Time to get your Costa Rican Drivers License
You have decided that you will remain in Costa Rica for quite some time, possibly even deciding to live here. There are many differences in lifestyle here, mostly good, but you will learn that patience is a virtue. Life moves at a slower pace here and that can be either a huge blessing, if you grow used to it, or a large curse, if you want things to move along like they do in North America. Choose the patience option. Your blood pressure will be lower and you will be more adept at making friends among the Ticos.
One place that seems to retain the timing ambiance of North America is the Ministry of Public Transportation (M.O.P.T.) It is where you go to get a drivers license, much like the Department of Public Safety was back in Texas. They share two distinct similarities; you get your license there and three hours of your life will have disappeared before you are done. Perhaps all places world-wide that issue licenses have agreed upon a minimum time one must stand in line to receive what you came there to get. It seems that way.
I have a few bits of advice to offer here. First, take someone with you who is at least somewhat bilingual. You will need them. If you don’t have anyone there will be some people standing around the entrance offering to help. I can’t vouch for their helpfulness but I would not try to do this alone. I had a Spanish-speaking friend with me and could not have gotten through the process without him. Secondly, take a taxi to the M.O.P.T. The taxi driver will know exactly where it is whereas a gringo couldn’t find the place if dropped off one block away. Next, do it now, while your drivers license from home is still valid. If it has expired you will be taking a drivers license exam in Spanish…no fun!
Things you will need: Your passport and a copy (including the stamp that was recorded in it when you entered the country,) your current drivers license (a copy also,) the results of a minor (very minor) physical exam, a blood typing test….the exam and blood test are done at the same place…and roughly 20,000 colones, excluding taxi fare and what you pay your interpreter. I have been told that getting your Costa Rican license eliminates the need to carry around your passport. Getting your license here is worth it for that reason alone.
Here is how my day went. First, we went to a small clinic for the exam and blood test, about 100 meters left of the MOPT if you are facing it. After conversing with my interpreter she asked for 5,000 colones. Wait 15 minutes. Nurse draws blood sample and almost immediately gives me the blood type on a piece of official paper. As we are leaving the receptionist says…in Spanish…I need a physical exam and that will be another 10,000 colones. Wait 15 minutes. The doctor checks my heartbeat, takes my blood pressure, and does the standard, “read line 8,” eye exam, then gives me another official piece of paper. Off to the MOPT we go!
I paced it off after the second trip and it is about 300 meters from the front gate to where you get your license at the very back of the compound. Wear good walking shoes because you will make this journey a number of times. The guard at the gate to the license division looks at my paperwork and says to go get copies made. He tells us there is a copy place about 50 meters left, outside the entrance (opposite side of the doctor’s office.) We walk the 300 meters, find the place, and have the copies made. Back to the license office, another 300 meter walk. I’m issued a number and told to sit down. Thirty minutes later my number comes up and I visit with a man in a cubicle who gives me more paperwork and tells me to go pay 4,000 colones and come back. They have a small bank branch inside the compound only 280 meters away. Off we go!
I wait in line at the bank. Only one teller handles license transactions so this took another 20 minutes. Someone attempted to cut in front of me, whom I politely showed the back of the line. Once the money was paid I received a receipt and walked back to the license office to get the official drivers license. A new guard was now at the gate and told me I needed a copy of the bank receipt. During our 300 meter walk my translator asked someone where the nearest copy place was and we found out there was one inside the compound. That saved us a few hundred meters and some time. (The copy place is just past the bank on the right side as you enter the MOPT.)
With copies in hand we went back. I was assigned another number. After about thirty minutes my number came up and I proceeded to a cubicle. The nice woman looked at my paperwork and handed me my new license within 5 minutes! Its official, I can drive in Costa Rica. If you will be here a while, I highly recommend you do the same!
Time to get your Costa Rican Drivers License