Welcome to our comprehensive guide on the Introduction to Driving in Costa Rica. Whether you’re a tourist exploring scenic landscapes or a permanent resident navigating daily life, understanding the driving rules and regulations is essential. From obtaining a local driver’s license to familiarizing yourself with road conditions, this guide provides all the insights you need to drive confidently in Costa Rica. Let’s embark on this journey to discover what driving in this beautiful country entails.

Driving as a Tourist in Costa Rica

As a tourist in Costa Rica, you are permitted to drive using a valid license from your home country for the duration of your entry stamp. This means that if your passport entry stamp reads 90 days, you may legally drive on your foreign license for that time period. However, there are some essential requirements:

  • Validity of foreign licenses for tourists.
  • Carrying your passport or a copy, including the photo page and the page with your entry stamp.
  • Adhering to local traffic laws and regulations.

Driving as a tourist offers flexibility, but it’s crucial to understand the legal requirements and ensure that you comply with them.

Obtaining a Costa Rican Driver’s License as a Resident

Both tourists and legal residents are eligible to obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license. If you are a permanent resident or planning to stay beyond the 90-day tourist allotment, you’ll need to apply for a local license. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Eligibility: Tourists and legal residents can apply. An expired foreign license requires a road test.
  • Process: Transactions happen at Costa Rica’s Council for Road Safety, better known as Cosevi.
  • Costs: A first-time license costs 4,000 CRC ($8), renewals cost 10,000 CRC ($20), and replacements cost 5,000 CRC ($10).
  • Medical Exam: Required for first-time licenses and renewals.
  • Documentation: Current passport, residency cedula, or temporary residence permit, and a copy of your foreign driver’s license.

CRIE can assist with the immigration and residency processes, making it easier for you to obtain your driver’s license in Costa Rica. Their expertise ensures a smooth transition, whether you’re a tourist extending your stay or a new resident looking to explore the country’s scenic roads.

Homologating a Foreign Driver’s License

If you’ve chosen to apply for residency or are staying in Costa Rica beyond the 90-day tourist allotment, you’ll need to homologate your foreign driver’s license. This process allows you to receive a Costa Rican driver’s license without taking another driving test. Here’s how:

  • Process: Homologation is done at COSEVI offices.
  • Required Documentation:
    • Unexpired foreign driver’s license (with photocopies).
    • Cédula or residency card in good standing (with photocopies).
    • Passport demonstrating at least three months and one day in Costa Rica.
    • Medical exam results.
    • Translation of the license if not in Spanish.
  • Costs: 5,000-colon fee for the service.

Renewing a Costa Rican Driver’s License

Renewing a Costa Rican driver’s license is a more flexible process, but it still requires careful attention to details:

  • Process: Renewal can be done at a COSEVI office or several Banco de Costa Rica locations (though foreign residents must use COSEVI).
  • Costs: The fee is based on your driving record, with discounts for fewer points and no infractions. The regular cost is 10,000-colon (about $17).
  • Requirements:
    • Proof of payment for the renewal.
    • Medical exam results.
    • Unexpired cédula or residency card.
    • The license is due to expire.

Special conditions apply to foreign residents, so it’s wise to consult the full requirements on COSEVI’s website.

First-Time Driver’s License and Renewal

Obtaining a first-time driver’s license in Costa Rica involves several steps:

  • Eligibility: Tourists and legal residents can apply.
  • Documentation: Current passport, residency cedula, or temporary residence permit, and foreign driver’s license.
  • Medical Exam: Required for both first-time licenses and renewals.
  • Costs: 4,000 CRC ($8) for a first-time license, 10,000 CRC ($20) for renewals.

The renewal process for Costa Rican citizens and legal residents is similar but includes additional options for locations and payment methods.

Replacement of Lost or Stolen Driver’s License

If your driver’s license has been lost or stolen, you must follow a specific process:

  • Documentation: Police report, residency cedula, or other identification displaying your photo and driver’s license number.
  • Costs: 5,000 CRC ($10) for replacement.

It’s essential to act promptly and follow the guidelines provided by COSEVI to ensure a smooth replacement process.


Navigating the process of obtaining and renewing a driver’s license in Costa Rica can be complex, but with careful attention to detail and an understanding of the requirements, it’s manageable. Whether you’re a tourist looking to explore the country or a permanent resident settling in, knowing the rules around driving is essential.

CRIE plays a vital role in assisting with legal procedures, making the transition smoother for those new to Costa Rica. Their expertise in immigration and residency services is invaluable for anyone looking to make Costa Rica their home.

In conclusion, Costa Rica’s beauty and vibrant culture are waiting to be explored. With the right guidance and adherence to the rules, the road is open for you to discover all that this incredible country has to offer. If you need assistance with any legal procedures, CRIE is here to help.

Article by Glenn Tellier (Founder of CRIE and Grupo Gap).

[email protected]


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the driving like in Costa Rica?

Driving in Costa Rica offers a unique experience with diverse landscapes. Roads can vary in quality, and local driving habits may differ from what you’re used to.

Is Costa Rica easy to drive in?

Ease of driving in Costa Rica depends on familiarity with local rules and road conditions. Consulting with experts like CRIE can make the process smoother.

What is required to drive in Costa Rica?

A valid foreign driver’s license for tourists or a Costa Rican license for residents is required. Permanent residents can consult CRIE for assistance with legal procedures.

What to do if you get pulled over in Costa Rica?

Remain calm, provide the requested documents, and follow the officer’s instructions. Understanding local laws, possibly with guidance from CRIE, can be beneficial.

Do you tip drivers in Costa Rica?

Tipping drivers is not a common practice in Costa Rica, but it’s appreciated for exceptional service.

Can you drink beer while driving in Costa Rica?

No, drinking alcohol while driving is illegal in Costa Rica. It’s essential to follow local laws to ensure safety.

Is driving different in Costa Rica?

Yes, driving in Costa Rica may differ due to road conditions, traffic laws, and local driving habits. Familiarizing yourself with these differences is advisable.

Can you turn right on red in Costa Rica?

Turning right on red is not allowed in Costa Rica. Adhering to traffic signals and signs is crucial for safe driving.

Do we need a car in Costa Rica?

A car provides flexibility but isn’t essential. Public transportation is available, and CRIE can assist with residency-related transportation needs.

Is it safe to rent a car in Costa Rica?

Renting a car is generally safe in Costa Rica. Choose reputable rental companies and be aware of local driving conditions.



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