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Costa Rica vehicle restriction or tag day

by Ivo Henfling

A Costa Rica vehicle tag“I am sorry sir, if you want me to show you Costa Rica real estate on Friday, I cannot pick you up at your hotel. I can meet you anywhere outside the beltway; you will have to get a taxi to get out of San Jose. Friday is my tag day.”

Most people who are planning to move to Costa Rica have no idea what tag day is and for those living in the Central Valley it is hard to figure our where you can drive on tag day. It is a restriction that all cars in Costa Rica have: your car cannot go into San Jose 1 day a week on certain hours. The restriction is regulated by the last number of your number plate and was invented by the Costarican transport authorities (MOPT) to reduce the amount of traffic going into San Jose as well as to save gas. I am sure nobody has measured the amount of gas wasted by cars seeking alternate routes to get around San Jose.

You can also make it easy to yourself and use the bus on tag day, leave your errand for another day or park your car somewhere outside the beltway and get a taxi to take you to your destination.Costa Rica traffic police stopping a driver because it is his tag day

When is it your turn for tag day?

It is your turn of not being able to go on or the inside of the beltway, or ring road in British English, from 6:30 am – 7:00 pm from Monday to Friday.

Check what the last number of your tag is:

1-2 Monday

3-4 Tuesday

5-6 Wednesday

7-8 Thursday

9-0 Friday

Where can you go and were not?

On tag day, you are not allowed ON the beltway that runs around San Jose, called “circunvalacion” in Spanish. Many think the restriction is on the inside of the beltway but that is a mistake, you cannot use the beltway. See the map below for indications.

Click to see the San Jose vehicle restriction map

For those who do not know San Jose well, I will indicate where to turn off the 4 main highways so you will not get a ticket:

* On Route 1, coming from the International Airport Juan Santamaria on the Panamerican highway and Alajuela – General Cañas, you have to turn off at the Mexico Hospital located on your right, before you hit the Juan Pablo II overpass. When you see the Best Western Irazu hotel on your left, you’re too far.

* On Route 27, coming from Escazu – Santa Ana – Ciudad Colon, you have to take the turn at Wallmart on your right into Escazu (right past the Escazu toll). When you get to the next overpass, you can still save yourself a ticket by veering right before the overpass and stay right to the old road and stay off the beltway.

* On Route 2, coming from Cartago and Tres Rios all the way into Curridabat – San Pedro, which turns into Central Avenue, you have to take a right turn into the University of Costa Rica behind the church or a left turn one block before the Outlet mall. You are not allowed to drive on the "circumvalacion" road on tag day in Costa RicaWhen you see the Mall San Pedro, you are too far.

* On Route 32, the highway to Limon, you have to either get off in Tibas, which is the turn off right past the Saprissa soccer stadium, or you take the Llorente de Tibas turn off, which is the next one over (no clear landmarks here). When you get to the Radisson Hotel, you are too far.

What is the penalty?

The penalty for violating these restrictions is ¢ 20,000 plus tax (this is in March 2013 and can change at any time).


Usually, the government suspends the measurement during the holidays. In 2012, we didn’t have tag day from and from 21st of December 2012 until the 7th of January 2013. During Easter Week, this year the restriction was suspended from the 21st of March and was again in force on the 1st of April.

Please feel free to leave your comments on this blog.

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Ivo Henfling

If you are looking to buy a home in Costa Rica or invest in a condo anywhere in the central Valley, or looking for any property for sale in Escazu, you need to call me. I have been selling real estate in Escazu for over 20 years and can show you hundreds of happy buyers of real estate in Escazu and other areas. To me, a deal is not a good deal unless both buyer and seller are happy.

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