Chat with us, powered by LiveChat
two people in a car

How to Get Your Puerto Rico Drivers’ License: Guide To Caribbean Roads

As the allure of Puerto Rico beckons, envision yourself driving in San Juan Puerto Rico, cruising along coastal roads, the warm breeze in your hair, and the vibrant spirit of the island accompanying every turn. Whether you're a U.S. resident seeking a slice of paradise or an international dreamer captivated by the island's charm, the first tangible step toward making this haven your own involves obtaining a driver's license in Puerto Rico. 

Do You Need A Puerto Rico Driver's License?

Image Source: rawpixel.com

For Tourists and International Visitors

In Puerto Rico, especially when driving in San Juan Puerto Rico, tourists from the United States and international visitors are generally not required to obtain a local driver's license for short-term visits. Tourists can typically use their valid license from their home country or a U.S. state for driving during their stay. International visitors need a valid license and an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a real ID to travel to Puerto Rico and legally drive in the country. 

For Extended Stays and Residency

If you're planning an extended stay or establishing residency, getting a Puerto Rican driver's license involves several steps. Whether you are purchasing a car or shipping your current vehicle, you must get a driver's license to drive the streets of Puerto Rico legally. You must do this within 30 days of registering your residency, a process simplified for those with a real ID in Puerto Rico travel contexts.

The process will begin by determining your eligibility for obtaining a Puerto Rican driver's license based on your extended stay or residency status. Locate the nearest Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP) office in your area, which is the Centro de Servicios al Conductor (CESCO) in Puerto Rico, and if required, schedule an appointment.

Expect to Pay for Fees for a Puerto Rico Driver's License

While the expenses may vary depending on the applicant's situation, you can still expect to pay a combination of fees, including a written test for $17 and a driving test for $17. The Internal Revenue stamp, code 5120 is $15, while the Internal Revenue stamp, code 0842, is $2. The Internal Revenue REAL ID stamp is $17. You may also be required to pay for your proof of income for $11 and medical exam for $20.

What is the Reciprocity Agreement with U.S. States?

Thanks to the reciprocity agreements between all U.S. states, territories, and Puerto Rico, individuals can use their driver's licenses on the island for a specified period, which aligns with the convenience brought by having a real ID to travel to Puerto Rico. With reciprocity states, as long as you have a valid driver's license and a U.S. driver's record, there is no need to take the driving or written test. You still need to pay the applicable fees, provide a medical certificate from your doctor, and fill out the forms to process your license. It is different if your driver's license has expired, as you will have to take the written and driving tests.

It is also essential to surrender your current regular license to avoid holding two driver's licenses. Make a copy of your state license before you hand it in in case you need to provide future proof.

Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Driver’s License 

Getting your driver's license in Puerto Rico is not as complicated as one might think. Here is what you'll need to do:

Get an Application

The transfer of what you are doing from your state to Puerto Rico is what you call “Reciprocidad.” You need to get the Solicitud de Reciprocidad application, which you can obtain online at dtop.pr.gov. You can print it and fill it out there, and you have that ready. 

Book an Appointment with CESCO

For those wondering if you need a real ID to travel to Puerto Rico and subsequently drive, booking an appointment with CESCO using the CESCO website or the CESCO app, is a critical step in the process, aligning with the requirements for both tourists and residents planning to drive. A reservation system was implemented in 2020, making the process easier. Make sure to come up early on the day of your schedule. You will be notified via email or text when it is time for your date.

What You Need to Bring

Image Source: flickr.com

When going to a CESCO office, you will need to bring the following:

Proof of Identity: Valid U.S. passport, valid I.D., or other government-issued photo I.D.

Social Security Number: Social Security Number: A Social Security card or a document that includes the Social Security number, which is crucial when using your real ID to travel to Puerto Rico (required for REAL ID compliance).

Medical Certification: You can also get this printed online and then have a doctor fill out your medical certificate. 

Two forms of Proof of Residency: Electric utility bill, rental agreement, or other documents that establish your stay in Puerto Rico.

Copy of Your Driving Record: Since June 2019, a recent addition to the requirements includes a copy of your driving record from the state that issued your driver's license, which can be paid for less than $10. This service, like the application for a real ID in Puerto Rico for travel, can also be requested online, streamlining the process for applicants.

Current Driver's License (for Renewals): Bring your current, valid driver's license if you are renewing, where you will also get the same driver's license number.

Additional Documents for International Residents:

Proof of Legal Presence: Non-U.S. citizens may need to provide additional documentation proving legal presence in Puerto Rico.

Translation of Documents (if applicable): If your documents are not in English or Spanish, consider providing translations or obtaining an IDP as needed.

Purchase Stamps

Go to the local CESCO office where you plan to obtain or renew your driver's license and ask the staff about license stamps (sellos). You can also get them online.

A non-Real I.D. driver's license will require a "Sello de Rentas Internas" Internal Revenue Stamp (Code 5120) for $15, while a "Comprobante de Rentas Internas" Proof of Internal Revenue Stamp (Code 0842) for $2.

In addition to the above stamps, you'll need to purchase the "Comprobante de Rentas Internas" Internal Revenue Stamp REAL ID validation stamp (Code 2028) for a REAL ID-compliant driver's license for $17.

Pass the Online Test

Once you get your stamps, you will have to attend a free hour-long online course that is offered at all CESCO offices about alcohol and other drugs. Each module ends with a short multiple-choice quiz.

