Getting a Drivers License in Costa Rica

license applicants

One of the real deals for expats is the ease of getting a Costa Rican driver’s license.

Assuming that the expat already holds a valid, unexpired license from North America or Europe, the whole process should not take more than a few hours.

If the expat does not have a valid license, the nightmare is just beginning. An unlicensed expat would have to take weeks of classes, a written exam, hands-on training and a practical test. Not to mention shrugging off bribe requests along the way.

This week only, the Consejo de Seguridad Vial is maintaining extended hours at its main La Uruca location. The license issuing agency will be open from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. to make up for the time lost during the Semana Santa holidays. Normal closing time, starting again next week, is 4 p.m.

When the licensing bureau was in south San José, the facilities were rough but there was a bank for payments inside the facility. Now applicants have to make a bank visit as well as the usual medical visit.

Generally those who can walk into the individual private medical offices and generally make out the outlines of the eye chart are given an OK, a dictamen medico. The typical cost is 10,000 colons or about $17.75. Doctors with offices near the facility handle dozens of exams a day. Many speak English.

A new twist is a requirement that a medical applicant provide some evidence of blood type. Without some kind of document, about 5,000 colons in lab work is required. Some medical facilities have an internal lab. Accepted documentation would be a note from a blood bank or some other paper issued at the time of a donation.

The applicant would then go to Banco Nacional or Banco de Costa Rica to pay the license fee. In La Uruca there is a Banco Nacional just 200 feet east of the main entrance to the Consejo facility.

Some medical facilities are authorized to collect the fee, too, so one-stop payment is possible. Those getting a license for the first time pay 4,000 colons or about $7. That is for two years. A five-year renewal is 10,000 colons.

Expats might be able to shop around for a better price on the medical exam. Some physicians still maintain shop in the vicinity of the former licensing facility in south San José at Avenida 10 and Calle 7.

For a fee, some bilingual taxi operators and expat associations will provide a guide for the process.

The real test comes when the the expat enters the main gate of the Consejo complex. They may have been able to hoodwink the doctor down the street, but the licensing facility is a good 1,000 feet from the main entrance down a concrete sidewalk. Wear good shoes.

Expats getting their first Costa Rica license have to present their North American license to a Departamento de Licencias official. A guard at the door of the licensing facility is a helpful guide. The applicant needs a photocopy of the foreign license and a passport with a valid visa or appropriate immigration documents.

Although there are Consejo offices in all the provinces, the first expat license has to be issued in La Uruca where the foreign license can be verified.

A foreign license is only valid here for the 90 days of a tourist visa.

The actually licensing process is short. A half dozen workers in separate cubicals take down personal information and quickly send applicants to a waiting line for a photograph at five photo stations. The machines being used by the Consejo spit out a new license about every three minutes, so an applicant just hangs around the photo machine for a few minutes.

Parking is in short supply at the Consejo complex. There are employee spaces and plenty of room for cars confiscated from drivers who were caught drinking and driving. But visitors probably should arrive by taxi or be dropped off.

The usual collection of young men patrol the entry and offer help, but a wise visitor does not use their services.

There are several private medical locations devoted to providing licensing medical reports near the Consejo. Some announce their presence with giant banners.

Costa Rican Consejo employees do not confiscate the North American license of applicants, allowing successful applicants to have two.

Costa Ricans as young as 13 can have a license for light motorcycles. Farm youngsters can get a tractor license at 16. The normal age is 18 or unless the applicant is married.

Expats normally will get a B-1 license for passenger cars and light trucks. A motorcycle endorsement on the foreign license results in the same here. Without an endorsement, the applicant has to go through the classes and practical tests.

A stolen license can be renewed for 5,000 colons if the holder has reported the theft or robbery to the Judicial Investigating Organization.

Costa Ricans can renew their license at Banco de Costa Rica. Depending on the bank, expats may be able to obtain a renewal appointment.

Those 65 and older are only supposed to obtain a two-year renewal, but the Consejo does not seem to be enforcing that rule.


Tax Haven

Five days after being blacklisted for not committing to the international tax standards, the country’s Finance Ministry announced that it will take steps necessary to comply.

Costa Rica was taken off the list on Tuesday when officials with the OECD evoked a commitment for improved exchange of tax information.

