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New Rules for Obtaining a Costa Rica Drivers License

March 14th, 2013

COSEVIThis post is directed to foreigners interested in obtaining a Costa Rica drivers license. It is not relevant to citizens of Costa Rica.

I have been putting off writing this post for a couple of months now hoping that I could write the complete story.  Alas, I can only cover part of it, but the info is important, so I will either add to this post later or post anew.

In the past, any person from another country could easily obtain a Costa Rica drivers license.  The process was basically just to go to the Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes MOPT office (closest San Jose office is in Uruca) with your current drivers license. your current passport, and some money. You would stop at one of the doctor’s offices located nearby the MOPT and get a short physical called a Dictamen Médico. You would then walk to the MOPT, go in, get in line and maybe two hours later… you had your license! No test. Nothing.  Easy!

Not any more.

The new rules now restrict anyone seeking a Costa Rica drivers license to be a citizen of Costa Rica or to those foreigners who possess legal residency in Costa Rica. This means you must now show your current cedula de residencia (your national ID card valid for any form of residency i.e pensionado, rentista, permanent, etc) issued when you received your legal residency. No cedula? No license.

If you would like to know more about this topic… read on!

Continue reading »

The Costa Rica Ley de Transito Verily Sucketh!

April 21st, 2011

I use the words “verily sucketh” as it is Semana Santa (Easter week) and if not for the events of yesterday, I’d be happy about Easter and all the fun stuff…. grrr.

So there I was in town yesterday for a 2 minute stop at the drug store. I will admit that I did park next to a yellow curb, so I guess I am guilty, though there were no signs or warnings about how big a sin I was committing nor what was about to happen to me.

So…I grab my pills and start to chat up the regente (pharmacist) as we are old buddies.  Almost immediately he asks me where I parked.  I pointed and he says “RUN! They wait out there to get you and the ticket is HUGE!!”.  How huge I wonder as I am hauling my non-to-light butt outta his store and across the street.

Too Late.  There were two of them.  One was a municipal cop (generally pretty nice folks where I live)  and the other a much dreaded transit cop, also known as “tourism killers”.  As I am from the 60’s, you have no idea how hard it was to type transit cop and not transit pig… but those days are gone…. I guess…sigh.

So I try to be friendly which seldom works as nearly every “transito” I have ever met seems to express equal opportunity hatred to every living creature. It seems they all suffer from some form of terminal hemorrhoids that makes them the nastiest sourpusses on earth. I have no idea how many tourists these clowns have offended and caused never to return to Costa Rica, but it is a BIG number if I can judge from the many emails I receive complaining about them… but I digress!

Interested? read on!

 

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Cops Won’t Enforce New Transit Law

February 28th, 2010

I have been waiting patiently for many months for someone in the government of Costa Rica (ummm – that would be the diputados),  to realize just how idiotic is the new ley de tránsito (traffic law) that goes into effect tomorrow, March 1, 2010.

In fact I have re-written this post about 3 times, the last time being Friday when they decided not to enforce some laws requiring everyone carry fire extinguishers, those reflective triangle thingies, and a couple of other items (like child seats)  that they probably should have left in! I was running out of time… but my guardian angel told me to wait until Sunday…

So I did wait, only to learn last night that the least likely group of all (that would be the transit police officers union) voted overwhelmingly to not enforce the new laws, but will enforce really tough drunk driving laws and those regarding reckless driving!  Sadly, those are the laws the courts are ignoring with only eleven convictions in over a year. I am thinking now that the police officers (that would be the group with the brains) should perhaps trade places with the diputados!

Interested?  Read on!

Continue reading »

Dodged a Bullet Thanks to a Kind Transit Official

April 28th, 2009

whewFrom Tim May, 2014. 

Some things in this blog post have changed but some of the post still may be of interest… so after reading it, you should visit the the main web site where current info can be found.   Click here to read the latest.

Car owners every year must have their cars inspected. This is done by a private company, Reteve.  Information here.  There are locations all over Costa Rica and you must call first to make an appointment. The month of expiration is equal to the last digit on your license plate. Mine expired two months ago but when I went for the exam, I had a minor issue that needed to be fixed. Sadly, I let this go.  Dumb.

So I was at the airport last week and sure enough, I get flagged down by a transit cop. I am thinking that a ticket is a forgone conclusion but, as I have made a new appointment for another inspection, I thought I had a slim chance of getting by.  I DID, but the really important thing is that when handing me back my documents, he pointed out that my drivers license would expire tomorrow. He saved me just a world of hurt. While you do have some leeway in renewing it, if you let it go too far, you must start with driving school and then re-take the written and practical exams (in Spanish). While I do speak the language, the time lost would have been a disaster. So off I went yesterday to get my license renewed. If this topic interests you, read on!

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Questions from Readers

November 6th, 2007

I guess this is going to turn into its own permanent post as the number of emails I am getting is just crazy. So here again are my replies to some of the better requests:

Is residency required to obtain a driver’s license in Costa Ria and is a test required?

Not yet! However there is now a bill before lawmakers that requires this, and it looks like it has a good chance of passing. As your right to drive here is tied to your being in the country legally, this might spell problems for those here illegally (past their 90 or 30 day tourist visa).

Do you know if the CCSS insurance covers pre-existing conditions?

They do. I actually hope this changes and I think it must. Too many people are coming to Costa Rica with VERY costly illnesses and this places an enormous burden on the already financially strapped CAJA.

