It’s official, foreigners in Costa Rica as tourists and who have entered the country after December 17, 2019, can legally drive even though their stay is beyond the 90-day limit.
The notice reads:
“Also extended until May 15 inclusive, the grace period for drivers whose license has expired after March 20, 2020, so that in this period of time (from March 20 to May 15, 2020) they are not fined for this cause. It is important to clarify that the people whose license has expired before March 20, 2020, do not apply for this grace period.
The same period of time applies to accredited drivers with a driver’s license abroad, with an uninterrupted stay in the country of more than three months and who had to approve the document from March 20.
In addition, for those who are in tourist condition and have entered the country after December 17, 2019, an extension is authorized until July 17 to renew, in case the approval is expired.” See here the MOPT notice (in Spanish).
Normally, foreigners – tourists – can legally drive in Costa Rica using a driver’s license from their home country (or another country) for up to a maximum of 90 days after their arrival (based on the entry stamp on their passport).
Due to the national emergency, many a tourist decided to stay in Costa Rica, riding out the pandemic in Pura Vida or could not find a flight home. Confusion arose when the immigration service extended (for those foreigners who entered the country after December 17, 2019) their legal stay in the country until May 15, 2020, and then last week to July 17, 2020.
However, the Ministry of Transport did not pronounce on the extension, leaving many confused, can they drive legally with their expired entry stamp?
The confusion was also in the ex-pat community of foreigners who live in Costa Rica but choose to continue on their tourist visa, doing a ‘border run’ periodically to stay current and be able to legally drive.
The measures taken by the government to close the borders to foreigners (unless they are residents), changed things.
Although, as we have mentioned here, it would have been unlikely that the Policia de Transito would have, during these times, fined a tourist (or ‘ex-pat tourist’) for driving with an expired entry stamp on their passport. Although, until now, they could have.