San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

New license plates will be mandatory for first group starting July 15

After several delays and confusion, a mandatory change of license plates for vehicles in Costa Rica will begin on July 15, National Registry Director Dagoberto Sibaja said on Thursday.

Starting that day, all vehicles with license plates ending in 1 will be required to have new plates. Vehicle owners in that group will have until October to make the change.

Plates ending with other numbers will be exchanged following a schedule (see schedule below, based on a license plate’s last digit).

The National Registry began implementing a voluntary program to switch out old license plates in January 2012, but starting next month, those changes are mandatory. Drivers who obtained new plates after January 2012 are not required to change them again.

The new license plates have a total of six security features including the seal, a map and the national flag of Costa Rica, as well as a unique hologram, a laser engraving and a special backlit symbol.

The security features are intended to decrease counterfeiting, Sibaja said.

To obtain new plates, vehicle owners must present the old ones, fill out a form and pay ₡15,000 ($30), which includes two metal plates and a sticker for the windshield.

New plates for motorcycles cost ₡8,000 ($16) for one metal plate and one sticker.

New vehicles registering for the first time may apply for alphanumeric license plates at a cost of ₡20,000 ($40).

Exchanges can be made at the National Registry’s main facilities in the southeastern district of Zapote, at local branches in Limón, Puntarenas, Guanacaste, Alajuela, San Carlos, Pérez Zeledón and Paseo Colón, and at Bank of Costa Rica and Correos de Costa Rica branches throughout the country.

Starting July 15, applications will be available online at the National Registry website, Vehicle owners may authorize third parties to exchange plates, as long as they present documents certified by a lawyer.

Schedule according to the last digit of license plates:

1: July-October 2013

2: November 2013-January 2014

3: February-April 2014

4: May-July 2014

5: August-October 2014

6: November 2014-January 2015

7: February-April 2015

8: May-July 2015

9: August-October 2015

O: November 2015-January 2016

Contact L. Arias at

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