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Getting a Driver's License

Last Updated: Sep 19, 2011

keys in car ignition
 - Costa Rica

As a visiting foreigner, you are permitted to drive in Costa Rica using a valid license from your home country for the duration of your entry stamp. If your passport entry stamp reads 90 days, you may legally drive on your foreign license for that time period. After 90 days, you must either leave the country to renew your entry stamp or obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license.

All drivers’ license transactions happen at Costa Rica’s Council for Road Safety, better known as Cosevi. Located in San Jose’s La Uruca neighborhood, the large government building is well-signed and situated one block west of the Banco Nacional. Cosevi is open from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. 

As of 2011, the cost for a first-time license – valid for two years  – is 4,000 CRC ($8). Renewals cost 10,000 CRC ($20), and the fee to replace a lost or stolen license is 5,000 CRC ($10). When renewing or applying for a driver’s license, all outstanding traffic tickets or fines must be paid at this time. Payments can be made at any Banco de Costa Rica office; make sure to take your receipt with you to Cosevi.

A physical exam is required when obtaining a first-time driver’s license or a renewal. There is at least one doctor’s office within two blocks of the Cosevi building; ask anyone for directions (“Donde queda el medico para licencias de conducir?”). The doctor will ask a few basic questions and check eyesight, blood pressure and blood type. If you have proof of your blood type, take it with you. An exam with blood typing runs about $30, while a standard exam costs $20. 

After you’ve paid the license fee and completed your medical exam, take your receipts to the Cosevi building. Note that if you are a foreigner applying for a first-time license, you may only use the special window designated for this purpose; it closes at 11 a.m., so get there early. After taking your photo, you should have your new license within 15 minutes. 

First-time Driver’s License

Both tourists and legal residents are eligible to obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license. The following paperwork must be presented: 

  1. Current passport with entry stamp of no more than 90 days OR residency cedula OR any other document that proves legal residency or temporary residence permit.
  2. Current foreign driver’s license and a copy of the same. 
  3. Medical exam 
  4. If a driver presents an expired foreign driver’s license, s/he must comply with the above 1-3 requirements, and must also take a road test.

Driver’s License Renewal

To renew your Costa Rican driver’s license, you must present the following: 

  1. Medical exam
  2. Current passport OR residency cedula OR temporary residence permit OR Peace Corps identification card OR refugee card OR rentista card OR any other document that proves fixed residency status. 
  3. Current Costa Rican license.
  4. If you are a Costa Rican citizen, you may renew your license at Banco de Costa Rica for no additional cost. This service is not available to legal residents or tourists.

Replacement Driver’s License

If your driver’s license has been lost or stolen, you must present the following when requesting a replacement: 

  1. Police report from the OIJ or Guardia Rural. 
  2. Residency cedula, passport or other documentation that displays your photo and the identification number associated with your driver’s license. 
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