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Getting My Driver’s License in Costa Rica

Written By: Gary on November 11, 2008 5 Comments

So went to get my driver’s license today. What a bureaucracy! The only plus was that it wasn’t very busy.

I knew this was going to be a hassle so I hired ARCR (the folks that did the relocation seminar) to take me there and work me through the process, it was $35 well spent. I would have spent that on cab rides alone.

Here’s the process we took: Crlicence

  • Copied my passport, entrance stamp and US license.
  • Drove to the MOPT (their Department of Motor Vehicles).
  • Walked out of the huge complex and down the street to the Doctor’s office and got a blood type test $10 and then went to a different room for a “medical” for $20 (which consisted of an eye test, blood pressure and some questions).
  • Walked back into the far side of the complex and queued up.
  • Every time someone went in, we all moved down a seat closer to the door.
  • Got approved for a driver’s license for an automobile.
  • Did not get approved for a motorcycle. She didn’t accept the “CY” in my endorsement section was for a motorcycle. Says I’ll have to go to the U.S. Embassy to get a note from them. This was even after I showed her my “International Driver’s Permit” which very clearly identifies me as having a motorcycle endorsement and it’s in Spanish (FYI, Costa Rica does not honor this permit for driving so I can’t bitch too much); if Michigan defined “CY” on the back of the license I’d have been fine.
  • Went downstairs and waited but this time we had a number.
  • This was to get everything keyed in for the license.
  • Walked back to the front of the complex to pay for the license.
  • Walked back to the back of the complex to show the receipt that we paid.
  • Got my picture taken (was allowed to smile), signed the computer tablet and had my fingerprint taken.
  • Waited for a few minutes more and got my license! Good for two years!

    Throughout this process I showed my US license, passport and the copies a million times. At some point in the process they did let us leave to make a copy of the doctor’s medical test (all the way back to the front and down the street to the doctor’s) and then they stamped it certified so I don’t have to get another test ($10).

    The $35 for the escort well spent, especially since I speak barely speak Spanish. But if they had known a little more I could have gotten the paperwork I needed to get the motorcycle endorsement and gotten both. I’ve heard they are making license’s harder for non-residents so maybe I should get it now (I’m assuming they’ll let me renew it even if they change the rules) that was part of my motivation in the first place. I can go back myself but like I said before, if I don’t have a car it’s going to cost that much for cab fare. If I have a car at the end of my trip when I come back to San Jose to leave I’ll do it…

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    5 Responses to “Getting My Driver’s License in Costa Rica”

    1. beto says on: 11 November 2008 at 11:14 pm

      Actually, I admire you for being brave enough to fight our insurmountable bureaucracy and also daring to drive in our streets. I always tell my friends that if you can drive here in CR and make it through unscathed, you can drive anywhere in the world. Every time I go to the U.S for work, I rather have to “unlearn” the gung-ho mentality required on Tico streets and try behaving like an actual citizen… :)

    2. Russell Kramer says on: 8 November 2010 at 7:28 pm

      Hey Gary,

      Can i still get a “Costa Rica Drivers License” ??

      I will be visting Costa Rica this Feb 2011. It’s my 11th trip down!!


      Russell Kramer
      Chicago, Illinois USA

    3. Gary from http://GarySaid.com/ says on: 8 November 2010 at 7:39 pm

      I’m not sure if the ever made it harder or not. Like I said, at the time I was under the impression they were going to make it harder to do. But I don’t even recall why I thought that then (I’m guessing I read it in the paper, The Tico Times).

    4. Elena says on: 7 February 2012 at 7:14 am

      I have been living in Costa Rica since 1990. Getting a drivers license is more efficient than most states in the US. Just have all your docs in order and YES if you want the motorcycle, you better have the US endorsement or else you have to haul you bike to SJ for a “road test”. Now you also need a lab report showing your blood type. Me? I have always done it without an agent, and in and out in an hour, with license in hand!!!!

    5. Cathy says on: 23 February 2012 at 8:58 am

      Does anyone know someone I can hire to help me get my license?


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