If you feel like driving in Costa Rica, here is some information regarding the driver's license requirements and the road infrastructure.
When moving abroad, there comes a time when you will want to be more independent. Driving will probably be part of this process. But first of all, you are advised to inquire whether your original driver's license is recognized in Costa Rica. In general, you are allowed to drive in the country for a maximum of three months continuous stay with your original driver's license. Once this period has expired, you will have to convert your driver's license if you wish to stay longer.
Converting your driver's license
The application for the conversion of a foreign driver's license into a local driver's license has to be made at the Departamento de Acreditación de Conductores at the Dirección General de Educación Vial (COSEVI, la Uruca). The following documents have to be produced in original along with two copies:
- your passport (as proof that you have not left the country within these three months)
- your original driver's license
- proof of your legal presence in Costa Rica.
You have to meet some requirements before applying for the conversion of your driver's license. Thus, to apply for a B-4 driver's license, you have to be eligible to it. To apply for a Class C driver's license, you must follow the courses that are intended for public transport drivers.
Holders of an outdated Cedula de residencia (CR), passport (PA) or any other similar proof, have to call in person at the Departamento de Control y Registro in Paso Ancho before going to COSEVI.
Driving in Costa Rica can be quite challenging, especially if you are new to the country. However, you are likely to enjoy your adventure in this beautiful country and get used to driving despite potholes, dolines caused by landslides, and even uncovered men-holes.
Note that road signs are quite scarce in the country. Therefore, you are advised to keep a road map aboard your vehicle at all times so as to reach your destination safely in all circumstances.
As regards driving at night, it is recommended that you wait till you are familiar enough with the country. In fact, roads are poorly lit in most regions.
Being used to the roads' state and to the lack of road signs, local drivers are more likely to accelerate while driving. But you are advised to stay on the safe side for your safety, as well as that of your family.
To avoid any unplanned or unwanted adventure, it is best to drive with closed windows and locked doors. You never know whom you could come across. Moreover, avoid getting down, leaving your car unattended to help victims of accidents. Indeed, some dishonest people are good at making-up accidents scenes to lure drivers.
Never offer bribe to a policeman so that he lets you go! This can cost you more than the US$ 400 fine which you will receive. Remember that you have been arrested for a reason.
It is customary to horn before overtaking a vehicle.
You are advised to respect speed limits, especially due to the strong presence of police control.
Wearing the seat belt is compulsory in the front and rear of the vehicle. Less than 12 years old children measuring less than 1.45 meter have to travel in a child car seat.
Costa Rica's roads are toll free, except the highways which allow you to get out of San Jose.
Keep some change in your pockets, especially when traveling through villages as people often request donations.