Expat In Paradise

Driving in Costa Rica

Navigating the 90-Day Passport Visa Stamp Requirement

Costa Rica, with its enchanting landscapes and warm hospitality, has become a popular destination for American travelers seeking a taste of adventure and the pura vida lifestyle. For U.S. citizens planning to explore this tropical paradise by car, understanding the regulations surrounding driving with a passport visa stamp is essential. Today we’ll delve into the specifics of the 90-day passport visa stamp requirement, the process of renewal, and the eventual path to obtaining a Costa Rican driver’s license.

The 90-Day Passport Visa Stamp

Upon arriving in Costa Rica, U.S. citizens are typically granted a 90-day tourist visa. This visa allows Americans to explore the country freely and enjoy its many attractions. However, for those planning to drive during their stay, it’s crucial to be aware of the time constraint imposed by the visa, as it applies not only to tourists but to all foreigners entering Costa Rica.


For foreign drivers, this means they can legally operate a vehicle in Costa Rica only for the duration of their 90-day visa. Once the 90-day period expires, it is essential to renew the visa to continue driving legally in the country.

Renewing the Passport Visa Stamp

To renew the passport visa stamp, foreign drivers must exit Costa Rica and re-enter the country, which is commonly referred to as a “border run” or “visa run.” Many tourists opt to cross the border into neighboring countries, such as Nicaragua or Panama, for a brief period before returning to Costa Rica. It’s crucial to check the specific border crossing requirements and regulations, as they may vary between countries.


However, it’s important to note that border runs, while a common practice in the past, have become subject to stricter scrutiny in recent times. Some border officials may deny re-entry to tourists who attempt to renew their visa this way. As such, travelers should inquire about the latest regulations before planning a border run and consider alternative options.

Applying for a Costa Rican Driver's License

While the 90-day visa stamp renewal is a viable option for short-term visitors, those considering an extended stay or seeking residency in Costa Rica may find it more practical to apply for a Costa Rican driver’s license.



To obtain a Costa Rican driver’s license, foreign drivers must meet specific requirements set by the government. These typically include presenting a valid passport, a valid driver’s license from their home country, and proof of legal residency or a valid visa permitting a longer stay in Costa Rica.


The process of obtaining a Costa Rican driver’s license may also involve a written and practical driving exam. While the requirements can vary depending on individual circumstances, the effort is well worth it for those planning to stay long-term and drive legally in Costa Rica beyond the 90-day visa stamp.