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Getting a Costa Rica Driver's License

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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 driver's license.  It won't take hours, it will take days, perhaps weeks to gather all of the required documentation and obtain your license.

Let the Dance Begin....

Once you become a temporary resident of Costa Rica, and your foreign driver's license has become invalid, you can get a Costa Rica driver's license.  A foreign driver's license becomes invalid when the current date is one more day that the sum of the date of most recent entry into the country (visa stamp date) plus the number of days written in your passport by the Immigration agent, not to exceed 90 days.   With the new law change in 2023, visitors can now stay in the country up to 180 days however, the law controlling how long a foreign driver's license is valid for remains at 90 days.  This means that visitors need to leave the country no later than 90 days from entry and reenter to maintain a valid driver's license.  If the Immigration Agent wrote a number less than 90 days, e.g. 30 days, then your driver's license becomes invalid one day after, in this example at 31 days.

A change to the law is currently in process, and has passed the first phase of approval, but is not yet formally in place.  This change will extend the 90 days driver's license limitation to coincide with the 180 day visa stay.


Visa Stamp Entry of 180 days - Driver's License is valid for 90 days.

Visa Stamp Entry of 90 days - Driver's License is valid for 90 days

Visa Stamp Entry of 30 days - Driver's License is valid for 30 days

IMPORTANT ! - Don't assume that 30 days is a month.  If your visa stamp is July 1st and the Immigration Agent wrote 30 days, then your driver's license is valid through July 31st, not August 1st.  Driving on an invalid license can result in a ticket plus any car insurance becomes invalid.

Once your driver's license becomes invalid, you can now go and get your Costa Rica driver's license.  Obviously since you can't legally 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 and having your cedula card, 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 Most Important Requirements

  • You must have received formal temporary or permanent residency in Costa Rica in order to obtain a driver's license..  This means that you now have a Cedula card.
  • If you are not a legal resident, then stop, you can't get a driver's license in Costa Rica and will have to continue driving using your foreign driver's license. This means staying in the country for no more than 90 days at a time before exiting and re-entering to get a new visa stamp.  It also means that if your foreign driver's license expires, you cannot legally drive.  Please read our page on Obtaining Residency if this applies to you.
  • The easiest way to get a Costa Rica driver's license is if you have a valid foreign driver's license.  In other words, it has not expired.  If your license has expired, then you will have to complete the additional steps of taking a driving test and also pass a written exam in spanish.  There is the kicker, in spanish!  If you are not fluent, you are better off renewing your foreign driver's license and going back to square 1 of the process.
  • Your foreign driver's license must be invalid (see above).  Basically, Costa Rica law prevents people from having two valid driver's licenses at the same time.
  • You must have a Costa Rica phone number.
  • You must have a valid email address.

The guide below assumes that you are a resident and have a valid foreign driver's license.  You will need the following documents for your driver's license appointment:

  • Two copies of your foreign driver's license, front and back sides.
  • Two copies of your Passport.  You must include the photo, signature and last visa entry stamp pages.  Important ! Your Passport copies must indicate that your foreign driver's license is invalid, as described above.
  • Two copies of your Cedula, front and back sides.
  • if the surname on your foreign driver's license differs from the legal name shown on your Cedula and/or Passport, you will need your original marriage certificate plus two copies.
  • Your foreign driver's license must be translated if it is in a language other than Spanish.  To find a person that is close to you, here is a link of all the authorized translators in Costa Rica.  Select the blue plus sign box at the top of the list to filter by province (provincia) or town (canton).  Limpiar clears the filters.
  • Medical report - Requires an appointment with a doctor that performs a quick checkup to make sure that you are fit to drive.  The doctor will then generate a one page report during your visit.  Total cost is approximately 23,000 colones, or about $40 USD.  When you are done, you will leave the doctor's office thinking, are you kidding me, what exactly did he do ?  This step has to happen so it is, what it is.

Making Your Appointment

When you have all of the above documents completed, you can now schedule your in person appointment to get your license.

IMPORTANT ! - Currently appointments can only be made online during the last five days of the month, for the following month.  Sometimes MOPT changes this and it is totally unpredictable and without any notice.  Welcome to Costa Rica - get used to it.

In person appointments for people using an foreign driver's license to obtain a Costa Rica drivers license are only available on specific days of the week and also only during certain hours.

Currently, appointments are available for visits between the hours of 7:00am and noon in 10 minute intervals.  Appointments must be made online at the website below.

IMPORTANT ! - the following link will only work if your computer is in Costa Rica or you have a VPN and it is connected to Costa Rica. or Click here

REALLY IMPORTANT ! - Sometimes the online appointment system won't work using certain browsers.  If you find that a pull down menu does not display correctly or there are other problems, change you browser and try again.

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 appointment......." or in Spanish "Solicitar cita para tramite de homologacion" from the main screen as shown below.  Remember to have the screen display in Spanish.

The main MOPT screen showing the highlighted selection to request an appointment.

The following form will then be displayed:

To schedule an appointment, you must complete the information on this form.

Select from the pull down menus as shown below.  In summary this is what you are entering:

  • Tipo de Identification - Type of ID.  Select Cedula Identitad.  You are using your Cedula number,
  • Identificacion - Enter the first nine digits of your Cedula number.  Once you enter this, additional fields will appear.
  • Nombre (name) - Enter your full name, exactly as it appears on your Cedula.
  • Telefono (phone #) - Enter your eight digit Costa Rican phone number.  You cannot enter an international phone number.
  • Correo Electronico - Enter the email address to receive your appointment confirmation.
  • Tipo Tramite - Type of process. Select cita homologacion licensia extranjera.  This is the license homogolation process.
  • Tipo Licensia - Type of License.  The type of license for a standard automobile (less than 4000 kg) is a B1,  This category also includes small motorcycles and ATVs with motors less than 125cc that will not be driven on main roads.  Below are the other categories which each contain several sub-classifications.
  • A - Motorcycles
  • B - Cars, Lightweight and Small Motorcycles and ATVs
  • C - Public Transportation
  • D - Special Equipment
  • E - Professional

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 of where appointments are available.  Select and click on the office from the list on the right and the location icon will turn orange on the map.

A map of all the MOPT office locations where you can get a Costa Rica drivers license.

Select "Continuar".  The appointment screen will appear then appear.  Available time slots have a "1" shown.

Available appointments are shown with a "1" next in the box.

If it is blank then the appointment has been taken.  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.

Appointment Day

On appointment day, get there early.  If you are late, you may be denied entry and may 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 driver's license for you.

Congratulations, you now have a Costa Rica driver's license and never have to leave the country unless you want to.

After I completed this process I felt like I had "slayed the dragon."

Liberia Office - Specific Information

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.

Googlemaps PIN for Liberia Office

The main entrance to the Costa Rica MOPT to get a drivers license.MOPT Main Entrance
The entrance to the Costa Rica MOPT office can be identified by this sign.MOPT Front
You must walk across the street from the MOPT office and pay at the office located in the back of the Hotel Santa Ana.Hotel Santa Ana
This is the entrance to the office at the Hotel Santa Ana where you pay your fee to get a drivers license.Payment Office in Back

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