On the 11th of February we met with Martin Rojas, a Tico who helps Expats through the maize of Costa Rican bureaucracy, and proceeded to get our medical exam for our C.R. driver's license. $72.00 for the two of us!
I should mention that this is our second attempt to get a license here. The first time was over a year ago. At that time, and on our own, we procured the required medical exam, $60.00, and headed to Cosevi on the bus. We arrived before the 11:00 a.m. deadline but were told we could not go through the process without our Residency card!! Much to our dismay, the law had changed the day before and we were out of luck. It is also possible we might not have had all the required copies with us at the time but never quite got that far.
To continue with our current attempt, this time we had all the required copies: front and back of our U.S. drivers license-2 copies, front and back of our Residency card-2 copies, and 2 copies of our passport face page and the visa stamp proving we had been in the country for 90 days. The 90 day requirement is a bit of a quandary because you are required to be here for that length of time before applying for a license but at day 91 you are driving illegally! Welcome to Costa Rica! There was one slight problem with our copies however. We had put the copies of our Residency card and U.S. driver's license on one page and had to stop at a copy shop to correct the problem before heading to San Jose. It is necessary that they be on separate pages! If you arrive with the improper sequence of copies, you are sent out to make changes and lose your place in line at Cosevi. This blip may cause you to have to return the next day! See why you need a guide here!
With all our paperwork in hand, and Martin to navigate, we headed for San Jose in the Galloper. The Pista is a challenge no matter where your destination or what time of day. It is mostly two rapidly moving, or barely moving lanes laced with potholes and other unexpected circumstances. All was going well, except for the traffic being heavy and then stop and go, and then our transmission/clutch started acting up. UGH! It was quite clear Don was having a very difficult time getting the car in gear every time he had to stop or go with the traffic. Soon it was obvious we needed to get off the road and out of the traffic. Fortunately, we were able to cross a curb and island with the car to a grassy spot where we took our valuables and locked the car to be dealt with on our return. Running a bit behind schedule because of all the slow traffic, it was imperative that we get to the Cosevi quickly. First, we hopped on a bus ($4.00) and next a taxi ($10.00). While riding the bus, we chatted with a couple from Germany doing some site seeing in San Jose. Feeling pretty good about arriving a good hour before the deadline, we walked along a covered sidewalk back to the entrance. Surprise! Today they are not taking any more applicants!! Thankfully, we had Martin along and he took the situation in hand and asked to speak to the person in charge. The guards granted his request and Martin proceeded to tell the powers that be our sob story and we were reluctantly allowed to proceed.
There are a number of steps once you get past the guards! First, you sit and wait until you are invited in to a cubbie where your copies are stamped, signed and you answer some simple questions. Like, what is your address--actually not such a simple question in Costa Rica. Fortunately, Don pulled something out of his hat which fit the bill. Second, you go upstairs and "talk" (Martin is not allowed to go with us once we start the process) once again with our limited Spanish. We answer a few questions, talking to 3 different people, and all of our copies get signed and stamped once more. We are next sent downstairs to Booth #2 where there are about 10 or 12 people also waiting for Booth #2. It was our lucky day because a number of the other applicants spoke English and we chatted to pass the time. About 11:45 a lady spoke to us in Spanish which translated into: "We are closing at 12:00 and you will have to come back at 1:00 p.m." At this point we left, collected Martin and purchased a snack and worried about losing our place! $12.00 We returned and only a couple of individuals had snuck in ahead of us! Finally it is our turn. We get into Booth #2, get our papers inspected and stamped again, sign the "book", and are told that we need to leave the building and go the the bank around the corner to pay for our licenses. Once we have proof of payment we are to bring the receipt and sit, once again, at the end of the line. Fee, approximately, $24.00 for both of us.
Hoping this will be the last step in the process, we returned to the waiting chairs and our new friends! Finally, it is our turn again and we go into Booth #2, one at a time, to get our photos taken. Once this is completed, along with much paperwork and signing a second time in the "book", we are asked to sit outside and the next person is invited in. In a short while, our name is called and we have in hand our Costa Rican driver's license, good for 3 years! YEAH! Off to the bus stop ($4.00) and back to where we left the Galloper hoping it is still there!
While we were inside jumping through hoops, Martin received a phone call from the Germans we had met on the bus. Fortunately, he had given them his card because they were lost! He was glad to help and it gave us a chuckle in our somewhat difficult day!
Now that we have successfully completed our goal for the day, we need to figure out what to do with the Galloper and find a way to get ourselves back to Berlin. We called our mechanic, Jorge, who called a tow service which would arrive in a little over an hour. At this point we were hot, tired, thirsty, hungry and in need of some refreshment. With a little walking we discovered a Country Inn with a very nice restaurant and we settled in for a late lunch/dinner. By this time it was about 3:00 and guess who is sitting in the sun by the pool? Yes, the German couple and Deeder came over and chatted while we waited for our meal. Lunch: $40.00.
Once returning to our car we had just a short wait before the platform truck arrived. Here you can see the Galloper was loaded on the platform and we were ready to head to San Ramon. There was only room for 2 extra passengers in the front of the truck so Martin rode in the Galloper! We were a little concerned but he didn't seem to mind.
I dosed most of the way back and it seems Martin did also, not the least bit concerned about his unusual location. Once we arrived in San Ramon, Jorge was waiting for us and managed to get the Galloper into his shop to be checked out in the morning. Tow: $100.00
As the bus schedule for Berlin is quite scant, there was no bus available to take us from San Ramon to Berlin. Once again Martin jumps in to save the day. He called a friend with a transport service and we were driven home through some very thick fog. We arrived about 7:30 p.m. Car Service: $14.00 Martin's fee for helping us get our driver's license: $40.00--very reasonable all things considered! Thanks, Martin, we can't wait for our next adventure!
Friday morning we went to Jorge's to check on the Galloper and was told it would be ready around noon. It was the clutch that blew out and it seems that many of the parts were old and worn and needed replacing. I guess in a car 20 years old we shouldn't be surprised! Repairs: $460.00 And that is the story of our more than $600.00 Costa Rican driver's license experience. We've been told that when we need to renew, it will be a "bit simpler and less expensive"!
Ending on a brighter note. This was what we saw at 5:45 this morning from our front door!