Renewing your driver’s license in Costa Rica can be an experience. The long lines and hours of waiting, only to find out you haven’t paid the “entero” or any outstanding traffic fines, which you may or may not remember getting since the last time you renewed.
Renewing your license in San Jose, at the Cosevi La Uruca central offices, means putting aside an entire morning or even entire day. Ouch. A visit to the dentist is less painful.
Let’s start with what you need first before even heading to the Cosevi.
One, a medical exam or ‘dictamen medico’ in Spanish. Two, pay the ¢5,000 colones renewal fee or ‘entero’. Three your old license and documentation. Four, patience. Lots of patience. And then some.
But, here is how I got my license renewal in 60 minutes or so and without having to pay any additional fees at the Banco de Costa Rica (BCR).
I found this out by pure coincidence.
Being in Liberia on Monday, Februay 26 (my license was to expire on March 15), delayed in my return back to ‘Chepe’ (San Jose), getting stuck in traffic for more tha 45 minutes outside the international airport, with passengers getting nervous by the second fearing to miss their flight, all due to a protest by fishermen and learning from the news that the protest was even more active in Caldera, I decided, after finally dropping off passengers (they made their flight on time) to check out the licensing renewal office in Liberia, located half way between the town of Liberia and the airport.
But before I decided to embark on the challenge, I approached the guard at the gate. First I wanted to know if I had any outstanding tickets.
The guard, Luis Diego, took me to the manager’s office, who immediately checked my file and nothing owing. More important I noticed there were only two people in line to renew their license.
Thanks to Luis Diego, I learned that across the street from Cosevi there is a medical office run by Dr. Jenny Lilian, who in less than 10 minutes had me with my medical exam. Passed with flying colours.
No longer is there the need to fill out forms or even give a blood sample. Dr. Jenny explained the scam that the blood testing was and can still be at some ‘doctor offices’. Don’t fall for it.
The dictamen medico is now linked to the Cosevi. No paper certificate, only an email confirmation. But just in case Dr. Jenny was nice enough to give me a handwritten code to bring with me back across the street.
I also learned from Dr. Jenny that around the corner, in the same building, at the Hotel Santa Ana front desk, for a ¢2,000 colones fee, I could get my entero. A better deal than driving to Liberia, and make the line at the BCR branch. The cost thus was ¢7,000 in total.
It turned out, I didn’t need Dr. Jenny’s note or the print out of proof of payment, all was already linked to the Cosevi. Impressive.
All the foregoing took less than 20 minutes.
Back across the street, the two people line had now ground to four. I was fifth. This was now 2:00 pm, the offices close at 3.
The original two had not taken into account the lunch period for the only license renewal official.
Despite a problem with the license printing machine (a stuck card and system reboot), 30 minutes later it was my turn.
Documents in hand, I smiled for the camera, placed my index finger on the scanner and after several attempts at giving a sample of my signature on a digital pad, a few keystrokes by the official, the printer spit out my new license.
I was out of there.
All this was new to me. I learned from some locals that the regional offices is the only way to renew.
I remember six years ago the line in La Uruca. In six years time I plan to have the same license renewal experience.