San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Arenal Report

Good news for folks out here where most of San José believes that La Fortuna and Nuevo Arenal are the same town. If it’s time to renew your Costa Rican driver’s license, put away the dread of a four-hour drive to San Jose – four hours if there are no accidents on the Pan Am highway. Then there’s two days in San José going to two different offices located in buildings that require a cab ride to get to them, only to discover that their hours of business are so disparate that it’s impossible to accomplish license renewal in one day. Average cost: $250 in food, overnight lodging, cab fares, administrative fees and a bottle of strong adult beverage to celebrate your success, if you do in fact succeed.

Though the paperwork is still plentiful, it no longer defies quantitative analysis. Liberia now offers a driver’s license renewal location, thereby cutting off two hours of driving time each way. You don’t believe in miracles? Perhaps this will change your mind: Yes, there still are two buildings involved, but they are directly across the street from each other! In a miracle of efficiency, one building, the Hotel Santa Anna, provides both an office for your physical exam (dictamen medico) and a branch bank where you pay the fee for the licensing process. Then you cross the street to the MOPT building and present your paperwork. It is recorded on the computer and in hand-written record books – in case of Chinese hackers, computer illnesses such as worms and viruses, or a total computer system meltdown with loss of all electronically stored information. Your photo is taken, and in two minutes your new license is presented. It’s good for six years.

The documents required are: 1) your cedula. Without one, no license will be issued. A letter of comprobante is not an acceptable substitute for a cedula. 2) Your current Costa Rican driver’s license. 3) 25,000 colones (18,000 for the dictamen medico and 7,000 for Cosevi, paid at the branch bank). Your passport is not required.

All of the personnel involved in this process are very helpful, friendly, courteous and enjoyable. They like doing their jobs, including El Jefe of the Public Works Ministry. Any Gringo subjected to the surly, officious, rude and disrespectful manner of the Department of Motor Vehicles in los Estados Unidos will welcome the remarkable difference in attitude.

–William & Jean Priest

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