You just go down to the Department of Motor Vehicles when you are ready, take a test, answer some questions, pay a little money and you are done in a few hours, right ? Not in Costa Rica. Everything moves much slower here, including the process to get a drivers license. It won't take hours, it will take days, perhaps weeks to gather all of the required documentation and obtain your license.
Once you become a temporary residency of Costa Rica and reach 91 days after your last visa entry stamp, your international drivers license becomes invalid. However, since you now have temporary residency, you can remain in the country legally with no time limits....you just can't drive.
At this point you can now go and get your Costa Rica drivers license. Obviously since you can't drive, you will have to arrange for some type of alternate transportation. Yes, you read that correctly. On the first day that you cannot legally drive, combined with being a valid temporary resident, you can go get your license. Welcome to Costa Rica.
While initially very confusing, once you navigate and complete all of the requirements, slowly one by one, all from going to different places, it is actually very simple and efficient in a kind of weird way.
The guide below assumes that you are a resident and have a valid international license. You will need the following documents for your drivers license appointment:
When you have all of the above documents completed and ready to go, you can now schedule your in person appointment to get your license.
In person appointments for people using an international drivers license to obtain a Costa Rica drivers license are only available on specific days of the week and also only during certain hours. Before COVID, you could just show up unannounced, but now appointments must be made online.
Currently, appointments are available for Tuesday and Wednesday mornings between the hours of 7:00am and 11:00am in 15 minute intervals.
To schedule an appointment, you must go online at the website below between 7:50 am and 9:00 on the Thursday before the week that you want your appointment.
https://servicios.educacionvial.go.cr or Click here
IMPORTANT ! - Even though you are online and ready at 7:50, usually the appointment screen doesn't show up until 8:15 or 8:20. Just keep trying until it appears.
REALLY IMPORTANT ! - The online appointment screen won't work using the Chrome browser. Browsers that work include Firefox and Microsoft Edge. Also, the tool won't work if you have translated the webpage to English. It must be in Spanish. I recommend initially translating the page to English so that you can see what to select and then bring it up in Spanish.
Select "request first time appointment" or in Spanish "Solicitar cita primera vez, duplicar, renovar, permisode conducir y homologar" from the main screen as shown below. Remember to have the screen display in Spanish.
Select from the pull down menus as shown below. In summary this is what you are entering:
Select "accept terms", "I am not a robot" and press continue.
A map of all the office locations will then be displayed. Below are the choices. Select where you want to go for your appointment.
Now the fun begins. This is the part that won't work right unless you have the correct browser in Spanish - see above.
The appointment screen will appear sometime within the 7:50 to 8:30 am timeframe. These times are merely a suggestion on when the appointments could become available.
You will most likely have to refresh your browser over and over until the appointment times show up. Once it does, quickly select a time. If you get the response "ya no esta disponible" which means "it is not available", you were too late and someone else got it. Continue selecting a time until you receive the message to register "registrarse". Once complete, it is very important that you print your confirmation and bring this to your appointment.
On appointment day, get there early. If you are late, you may be denied entry and be required to schedule another appointment.
Show your appointment registration to the guard. They will take you inside and direct you where to go for the first phase.
In the first phase, they will verify and enter all of the data from the documentation that you brought.
This next part is specific to the Liberia office (see below). When phase 1 is complete, you will then have to go across the street to the back of the hotel Santa Ana and pay for your license. Other locations probably do something similar.
As of February 2021, the cost for a B1 license (to drive a car) is 4000 colones plus an additional 2000 or 3000 colones depending on your age. Older people get the 2000 rate. It appears the line for the discount in around 65 years old. The payment must be in cash.
Once you pay, you go back to the main MOPT office. They will take your picture and print a drivers license for you.
Congratulations, you now have a Costa Rica drivers license and never have to leave the country unless you want to.
For those going to the Liberia office, here is the information on the location of the MOPT drivers license office and also the hotel Santa Ana, where you pay.
Here is the Googlemap PIN for the MOPT drivers license office in Liberia. The Hotel Santa Ana is across the street and 100 meters to the east.