new progress is made. We will post a picture of a big, expensive, delicious bottle of champagne that we will open here in Costa Rica on the day the ship sails from the harbour in Puerto Limón. We’ll keep you posted!

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