Rico’s Tico Bull – “Please Extend Driving Permits for Tourists during Quarantine” is the call to Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado, in a Change.org petition started by Outlier Legal Services.
At the time of posting this article, 683 people (including yours truly), have signed the petition.
The reason for the petition is the confusion, given that, in typical Costa Rican fashion, one agency says and does one thing, another, something else of nothing.
Last week, on April 24, the immigration service automatically extended the stay of tourists who arrived legally in Costa Rica after December 17, 2019, to July 17, 2020 (originally from May 17).
Great news for the many foreigners who decided to stay in the country, either could not find a flight home or felt safer to stay in Pura Vida that returning home. The extension means they can, provided they entered the country after December 17, 2019, stay legally. And theoretically also drive.
But, wait a minute, the traffic laws allow foreigners who have not obtained a Costa Rican driver’s license to drive with the foreign license while their passport entry stamp is current.
For most, that is up to 90 days.
And that is where the confusion comes in, one agency, immigration extends the stay period, but Transito (Traffic Department) says only what the law allows.
Outlier, on its website, explained it started the petition because “We have received a lot of questions regarding the driver’s license for tourists who are currently in Costa Rica”.
In the past, a foreigner could obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license by presenting their home country license and passport. Then things changed. Only foreigners with a DIMEX (residency card) could now obtain their Costa Rican license that way.
Under normal times, most foreigners come to stay for a limited period of time, usually within the permitted 90 days. Perpetual tourists left the country and immediately returned, a ‘border run’ to Panama or Nicaragua and would stay current.
A few would take their chances. Some I know have never been stopped or harassed.
But times change. The pandemic changes things even more, albeit temporary, I hope.
As it stands right now, as a foreigner on a tourist visa you are able to stay legally until July 17, but driving past your 90 days can be stressful. On social networks, there have been a couple of unconfirmed reports of Transitos (traffic officials) demanding a donation.
Costa Rica lives off tourism, well not these days. And cannot fleece the golden goose. President Carlos Alvarado addressed the issue of doing everything to keep a good tourist image in these times of coronavirus.
But has done nothing more than lip service to addressing the driving problem
And that is why you should sign the petition. No matter if you are Costa Rican citizen, resident in the country, a tourist now in the country or a future tourist.
Let your voice be heard.