SPREADING the holiday cheer thousands of milesaway from family and friends can present a bit of a challengefor foreigners wanting to send presents and cards.But when it comes to shipping gifts for the holidays, aselection of world-renown courier services that operatewithin Costa Rica offer speed and safety for those not wantingto use the country’s national mail system.Delivery fees vary according to the weight, volume anddestination of the package and restrictions apply as to the contentsof packages and the countries to which they deliver.For example, neither UPS nor Jet Box will deliver tocountries with trade embargos, such as Cuba.DHL, with brand new headquarters in La Aurora,Heredia and a new phone number (209-6000), has branchesthroughout San José and in Quepos, Jacó, Liberia, Limón,Perez Zeledón, and San Carlos. DHL provides door-to-doorservice to virtually all countries.“At DHL, jewelry, cash, drugs, weapons, corrosivematerial, and chemicals are undeliverable, among others,”said Mauricio Umaña, from DHL customer service. “Otherthings, like food, drinks, alcohol, and butterfly pupas, arerestricted and still other items may be restricted or prohibitedby Customs in any particular country.”UMAÑA explained the threat of bio-terrorism led theFood and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States totighten its grip on imports.“Sweets, cookies – all food products require a specialpermit for entrance into the United States to ensure they donot present a health risk.”All courier services must comply with this regulation.The procedure to obtain the FDA authorization consists ofaccessing their Web site at www.fda.gov, following the registrationinstructions under “food industry,” and waiting forthe confirmation of prior notice of imports, which must besubmitted to the courier.“The procedure may take 15-20 minutes and registrationmay be completed four hours before the product comes intothe United States,” said María LourdesCamacho, customer service manager forUPS Costa Rica. “The most popular foodproduct shipped out of Costa Rica is coffee,which must be registered with theFDA.”UPS is famous for its Tico Pak, aneconomy service that ships packages ofsouvenirs to the United States in five tonine days and might come in handy duringthe holidays.Unlike DHL, this courier deliversjewelry and valuables more than $500 atthe customer’s risk.UPS has offices in Pavas, to the westof the capital, and the Mercedes Tower inPaseo Colón, downtown San José. For more info, call 290-2828.OTHER couriers offer a slightly different service.Besides a worldwide delivery service, couriers such as MailBoxes Etc., Starbox, Jet Box and Aerocasillas offer mailboxesin Miami, Florida, where customers can receive packagesand mail from North America and abroad, with moreconvenience and ease than outside the United States.This service is “particularly useful to receive productspurchased on the Internet or through catalogues, bank statements,or any item that is only deliverable within the UnitedStates,” said Diego Fontes, Mail Boxes Etc. general manager.Mail Boxes Etc., located in Pavas, traditionally offersholiday promotions. Although Fontes said they have notdecided on this year’s promotion, thisDecember Mail Boxes may offer discountsor a special similar to last year’s,when they offered free packagingthrough the holidays. For more info, call232-2950.Starbox, in La Rambla shoppingcenter, in the western suburb of Escazú,offers a pick-up service for packagesdelivered by Starbox that come throughcustoms at Juan SantamaríaInternational Airport in addition to itsworldwide delivery service.ACCORDING to Johana Zeledón,Starbox receptionist, their pick-up service,“is offered to occasional or regularclients and consists of authorizing aStarbox employee to pick up the merchandise by means of anote of authorization, filling out a form, and including apassport copy.”For additional information, call 289-9393.Jet Box has branches in Pavas, Curridabat and its mainoffice is on Pilar Jiménez Street in Guadalupe. The phonenumber is 253-5400.Aerocasillas is located in Escazú, in front of Pricesmartsupermarket, in Curridabat, La Uruca, and Novacentro shoppingcenter in Guadalupe. For information, call 224-6381.These courier services guarantee next-day delivery to theUnited States and Central America, 48-hours to Canada, theCaribbean, and South America, three days to Europe, and fourto five days to Asia, Africa, Australia and the rest of the world.The couriers agreed in advising not to wrap any presents,since Customs agents will very likely rip them open forinspection. They also recommend shipping presents well inadvance this year, to avoid the rush and holiday customscongestion.HERE are some tips on how to receive packages fromabroad:1. If you own a post office box and receive a package oflarge dimensions, you will receive a notice in the box andmust use it to collect the package at your local post office’s“apartados” section.2. If the gift is labeled as merchandise or weighs morethan two kilos, Customs might retain it for inspection. Youwill receive a notice in your post office box and must use itto collect the package, either at your local post office, orpostal Customs in Zapote, to the east of San José. The centralpost office customer service line is 800-900-2000, andoffers service in Spanish only.3. Make sure to present either your passport or CostaRican I.D. card at the post or customs office to collect yourpackage.