Costa Rica Drivers License
If you are visiting Costa Rica, you may drive on the driver's license issued by your home country so long as your visa has not expired. Once your visa has expired, so has your license and any insurance you may have.
This is important! Depending on the country you are from, your tourist visa may be as long as ninety days or as short as thirty days. See Entry to Costa Rica. Once it expires, you cannot drive legally in Costa Rica unless you have applied for and received your Costa Rica license. (See below). To see visa regulations, click here then go to Visa Regulations.
Also important. If you are not driving on a valid license, you have NO insurance coverage even if you paid for it.
If you renew your tourist visa by leaving the country and returning, your non-Costa Rica driver's license will be good for another period of time equal to your visa. If you intend to remain in Costa Rica, it is an excellent idea to get your Costa Rican drivers license.
There is a law pending in the asemblea to prohibit issuance of a Costa Rica drivers license to anyone not a citizen or legal resident of Costa Rica. As of this date (see bottom of page) the new law has not passed, but indications are it well may pass this year.
While the process is simple enough, the time to do it may be a bit daunting. Plan on from one to two hours. See my recent experience here.
For NEW license applications, you MUST go to the Consevi location in Uruca located about 100M from the Banco Nacional on the main road through Uruca and about 200 meters from the Shell gas station. Big building - Hard to miss. For a detalled first hand explanation of the process, check the blog.
For renewals, you can go to all MOPT offices in Liberia, Limon, San Jose, San Ramon etc.
For a new or renewal license, you will need your a receipt from Banco de Costa Rica for the cost of the license (currently 1,000 colones) your current un-expired drivers license, your passport with a current entry stamp, and a doctors examination certificate, and cash to pay the doctor. **
New info regarding drivers licenses for citizens! Please see this.
Note: In front of the Consevi building, (as in front of many government offices in Costa Rica) you will find a group of people who want to want to be your guide through this process. Many speak some form of understandable English. If you have come alone and speak little or no Spanish, and feel a bit daunted by all the movement and seeming disorganization, consider using one of these guys to sort of tell you what is going on and get you started. A couple of bucks goes a long way, and you'll catch on pretty quick. The basic process can be found here.
You will need to take a physical. Testing includes eyes, blood pressure and several other things. There is only one doctors office I could find near Consevi... about 200 meters toward San José. You just go into it to get the exam. No waiting. The cost lat this writing is 10,000 colones if you have a valid proof of blood type. If you do not, there is another 5,000 colon charge for the blood typing.
Then you take the items above and the results of your physical to the licensing area about 300 meters behind the Consevi building where you will present your receipt, your current drivers license, your passport with a current entry stamp (or your cedula), and the doctor's examination certificate. You will go through at two separate lines and but they move along ok. It took me about 90 minutes to renew my license. See my story here. There is not a lot of parking available, so either have someone take you or take a cab. Getting there is easy.
When done, you will have your first Costa Rica license. It will be for two years, but when you renew it (or if you are renewing now), it will be for five years.
Hint: If you live here, do NOT let this go. While a bit time consuming, this is a non-event. Let your drivers license expire and this becomes a huge problem with exams (in Spanish) and so on. This is definitely a time to be pro-active!
Finally, if you have a Costa Rica drivers license now, do NOT let that baby expire. If you do, you will need drivers classes, plus will need to take the written and drivers exam (in Spanish). The inspector probably will not speak Spanish. being pro-active here will save you a TON of time and trouble.
** Note to perpetual tourists!
Occasionally, people come to Costa Rica and never leave. They are illegal, but don't think they will get caught. At the beginning, they leave every three months, but after a while, they just don't leave any more. One thing to remember... if you do NOT get your Costa Rica driver's license, AND do NOT leave the country every 90 days, your license expires when your tourist visa expires, and that can get you into a bit of trouble.
If you currently have a valid current motorcycle license (or endorsement), you can apply for and receive the Costa Rica Motorcycle license without taking the exam. If not, then you must take all exams including the practical to ne licensed. I also think you should probably get your head examined as well as driving a a moto here is just plain dangerous.
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