The process of getting a license can be very easy or a real headache, depending on what kind of license you need.
If you’re just visiting Costa Rica and you’re planning on driving a rental car, no need to worry about getting a license. As long as your 90 day tourist visa is current and you have a valid license from your country of origin, that license will be accepted as valid in Costa Rica.
If you overstay your 90 days and your tourist visa expires, you will be driving on an invalid license and that can lead to a whole lot of legal trouble. So if you’re planning on using your American license, Canadian license, etc., be sure to keep your tourist visa current.
Getting a true blue Costa Rican License
So you’ve made the commitment and escape to Costa Rica. You’re either in the process of getting your residency or planning on doing that in the future. You want a real Costa Rican license. This process can be a bit long and frustrating, but it is well worth the time and effort.
To apply for a BRAND NEW license, you’ll need to go to San Jose, to the Consevi building in the neighborhood of Uruca.
What you’ll need to bring with you:
- Your current, valid license from your home country
- Your passport with a CURRENT entry stamp
- A receipt from Banco de Costa Rica for the license cost (1,000 colones)
- A doctor’s examination certificate
First, as you approach the Consevi building, you may run into individuals that speak decent English who will offer to walk you through the license-getting process as your personal translator. If you don’t speak much Spanish, this isn’t a terrible idea and can actually be quite helpful. Negotiate on a price ahead of time, so you aren’t surprised at the end.
In order to receive your Costa Rican license, you will be required to take a physical exam beforehand. There’s a doctor’s office not far from the Consevi, or you can get your physical papers from a different doctor if you’d like. Just tell them its for getting your license. If you have a proof of your blood type, you can skip the blood typing process and save yourself about 5000.
Take all of your required documents and head over to the Consevi office, to the licensing area, and do the waiting-in-line-forever-thing. Hopefully it shouldn’t take too much longer than 90 minutes. When you’re finished, you’ll have a brand new Costa Rican license, which will be valid for 2 years. After you renew it the first time, it will need to be renewed every 5 years.
**A word to the wise**
Don’t let your new Costa Rican license expire!!! If you let it expire, you’ll be required to take driving classes, a written driving exam (in Spanish), and a practical driving exam. This is an ordeal you DO NOT want to deal with. Save yourself the headache, and remember to renew your license on time, every time.