We all have stories about going to the DMV, waiting in long lines, and then finding out you are missing one of the documents you need. Well, this past Wednesday, Keeley and I added an experience to our list of stories.
A Tico friend of ours (Costa Ricans refer to themselves as Ticos) offered to help us get our Costa Rican driver's licenses. There is a one month window of time after you arrive in the country when you can get a license without taking the test (in Spanish). So needless to say, we wanted to take advantage of this window and get it taken care of the "easy" way.
Copy of our Missouri driver's licenses, front and back.......check.
Copy of our entire passports, including the blank pages....check.
Money for the license fee ...................................check.
Everything we need to complete the process. Or so we thought.
So off to the license department we go with our Tico friend driving the four of us. Then it starts to rain as we are driving through downtown. No big deal, it rains all of the time here.
Then it starts to hail. That does NOT happen all of the time here. Most Ticos don't use ice in their drinks, much less have it falling from the sky.
After experiencing our first tropical hail storm, we made it to our destination. Inside our friend asked the nice man at the information booth where we needed to conduct our transaction. He directed us to a waiting area in front of some teller windows. After waiting for about ten minutes and moving from seat to seat (it was a sitting line, not a standing one..), our friend asks one of the tellers if we are in the right place. "No", was the answer, we needed to go to another building further back in the complex. So off we go, our girls in tow, to the building in the back.
The next building had an armed guard at the door that would check your documents to see if you had everything before he would allow you to enter. He checked our documents and directed us to a booth containing one of 5 clerks. The woman in our booth looked at our documents and asked, "Medico examin?". Ummm.....yeah......ummm.....didn't know about the medical examination. Our friend had called to see what we would need, and apparently this little piece of information had not been communicated.
OK, so now in order to make this whole adventure something other than an large investment of time with little to show for it, we needed to quickly get medical examinations and return to this building and get our licenses.
We all loaded into the car and tried to find somewhere close to get this medico examin that we needed. Our Tico friend knows someone just about everywhere we have gone with him, and this situation was no different. After consulting with one of his "friends", we drove around the corner to a couple of small buildings. The change in neighborhood "atmosphere" that occurred in just one block of driving was quite drastic. We went from a downtown business district not unlike many cities in the US, to a back alley location like you see in the movies and say, "Oh my, what are they doing in a place like that?". While Keeley waited in the car with our girls (doors locked), I went with my friend into a small building (around 10' x 15') to get my medico examin. Here is how it went:
- I handed my passport to a lady sitting at a small desk.
- She filled out a form with my information and handed it to a man at a second desk
- I paid her 12,000 Colones (around $24 US) for both Keeley and I
- The man at the second desk asked me if I had any diseases, how much did I weigh, and how tall was I.
- I signed the medico examin certificate.
- Done. I walked out with my official medico examin document.
(Keeley came in after I was done and had a very similar experience, the only difference being she had to read a line of letters on a wall mounted vision chart)
Now it was back to the other building. After showing the same guard our same documents PLUS the medico examins, we went into the booths again to present our documents. This time we had everything we needed and the process continued fine. We took some papers they gave us outside to a mobile bank (a large van with two teller windows in the side of it) and paid for our two licenses. Upon receiving our official receipts, we went back inside the building, presented our papers in the booths again. Next it was time to get our pictures taken, so across the room we went to wait in line for our pictures. We smiled for the camera, put our fingerprints into the system with an electronic scanner, and then sat to down to wait for our completed licenses to be ready. A few minutes later they called our names and it was official.
We have our Costa Rican drivers licenses!! Exhausted, but pleased, we returned home thanking God for allowing us to get this done in one day. Some hassles are universal.