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Getting My Costa Rica Drivers License

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Costa Rica Drivers License

For those who have been following our blogs, you must know by now that my Spanish is very limited. When there is anything that involves the government of Costa Rica, it pays huge dividends to do your due diligence ahead of time. That way, one will be prepared for most anything without any hiccups along the way. This is true for obtaining a Costa Rica drivers license also.

Getting back to my story, you just don't walk in and get a drivers license like you might in the USA. In fact, there are quite a few steps along the way that are different, and dare I say, smart.

The first requirement, which needs to be done several days in advance of going to the license bureau, is to find a government approved translator whose job is to translate your current (in this case from the USA) driver's license into Spanish. Keep in mind, although there are a lot of self-proclaimed translators that are available for most everyday help, when it comes to government documents it is necessary to use an "official" one. Contact us and we can recommend one for you, or you can do what I did, which was use social media to find one.

This means that whatever classifications you had on your state-side drivers license is the classification you would get here in Costa Rica. Since we live in the southern zone of Costa Rica in San Buenaventura, the closest office is in San Isidro de El General (or simply 'San Isidro' as the locals call it), located approximately 75 minutes away. We first spoke by phone and we were told what was needed.

  1. Copy of my passport and all of the stamped pages
  2. Copy of drivers license from the USA
  3. Copy of my cedula (note: a cedula is the official name of proof of residency in Costa Rica)

The total fee for this service was 15,500 Costa Rica colones (or about $25). Keep in mind: This is a necessary part that cannot be skipped!

The translators did their part and it was mailed to the Cosevi (another Costa Rica government agency involved with issuing drivers licenses), who then had it waiting for us at the licensing location. With a tracking number that was provided, I just handed the clerk at the post office the slip and out came a package with my translation.

The next step was to get a physical. That's right...before you get a Costa Rica drivers license you need to have a simple physical. What a great idea!  It makes sense that people driving 1/2 ton vehicles should have a minimum level of health.  The location was conveniently located across from the drivers license facility. There were several folks outside but they told me to go on in. In broken Spanish, I explained that I needed a doctor's examination "dictamen medico". I paid 20,000 colones (~$33) and was lead to a small adjoining room where I was examined. I had some simple, but important tests done including, vision test, reflex test, blood pressure checked, and listened to my lungs with a stethoscope. In all, it took about 10-15 minutes and after the exam, they said I was good to go.

So, I walked across the street to a guarded entrance. They wanted to see my passport, proof of medical examination, and cedula. This was all while the gate was still shut and passing items back and forth. Once let in, the usual "musical chairs" routine (a Costa Rica tradition!).

After visiting one office, was let out to go next door and pay the actual fee for the driver's license. This fee was 8 mil because there was a motorcycle and car endorsement . Went back to the gate, showed my paid documents and was taken to another room for more questions"are you a organ donor amongst others" and this went fairly well.

Picture time!!! Check out my great photo!

Walked out with a new Costa Rica driver's license and now legal to drive. By the way, they still get "rubber stamp" happy and stamped all kind of documents, some I got back and some they kept. The license is good for three years and there was no drivers test to take. It all very smoothly considering this ol' Gringo's Spanish??!!

Let me know if you want more information on how to attain your Costa Rica drivers license.

Scott Norman

costa rica drivers license

Here's a checklist of things that you need to do to get your Costa Rica drivers license:

  1. Copy of passport and all stamped pages
  2. Copy of current drivers license
  3. Copy of cedula
  4. An official government approved translator
  5. A physical and the subsequent document from the medical facility
  6. A little bit of patience
  7. Around $60 (bring colones)

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