I loved your website, very helpful. I do have a suggestions; maybe you can include more information for MOPT offices, hospitals, clinics, etc; in other areas, like Guanacaste where the expat populations is very high.

The hospitals (CAJA) are listed in the Real Costa Rica. There are VERY few private hospitals in Guanacaste and the “clinics” would shock the average expat. This is why I have ranted about 400 times that if you are over 50, you should consider whether you wish to be 4-5 hours from quality medical care. Expats love that beach, but seem to forget that over 50, your chances of needing emergency medical care go way up. Even in San Jose. getting an ambulance and getting to the hospital can take an hour. Just two weeks ago, three persons died in Escazu (10 minutes from Cima Hospital) because the ambulance arrived 50 minutes after it was called. Consider this when moving here!

There are MOPT (Ministry of Public Transportation) in Liberia and Limon, but the reason I have not listed them is that I have been told my many expats that those offices cannot issue driver’s licenses and are not full service.  I’d love some feedback on this as I am getting mixed signals.

Your website is very informative. Thank you. Quick question: I have an opportunity to work in Costa Rica for a couple years (have been there several times). My wifes main objection is that she does not want to live where she cannot fluch (sic) toilet paper. Is it possible to rent homes with plumbing that can handle TP?

I was not going to answer this, but then I remembered why I wrote The REAL Costa Rica in the first place which was to debunk these generalities!

Yes, there are about a jillion places to buy or rent homes with toilets that can handle paper. This is one of those truly dumb urban legends that surface on occasion… probably based on either plumbing from the last century or places that used really cheap toilets. Also, there are some older homes where the pipes are too small. Easy to find out! FLUSH before you BUY (or rent)… something you should be doing anyway! Now if you are one of those people (read GUYS) who use about a half a roll to take care of your business, then you may have a issue.

 

old-1412.jpgHello, my name is Dave, I am the fire chief at Nancy Run Fire Department I am trying to locate one of our old fire trucks that was sent to Costa Rica some time ago, I was seen at a parade called the fiesta palmares, see photo attached, I am hoping to find where it is currently located and contact information for the department that is using it. The fire truck is a 1964 Mack, yellow in color with the above listed fire company name on it.

So here is the photo (click to enlarge)! Any of you readers able to help? If so, email him at djb2328@rcn.com

When a cable company advertises cable modem speed 4 mb would that really be 4 mb? After reading your segment on the internet I wondered if they could really deliver that speed.

Probably not. I know I have never received even close to what I pay for (2MB). First, the infrastructure is generally crummy and second, you are sharing the connect with your neighbors. Order 50% more than you need and you will probably be happy. Also, expect a fair bit of downtime from the company you mentioned in your email.

We are planning our first visit for June 2008, and would appreciate any
feedback you have on the tentative following itinerary for myself, my wife,
and our two daughters, ages 11 and 9:

June 24 depart LAX – redeye
June 25 arrive San Jose around noon and take private van to Monteverde
June 26 fun and games in Monteverde
June 27 private van to Arenal
June 28 fun and games in Arenal
June 29 private van to Tamarindo
June 30 fun and games in Tamarindo
July 1 private van to Grecia
July 2 shuttle/van to airport, San Jose – LAX

I almost never answer these questions (or even reply) as I tell people I am not a travel agent. It occurred to me though, that this is a great example of why not to plan your own trip without the assistance of a good travel agent. Let’s take a look at this.

Monteverde is about 5-6 hours from the San Jose airport and about 2 hours from the Liberia airport. Is Liberia a better option?

Next, there are few vans that can handle the truly horrible road to Monteverde. A 4X4 is required. A tank would be better! Beautiful place though for sure! I love it!

Then to Arenal? Same issue. 4X4! Lovely drive – 2-3 hours depending on roads. Go North around the top of Lake Arenal.

To Tamarindo? 3-4 hours I am guessing. Loooong drive with young kids on bad roads (until you reach the Pan American Highway.

Tamarindo to Grecia? 5-7 hours. Lose a day just driving. Good roads though and a van would be OK.

You chose some GREAT places to visit, but after counting your drive hours (about 17-20 including the trip to the airport), you should be prepared for some grumpy kids and the perhaps serious loss of some vacation time. Now if you and the kids all really enjoy driving… well then give it a shot! You’ll pass through some beautiful country.

In summary, it is very tempting to look at a Costa Rica map and make plans based on what you THINK looks close. When traveling here, plan on an average travel speed of 20-25 MPH. Sound low? It is not. A 100 mile (150KM) trip here is at least 3-4 hours if you know where you are going. Bad roads are everywhere. Just this week I informed two of my tourist customers that the Pan American highway south is closed. They had no idea and had they followed their original plans, would have lost 6-8 hours getting back on track.

There are some excellent US based travel agents who really do know Costa Rica. Sadly, the majority read the same travel brochures and web sites you do and that is not enough. I always suggest a good Costa Rica based TA as they know what is happening here.

That’s it ’til the next batch.

BCR Begins Issuing Driver Licenses and Passports

July 27th, 2007

Costa Rica has certainly never been known as efficient and this most assuredly includes private business.Generally, the policy here is to find the least convenient, most time consuming, most paper wasting, most resource expending way to do something, then do it with the most people all while making you wait in the longest possible lines. It is this alone that droves A types to consider suicide. Continue reading »

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