This means simply that you cannot any longer hide your money in the Costa Rica banks and avoid paying taxes.  IRS can now find you in Costa Rica since this information is shared at all levels of the government and banking industry.


Confiscated Drugs

Wow!  This is the only word to describe what just happened in Golfito.

Over the weekend there was an Equadorian boat stopped  in the Parque National Corcovado near Golfito by the  Servicio National de Guardacostas (Costa Rica coast guards).  They confiscated 320 kilos of cocaine.  The drugs were taken to the Judicial building in Golfito.

Yesterday (Thursday) 5 men came into the Judicial building carrying sub-machine guns and stole the cocaine.  They tied up the 2 police officers in the building and took off with the loot valued at 1.6million in Costa Rica.  This will be worth much more if they get it to the United States.

The government feels strongly that this was an inside job since it went off the way that it did.

Who knew that there would only be 2 police officers guarding the Equadorian find and who knew that it had not yet been transported to San Jose where it was to be destroyed?

Although road blocks were set up all around Golfito, the culprits were not found.  The officials commented that they think that the men took off into the Parque until the heat is off.

What do you think?  Inside job?


Permanent Resident

Obtain your Costa Rica Permanent Resident Investor Status through our Government approved reforestation project.


If the applicant chooses to obtain their Permanent Resident Investor status through this type of project they receive the following benefits:

  1. Application can be made directly to the Immigration department here in Costa Rica or application can be presented to the Costa Rica consul or embassy closest to applicants home.
  2. Application is pre-approved. No additional review or approval required from MINAE (El Ministerio del Ambiente y Energia).
  3. Applicant receives all the rights that a natural born Costa Rica has except can not get politically involved.
  4. If the applicant(s) chooses to work they are not restricted to working in the field of their investment.
  5. Applicant is required to be in Costa Rica only 1 day a year. This 1 day facilitates the renewing of the individuals status.
  6. The time the investor spends in Costa Rica with his legal status is applied towards the time requirement’s in order to obtain a Costa Rica passport. (if desired).


A. Investor receives 1 hectare (2.47 acres) of land registered in his or her name.

B. Investor receives full ownership of the valuable teak trees planted on his or her land.
(1,100 trees at time of planting)

C. Investor receives management contract ensuring the trees and property are maintained to or exceeding standards as outlined by the Costa Rica Forestry engineers.

D. Investor receives full value of the teak timber when harvested.

E. Investor receives right to participate in additional future cycles of replanting / harvesting.

Costs incurred in the processing of the application with Immigration are not borne by the applicant. Legal fees, local documentation and official stamps are included in the investment amount.


Garage in Costa Rica

To follow up on my last post, this post actually is related to the last.

I understand that “Garage in Costa Rica” is a rather strange subject but it is something that you need to think about if you are moving to Costa Rica.

In the US and other countries you CANNOT leave your bicycles in the carport, because if they don’t leave the same day you leave them out, they will be gone soon.

We have had both carports and garages in our homes in Costa Rica.  We have lived in protected neighborhoods and unprotected but very nice neighborhoods.  One morning as we were all leaving for school, my youngest, son at the time 6, went to the front door and squealed.  When we ran to the door we saw a man trying to crawl back over our 10 foot wall, with spikes at the top.  In his hands were one of our nicer adult bikes.  Well in an attempt to get away, as John tried to chase him, he dropped the bike and took off.

You NEED a garage, even if you are in one of the nicest neighborhoods, if you are planning to keep ANYTHING outside.  This is with the exception of a dog.  No one ever tried to crawl over our back fence, that opened up onto a golf course, because in the back we had 250lbs of Akita’s walking around.

Garage or carport? Definately a garage if you can find it.  If you can’t don’t leave anything outside that you want to keep thinking it will be fine for a minute.  NOT!


Pet Relocation-Costa Rica

This is the time of year that many individuals and families start looking toward their move to Costa Rica.  Whether for a job transfer, coming down to experience a different way of life or just to start something new.  There are many reasons to move to Costa Rica but don’t forget your dog when you make the move down.

Some think that there is a quarantine in Costa Rica or their is a waiting period before you can bring your beloved pet.  This is not so.  Pet relocation to Costa Rica is very simple if you have someone or some company that knows the ropes and how to get through the customs process.

