• Costa Rica Real Estate

How to: Driver’s licenses in Costa Rica

November 25, 2018

Here at The Tico Times, we regularly see the amazing natural beauty that brings millions of tourists (and many new residents) to Costa Rica each year.

We also have experience with some of the less publicized aspects of living here: the laws, the social intricacies and the cultural norms beyond learning to say, “Pura Vida, mae.

I recently struggled through the homologation of my foreign driver’s license. After two unsuccessful trips to the Roadway Safety Council, COSEVI, I am proud to legally be able to drive here.

Here’s how to handle driver’s license-related processes in Costa Rica.

Driving as a tourist in Costa Rica

In general, tourists can stay in Costa Rica for 90 days after their arrival. If you have a valid driver’s license issued from your home country, then congratulations! You can drive in Costa Rica for the duration of your stay.

Since the legality of your foreign license is dependent on you remaining in Costa Rica for fewer than three months, we recommend driving with your passport or at least a copy — including both the photo page and the page with your entry stamp into the country — just in case you’re pulled over.

Homologating a foreign driver’s license in Costa Rica

So you’ve chosen to apply for residency, or through some other capacity are staying in Costa Rica beyond the 90-day tourist allotment. Congratulations!

If you plan on driving in here after the first three months, though, you’ll have to homologate your driver’s license. This process allows you to receive a Costa Rican driver’s license — of the same class and expiration date of your foreign one — without having to take another driving test.

This is done at COSEVI offices (locations listed here) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7-11 a.m. I recommend arriving early — get there right at 7, or before if possible — and make sure you bring all the required documentation.

Here is what you’ll need to have:

  • Your foreign driver’s license. It must be unexpired and in good physical condition. Also bring two photocopies of the front and back of it.
  • Your cédula or residency card, which must be in good standing. Also bring two photocopies of the front and back.
  • Your passport, which must demonstrate you’ve remained in Costa Rica for at least three months and one day. Bring two photocopies of your passport (including the photo page and the page with your entry stamp).*
  • Results of your medical exam, or dictamen medico. This can be completed in the 180 days prior to your trip to COSEVI in clinics across the country, many of which are concentrated around COSEVI offices.
  • A translation of the foreign license, if it is in a language other than Spanish (yes, even English). The translation must be from an official translator. Click here for a list.
  • Original marriage certificate (and two copies) if the surname(s) on the license differs from your legal name.

*If there are too many stamps in your passport or they can’t find your last entry stamp, you’ll need an official list of entries and exits from the Dirección General de Migración y Extranjería. The service is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

After beginning the homologation process, a COSEVI employee will instruct you where in the complex to pay the 5,000-colon (about $8.50) fee for the service.

Read the full list of requirements here. And remember to arrive early!

Renewing a Costa Rican driver’s license

There is more flexibility (and less waiting in line) when renewing a Costa Rican driver’s license. In the three months before your license is set to expire, you can renew it at a COSEVI office. Several Banco de Costa Rica locations offer this service, too, for a small additional fee; however, foreign residents cannot use the BCR service and must renew their licenses thorugh COSEVI.

According to COSEVI, you need to bring:

  • Proof of payment for the renewal. The fee is based on your driving record; you’ll get half off the regular 10,000-colon (about $17) cost for having fewer than four points and no infractions. All major Costa Rican banks should be able to complete the payment.
  • Results of your medical exam, or dictamen medico. These can be completed in the 180 days prior to renewing your license in clinics across the country, many of which are concentrated around COSEVI offices.
  • Your cédula or residency card, unexpired and in good physical condition.

You should also bring the license that is due to expire. Read the full requirements on COSEVI’s website here.

Did we miss anything? Is there something else about Costa Rica about which you’d like to learn more? Let us know in the comments!


Thanks for reading The Tico Times. We strive to keep you up to date about everything that’s been happening in Costa Rica. We work hard to keep our reporting independent and groundbreaking, but we need your help. The Tico Times is partly funded by you and every little bit helps. If all our readers chipped in a buck a month we’d be set for years.

Support the Tico Times

Facebook Comments

You may be interested

Despite reports, Costa Rica continues to not be an island
Tico Times Shade
2521 views
Tico Times Shade
2521 views

Despite reports, Costa Rica continues to not be an island

Alejandro Zúñiga - July 23, 2019

Despite recent reports to the contrary, The Tico Times has confirmed that Costa Rica is not an island. This news…

Costa Rican dog attends trial as a victim of animal abuse
Costa Rica
437 views
Costa Rica
437 views

Costa Rican dog attends trial as a victim of animal abuse

AFP and The Tico Times - July 23, 2019

Champion, a two-year-old dog, became on Monday the first animal in Latin America to attend the trial of his former…

Flamingo Fishing Rodeo set to begin in one of sportfishing’s best destinations
Fishing
124 views
Fishing
124 views

Flamingo Fishing Rodeo set to begin in one of sportfishing’s best destinations

The Tico Times - July 23, 2019

Flamingo, Guanacaste, is one of sportfishing’s legendary destinations, an idyllic laid-back beach community located on Costa Rica's northern Pacific coast.…

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!