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Transport Ministry backtracks, extends driving permissions for tourists: report

November 17, 2020

The Transport Ministry (MOPT) told Outlier Legal that tourists who entered the country between December 17, 2019 and November 30, 2020 will legally be allowed to drive in Costa Rica using a valid foreign license until March 2, 2021.

The news was confirmed by the Vice Minister of Transportation, Eduardo Brenes Mata, in a letter addressed to Outlier Legal. MOPT has not publicly announced the news, which contradicts a previous statement from the organization.

Tourists in Costa Rica should drive with their valid (non-expired) foreign driver’s license and a copy of their passport (photo page and entry stamp). Due to the ever-changing situation, we also recommend carrying a copy of the letter sent to Outlier Legal.

The communication to Outlier Legal does not refer to those who last entered Costa Rica as a citizen or resident. Per MOPT, residents who should have homologated their license after March 20, 2020 have until November 18 to do so; after that date, their foreign license can no longer be used as permission to operate a motor vehicle.

What this news means for you

Foreigners can legally drive in Costa Rica using a driver’s license from another country for up to three months after their arrival. This typically doesn’t usually cause problems, because Costa Rica issues tourist visas for up to 90 days.

But the coronavirus has caused Costa Rica to extend certain tourist visas. Tourists whose approved stay in Costa Rica has been extended beyond the typical 90 days can now legally drive for the duration of their time here.

Residents and citizens — who in normal circumstances are among the only people who can   stay in Costa Rica longer than three months at a time — must homologate their license in order to keep driving beyond the 90-day limit. Appointments for homologation are available at this link.

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