Complete Your Vehicle Registration

Image Source: flickr.com

Registering a vehicle in Puerto Rico as a U.S. citizen involves specific steps and requirements. Here is a general guide on how to complete car registration in Puerto Rico:

Check Eligibility: The CESCO office will again ensure you meet the eligibility criteria for car registration in Puerto Rico and review if you are an island resident. Make sure to have your driver's license in Puerto Rico or other papers proving your address.

Get Auto Insurance: You must have auto insurance coverage before registering your car since this is mandatory for all Puerto Ricans. Contact an insurance provider and obtain the necessary coverage for Puerto Rico.

Gather Required Documents: Prepare the necessary documentation for your car registration, including:

  • Proof of identity (passport or other government-issued I.D.)
  • Proof of residency in Puerto Rico
  • Vehicle title
  • Automobile inspection certificate
  • Proof of auto insurance
  • Bill of sale (if applicable)

Visit the CESCO Office: Go to a local CESCO building. CESCO handles driver's licenses and automobile registration services. You may consider visiting offices in less populated areas outside San Juan, with fewer crowds.

Complete Application Forms: Fill out the required automobile registration application forms and provide accurate and complete information.

Vehicle Inspection: Puerto Rico requires car inspections for safety and emissions compliance. Schedule an examination at an authorized inspection station, costing you less than $50. Once your vehicle passes inspection, you will receive an automobile inspection certificate.

Submit Documents and Pay Fees: Submit all required documents and the completed application forms. Pay the necessary registration fees, including automobile property tax and other applicable charges. DTOP will issue you a car sticker called "marbete," which will cost you $100 and should be renewed annually.

The term "marbete" refers to the full annual car registration process. It pertains to the sticker affixed to the right side of the vehicle's interior window. Failure to display the marbete sticker or not having the most recent printed registration for your car renewal could result in a fine of approximately $125.

Receive Registration and Plates: Two weeks after your application is handled, you will receive your automobile registration documents and license plates from DTOP.

An Easy Alternative to Getting Your Puerto Rican Driver's License

Using an expeditor can be a convenient option for U.S. citizens who want to streamline getting a PR license. An expeditor is a service that assists individuals in navigating bureaucratic procedures, such as obtaining licenses or permits, often by expediting the application and handling paperwork on behalf of the applicant.

While hiring an expeditor is optional, it can make getting your Puerto Rico license easier for an extra fee. This service is more expensive than if you are going to do it yourself. However, many have found that relying on an expeditor is worth paying, especially for those from a foreign country who don't speak Spanish.

Double Check Your Driver's License

After every process has been done, make sure to double-check the expiration date and the information on your new driver's license. The CESCO office may only verify your information after they print your license, so typing errors are possible. If that happens, have them reprint your license and correct the incorrect information immediately.

Final Thoughts

Whether you are a fleeting visitor or a future resident, securing your Puerto Rico driver's license is the key to unlocking the island's diverse landscapes, including the experience of driving in San Juan Puerto Rico, as you drive through Miramar in Ponce de León Avenue, or steer through the best houses in Palmas del Mar. From navigating CESCO appointments to acquiring the essential stamps, each step is a stride toward freedom. Armed with your license and the marbete sticker, Puerto Rico invites you to explore its roads, from coastal drives to the bustling streets of San Juan.

Ready to make Puerto Rico your home? Explore exclusive luxury properties in PR with Christie's International Real Estate Puerto Rico and open the door to a life where every drive is an opportunity to discover something new.

FAQ’s

Can I drive in Puerto Rico with a US license plate?

Yes, you can drive in Puerto Rico with a US license plate. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and it recognizes all valid US driver's licenses. This means your state driver's license is sufficient for you to drive legally on the island. Similarly, this would extend to the acceptance of vehicles with US license plates for driving within Puerto Rico, as long as they meet any local requirements and the driver has a valid driver's license

Is it easy to drive in Puerto Rico?

Driving in Puerto Rico can be straightforward, with well-maintained main highways and modern navigation aids like Google Maps. However, urban areas like San Juan may have dense traffic and aggressive driving behaviors. Additionally, drivers should be cautious during rainy conditions, as some roads may flood and visibility may be reduced.

What countries don't accept a US driver's license?

Some countries may not accept a US driver's license outright or have stringent requirements for American drivers. In these cases, you would likely need to obtain a local driver's license or an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive legally. It's crucial to research the specific requirements for each country before you plan to drive internationally.

Do I need an international driver's license for Puerto Rico?

No, you do not need an international driver's license to drive in Puerto Rico if you have a valid US driver's license. Puerto Rico is a territory of the United States, and US driver's licenses are valid there.

What are the driving rules in Puerto Rico?

Driving rules in Puerto Rico are similar to those in the continental United States, but there are some local variations you should be aware of:

  • You drive on the right side of the road.
  • Speed limits are usually posted in miles per hour (mph).
  • It's illegal to text or talk on a cell phone without a hands-free device while driving.
  • Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers.

Can I get a US driver's license as a tourist?

Generally, tourists cannot obtain a US driver's license because they do not meet the residency requirements set by most states. To get a US driver's license, you usually need to be a resident of the state where you are applying and have the appropriate immigration status that allows you to reside in the country for an extended period. However, tourists can typically drive with their home country's driver's license along with an International Driving Permit (IDP) if their stay in the US is temporary.

Join a select group

Exclusive off-market listings and news

Join a select group

With one of PR's largest teams, CIRE PR offers more transaction support, global reach, and on-the-ground experience than any other brokerage in San Juan.

Follow us on Instagram