Home Costa Rica Legal TopicsDriving in Costa Rica Driving in Costa Rica with a Foreign Drivers License

Driving in Costa Rica with a Foreign Drivers License

by rpetersen

 As you plan your journey to Costa Rica, you might be wondering about the practical aspects of getting around. One common question that arises is: Can you drive in Costa Rica with a foreign driver’s license? Let’s explore the ins and outs of driving in this beautiful country with your foreign driver’s license.

Good news! Costa Rica generally accepts valid foreign driver’s licenses for visitors and tourists. If you plan to drive during your visit, you can use your international driver’s license or a driver’s license from your home country. This provides you with the freedom to rent a car and explore the country’s diverse terrain at your own pace.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

The Costa Rica Traffic Law (Law 9078)

Article 91 of Costa Rica’s Transit Law (Ley 9078) outlines the recognition and reciprocity extended to foreign driver’s licenses within the country. For tourists, the foreign license remains valid for driving in Costa Rica for a duration of up to three (3) months.

The question that frequently arises is, “What happens once the initial 3 months have passed?” Given that the maximum legal stay for tourists in Costa Rica is 90 days (3 months), the duration of the foreign license’s validity aligns with this timeframe.

The response, although not necessarily welcomed, is that individuals will need to depart Costa Rica and subsequently re-enter the country to acquire another 90-day tourist visa. This renewed visa period, in turn, ensures the continued validity of the foreign driver’s license.

What if you have a Residency application pending approval ?

For those of you that have a residency application pending before the Department of Immigration there is no automatic extension.   I realize that in most cases getting residency approved can take more tan 6 months which means that the applicant would have to leave the country at least twice to keep the driver’s license valid for driving in Costa Rica while the residency application is being processed.   I know what you are thinking – that does not make sense and you would be right.  However the Immigration Law and the Traffic Law are two separate pieces of legislation and it seems that nobody contemplated that these two laws have impact on foreigners. If the Department of Immigration would approve residency within 3 months then that would solve the problem but that is wishful thinking.

Unfortunately the traffic law (Article 91(b) (ii) makes it clear that the only way to get a driver’s license for more than three months is to provide that the applicant has an approved residency status in Costa Rica which allows them to legally remain in the country for more than the three month tourist visa.

What is the penalty for driving with an expired License

What penalties do you face if you are caught driving with an expired license beyond the 90-day validity? To start, it’s crucial to recognize that any vehicle insurance will not provide coverage if you operate the vehicle with an expired license. In addition, the law enforces two fines for this violation. The first penalty consists of a monetary fine amounting to 61,470 Colones, as specified in Article 146 (q). The second repercussion involves the transit police being granted the authority to confiscate the vehicle’s license plates, thereby rendering it ineligible for further street usage, as outlined in Article 151.

How do you get a Costa Rica Drivers License ?

Once your residency has been approved you must wait an additional 90 days before you can apply for a Costa Rican driver’s license. The apparent logic (or lack of it) for this is that the applicant must let the 90 day tourist status expire before they will be elgible to obtain the Costa Rica driver’s license.

Where do I process the Drivers License and What are the requirements ?

Once you have successfully obtained residency in Costa Rica, the process of acquiring a local driver’s license is relatively straightforward. To initiate the procedure, you’ll need to visit the nearest branch of the Roadway Safety Council (Consejo de Seguridad Vial, or COSEVI). Bring along your residency card, passport, a valid foreign driver’s license, and proof of residency in Costa Rica. Obtain the required medical certification. To do this you will have to visit a doctor that is authorized to issued medical certifications for driver’s license.It’s advisable to have these documents translated into Spanish to facilitate the process. Upon successful completion of these steps, you’ll be issued a Costa Rican driver’s license, allowing you to navigate the country’s roads with confidence. 

COSEVI is located in the city of San Jose.  See the following location map.

Related Articles