You have decided that you will remain in Costa Rica for quite some time, possibly even deciding to live here. It’s time to get your Costa Rican Drivers License.
Driving without a valid drivers license in Costa Rica will cost you ¢280.000 colones (US$565 at the current exchange rate) and six (6) points, which will be added to your Costa Rican license if and when you actually get one.
Foreigners in Costa Rica can drive with their “license from home” for a maximum of 90 days FROM THE DAY OF ENTRY INTO THE COUNTRY. After that, you must have a Costa Rica drivers license or risk the fine.
Important to note that the new Ley de Transito (traffic law) that went into effect on October 26, 2012 prohibits any foreigner from leaving Costa Rica if they have unpaid traffic fines. The law required traffic officials to report the unpaid fines to the immigration service, that is required to detain you on leaving the country by land, air or sea.
Also, on October 26, 2012 the new requirement to obtain a Costa Rica drivers license is LEGAL RESIDENCY.
For the first time license, a foreigner has to apply to the Consejo de Seguridad Vial (COSEVI) for a license with the following documents:
1. the drivers license from home (it must be current, an expired license will not do)
2. your passport indicating the entry stamp (it must be less than 90 days0
3. the medical certificate which is obtained from any doctor, but best from the doctors operating near and around the driver licensing centres. The medical check is a cursory one for genera health and eyesight and a blood test.
4. pay the fee at the local bank. The COSEVI does not accept payments directly.
5. your cedula (a new requirement as of October 26, 2012)
6. arm yourself with lots and lots of patience
7. a smile for the cameras
Note that if you are using your “from home license” there is no requirement for the written exam and driving test.
Renewing your Costa Rica drivers license is basically all the steps from 1 to 7 except for 5, the cedula.
For renewal you only need a valid identification and the passport will do. This is important for foreigners with a Costa Rica drivers license and who are not yet residents. The residency requirement is only applied on the first issue. See MOPT Licencias.