Costa Rica Country Guide

Everything you need to know about moving to Costa Rica

Expats Guide to Driving in Costa Rica

For many, driving is essential for unlocking the beauty and adventure of Costa Rica. But there are a few things expats need to know.

Driving in Costa Rica can be an adventure filled with stunning landscapes and vibrant culture, but it’s essential for expats to be well-informed about the unique aspects of driving in this beautiful country. From understanding the licensing requirements to navigating the road conditions and local traffic rules, this guide offers essential insights to ensure expats drive confidently and legally in Costa Rica. Whether you’re a newcomer or a seasoned resident, knowing the ropes of driving in this enchanting land is a must.

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Driving as a Tourist in Costa Rica

As a tourist in Costa Rica, you can use your valid home country driver’s license for the duration of your entry stamp. It’s essential to carry your passport or a copy of it, including the page with your entry stamp. While this offers flexibility, remember to abide by local traffic laws and regulations to ensure a smooth and lawful driving experience.

Driving as a Resident in Costa Rica

Obtaining a driver’s license as a resident in Costa Rica

If you plan to stay in Costa Rica for an extended period or are a permanent resident, you’ll need to apply for a local driver’s license. Tourists and legal residents can both apply, but if your foreign license is expired, you’ll need to take a road test. The process involves visiting Costa Rica’s Council for Road Safety (Cosevi), and the costs vary – the initial license is 4,000 CRC ($8), renewals are 10,000 CRC ($20), and replacements are 5,000 CRC ($10). You’ll need a medical exam, your current passport, residency cedula, or temporary residence permit, and a copy of your foreign driver’s license.

Homologating a foreign driver’s license

Homologation is the easiest way to obtain your Costa Rica driver’s license. It refers to validating your foreign license within the Costa Rican legal framework. This allows you to obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license without taking another driving test. The homologation process takes place at COSEVI offices and requires several documents, including your unexpired foreign driver’s license, cedula or residency card, passport with at least three months and one day in Costa Rica, medical exam results, and a translation of the license if it’s not in Spanish. The cost for this service is 5,000 CRC ($10).

Renewing a Costa Rican driver’s license

Renewing a Costa Rican driver’s license is a more straightforward process. You can do this at a COSEVI office or select Banco de Costa Rica locations, but foreign residents should use COSEVI. The renewal fee is based on your driving record, with discounts for fewer points and no infractions. The standard cost is 10,000 CRC (about $17), and you’ll need proof of payment, medical exam results, and an unexpired cedula or residency card. Special conditions apply to foreign residents.

First-time driver’s license and renewal

Obtaining your first-time driver’s license in Costa Rica involves multiple steps and is available to both tourists and legal residents. You’ll need specific documents, including your passport, residency cedula, or temporary residence permit, as well as your foreign driver’s license. A medical exam is required for both first-time licenses and renewals, and the fees are 4,000 CRC ($8) for first-time licenses and 10,000 CRC ($20) for renewals.

Replacement of lost or stolen driver’s license

If your driver’s license gets lost or stolen, you must follow a specific process. Provide a police report, residency cedula, or another form of identification that displays your photo and driver’s license number. The cost for replacement is 5,000 CRC ($10).

 

Things to Know About Driving in Costa Rica

  • If you get into an accident, stop right there: It is technically illegal to move your car after getting into an accident. Although it might not always seem like the safe move, leave the car exactly where it is.
  • Extra fees when renting a car: Third-party liability insurance is required when renting a car in Costa Rica. This fee is typically not quoted in online rental car prices. This charge can be up to an additional $25 per day.
  • Use Waze: Neither Waze nor Google Maps are 100% reliable in Costa Rica. But because more Costa Ricans use Waze, it is typically better than Google Maps.
  • Getting your license plates taken: When you’ve committed a parking violation, rather than getting a ticket, the officer will take your license plates. You’ll need to go to the county seat to pay the fine and get your plates back.
  • Yielding on one-way bridges: When driving in more mountainous areas, you are likely to come to one-way bridges. One side of these bridges has a side which says, “Ceda.” This means that the side with the “Ceda” sign is supposed to yield to oncoming traffic.
  • Gas station must-knows: At most gas stations in Costa Rica, attendants will pump your gas. They often will also clean your windshield, and can fill your tires with air upon request for no extra fee. No tips are required.
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