The governance over traffic and licensing in Costa Rica is pretty straightforward, but there is one aspect that you should be certain to take into account.
Your Passport and Driver’s License
The moment you enter Costa Rica with a valid driver’s license from your country of origin, you are licensed to drive here. That is, you are licensed to drive here for the amount of time that you are allocated to stay within the country. If your visa allows you to stay for ninety days, then your license is good for ninety days and so on. Overstaying your welcome and driving at the same time leaves you with no license and no visa. This will inevitably result in two charges (possibly more) if you are stopped by the transit authority policía de transito.
What happens if you have an accident?
That is all relatively direct, whereas the laws regarding being involved in a traffic accident are upfront barring one minor detail. Hopefully you will never have an accident while driving in Costa Rica, but if the unhappy circumstance should occur, don’t fret. The most important detail is that you mustn’t move your vehicle. If the accident happens in the middle of a busy thoroughfare, you are obliged to keep your car in the same location until the police arrive which can take up to two hours.
Other than not moving your vehicle, along with calling the transit police (#911) you should probably do the following:
- First, check to make sure that everyone is ok. The transit dispatch will ask you if anyone is hurt, also.
- Second, Take pictures of the accident, so that you can use them in court later.
- Third, Get information from the other drivers involved including their license plate number, name and phone number.
You could look to see if anyone walking or standing nearby saw the accident, and is willing to corroborate the details of what happened. This, however, might not be a great use of your time.
Contact Your Rental Agency
After you’ve checked off the immediate concerns, you’ll need to contact your rental agency if you’re renting. The insurance will be in the glove box, and you should prepare those papers along with your license and passport for when the transit officer(s) arrive. If you don’t wish to travel with your passport, you can make a legible copy of the first page and your visa page. The copies are almost always acceptable, but it is within the authority of a transit officer to ask to see the original copy.
The Officer Arrives
When the officer arrives, you will give an account of what happened, and the officer will take down your statement and ask you to sign it. You are not obligated to sign the paper, but most likely it will behoove you to do so as long as everything is in correspondence with what occurred. The officer will then give you a copy of the accident, and information as to what will happen next. If you didn’t have time to speak with your rental agency before the officer arrived, you should do so at this point as they will have more information to help you in the process.
Have fun while driving and stay safe.