Costa Rica

Costa Rica Driver’s License

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This is a true accounting, only some names of places and people have been changed to protect the guilty. My intent in penning this narrative is not to judge, but to inform. I truly love Costa Rica and it’s people.

A new law in CR requires persons who exceed a stay of 90 days to have a CR driver’s license. Since I have my residency status in CR I don’t have to leave after 90 days. My most recent travel to CR was in early June so to date I have been here over the ninety day limit and by law required to have the CR driver’s license. The Transito Police have stopped me three times during this stay and always ask for my driver’s license and my passport. The first two times I was stopped I hadn’t exceeded the 90 day period, but last Sunday I was motioned to pull over by the Transito Police between Huacas and Villa Real. A single officer approached my car and requested my passport and driver’s license. Aware of the new requirement I have recently been carrying only a copy of the first couple pages of my passport and not the page he wanted to see. The officer demanded to see the page with the date stamp and in typical Gringo fashion I pretended to not understand. He immediately turned, apparently not impressed with my ignorance, crossed the street and returned with his ticket book. As he approached the car he wrote on the back of the ticket book and showed me that the fine would be 47,000 Colones plus 30% impuesto. He also informed me that he would remove the tags from my car. At that point I knew where this was going. Given the choice of paying the fine and going through the laborious process of getting my placas (plates) back I took the cowards way out and reached for my wallet. He peered through the driver’s window as I fumbled with my wallet (okay, I know that’s illegal and I am now another criminal in CR). I opened my wallet and luckily there were only two 20,000 Colone notes which he could clearly see. Without another word he quickly remarked “that is enough” and reached through the window, removed the notes from my wallet. He then turned, looked around and crossed the street.
That afternoon I decided that getting the license was a necessity since I didn’t wish to deal with the problem of losing and recovering my plates. After some online research I made flight reservations to San Jose for Tuesday morning.
My flight was two hours late leaving Tamarindo but I arrived in San Jose around 10:00. I walked into the Consevi compound at 10:30 and out at 11:57 with two new licenses to drive in CR, one for the car and one for the motocicleta.
Most of the information that I had taken from the internet for getting the CR license was correct, but not completely accurate. The following is how my process went:
When I arrived at the Consevi office gates I was met by several locals who try to make a few bucks by advising you how the process works. I found one who spoke English and told him what I needed. He immediately walked me up the street about fifty meters where I paid 18,000 Colones for a “physical.” The only thing physical was my presence and that of the doctor. He sat at his desk and I sat on an examination table about twenty feet across the room. After asking me some questions regarding my health he asked me to read line six of the eye chart. I had already read, with glasses and memorized line five so I recited from memory line five. He didn’t seem to notice, or care that I hadn’t read line six. I thought to myself “okay, now the exam.” Uh, uh, there was no exam, no blood type test or anything else. He gave me a small piece of paper with the name of a corporation at the top and below four lines which included the date my name, my cedulla number and the last line titled codigo (code) with the numbers 429 and 948. I’m sure those two codes included my entire medical condition if I only knew how to decode them.
After paying 18,000 Colones for the five minute exam I walked back to the Consevi compound where I was met by my Tico guide. He instructed me to walk to the furthest building at the rear of the compound and go up the stairs. He further instructed me to disregard the long line of others and go directly upstairs. Since there weren’t many people and you can get killed in Texas for breaking lines I decided to wait my turn. After a brief wait I was motioned inside by an attendant where there was a waiting room full of people. After inspecting my paperwork he instructed me to go up the stairs ahead of all those waiting in the waiting room.
Paperwork in hand I climbed the stairs to a small office with only one official. He closely inspected my passport, driver’s license and cedula , then the copies I had made of those same documents. Looking up over his glasses he informed me that I needed to provide not one, but two copies of those three items including two copies of my passport page which showed the date stamp of my last arrival in CR.
I met my guide at the compound gate and informed him that I needed extra copies of some documents. He led me back into the compound to a small kiosk located near the front and I had my copies made for 700 Colones then back to the upper office at the rear of the compound. I sat down and after a few minutes wait was motioned by the document inspector to approach. He took all my documents and after arranging those carefully into two piles told me to go downstairs to booth five.
After another brief wait I was motioned to enter the small booth. The two pleasant attendants requested the three original documents and after a few minutes of computer entry gave me a small slip of paper and I was told to take it with my passport to the Banco Nacional which was just up the street and return to booth five where they would be waiting. I again met my guide at the compound entrance and he told me to take the paper to booth number six in the bank.
I surrendered the slip of paper to one of the bank tellers, (booth one) (after being admonished by the security for standing on the wrong tile) with my passport and 8,000 Colones and she gave me a receipt which I then took to the office at the furthest end of Consevi compound. I sat on a bench outside of booth five and after a very brief wait was motioned back in. I was again asked for the three original documents and the bank receipt. After some more computer data entry I was photographed and fingerprinted and a few minutes later was handed two fresh new drivers licenses which will expire three (3) years from now.
I met my guide at the front of the compound and gave him 5,000 Colones for his valuable support and service.
I would like to add that the personnel at the Consevi were exceptionally helpful and friendly.
Pura Vida,
An old Tejano Gringo
Car on road in  national flag of costarica    colors

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