If your pet relocation consists of you and your cat in a bag arriving together at Juan Santa Maria, you can do this move alone as there is not an import permit or other documentation from Costa Rica.  The same holds true if you are bringing your pet as checked baggage.  It is by far the least expensive form of pet relocation and the simplest by far.

Another story holds true if you must send your pet as manifest cargo.  This is a very safe way to send your pet and often times the best for families that have much more on their list of to do’s during this busy time.  Your pet relocation can go smooth as silk with the right pet transportation specialist in charge.

Nowadays you can hire someone to take care of the move for you.  Someone that is well-versed in pet transportation can come to your home and pick up your pets.  Travel kennels will be provided and made ready for international travel.  Your pet relocation specialist will make all of the arrangements for the move and can actually provide door-to-door service.  This person or company can get the necessary permits, thwarting any confusion or problems with customs.  Then when the move is complete your pets will be returned to you in fine condition.

It is best, if traveling to Costa Rica with a larger pet, to have a pet relocation specialist to keep everything moving along quickly and smoothly.  This will insure your babies do not spend the night in an empty warehouse waiting on you to bribe their way out the following day.


Costa Rica Information and History

Costa Rica is not an island as many think that it is.  It is located in Central America, Costa Rica has coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean. The tropical coastal plains rise to mountains, active volcanoes, and a temperate central plateau where most people live (San José, the capital, is here). The only country in Central America with no standing army, it enjoys continuing stability after a century of almost uninterrupted democratic government. Tourism,which has overtaken bananas as Costa Rica’s leading foreign exchange earner, bolsters the economy. A quarter of the land has protected status; the beauty of rain forest preserves draws more and more visitors.


El Diario

The day after the earthquake El Diario put 2 very graphic photographs on the front page of their newspaper.  These pictures were very disturbing to say the least.  The first picture was workers pulling from the mud two children and their mother buried under tons of dirt and mud.

This is not the first time that El Diario has published such upsetting photo’s. There has been countless photos of victims of vehicle accidents.  It seems the bloodier the pictures are, the more likely you are to see it in print.

For families that lost loved ones as a result of the earthquake and all of the mudslides, this is a terrible thing for them to have to see.

There are many people in Costa Rica that are lobbying for some kind of sensorship for this paper.  As of now, it is considered by the paper to be freedom of speech.  There are several petitions that are making their way around the country asking for the paper to stop putting such graphic pictures out there.  Hopefully when people speak their voices will be heard by the editor of El Diario and they will put a lid on this type of journalism.


Cons in Costa Rica

Unfortunately Costa Rica is not without con men even in the face of tragedy.  The national emergency commission is warning unsuspecting people that con men are soliciting donations in the name of the earthquake victims.

The commission urges that all donations be sent to the bank accounts listed below as receiving funds for quake victims.

There is one organization that we believe is legitimate and that is Juntos por Ninos.  Some animal lovers are making donations to those kinds of organizations for the care of the abandoned animals in the quake zone.

in the midst of a national tradegy the Fuerza Publica officers detained two men on Saturday who were looting vacant homes in Chinchona.  They carried jewelry and other valuables from the homes of their occupants had left in haste when the quake hit.

The emergency commission has accounts at Banco de Costa Rica #118281-1 for contributions in dollars and #91100-3 for contributions in colones.


Drivers license renewal

Officials at the MOPT state that they are going to reject driver license applicants whose medical report does not include the drivers blood type and a don’t stipulate they want to be an organ donor or not.

The medical report (dictamen) is completed by a private doctor.  Many of these doctors (dozens of them within 2 blocks of the MOPT) are have been leaving this portion of the medical report blank.  This is not acceptable by the officials working inside the drivers license office.   If this is left blank, you will be sent back to get another medical report that states your blood type.  Then you get to start the wait all over again with the lines….the never ending lines.

All drivers are supposed to present a report from a private lab stating blood type of the driver.

There are still some doctors that will simply take the word of the applicant.

Until recent years, you could tell the doctor your blood pressure and they would write down whatever you told them without ever taking out a blood pressure sleeve.

Doctors at the MOPT are doing a better job than they have in the past.  This is a good thing.