When we talk about money in Costa Rica, we need to talk about what is taken and what is not, and what you must know about both. Let us give you this simple guide to it.
To talk about the money in Costa Rica may cover several areas and can be a bit complicated at times. We are not going to struggle much with that but, give a little guide to the money in Costa Rica.
We can say, for sure that money in Costa Rican colones are, of course, accepted everywhere. However, and with very few exceptions to the rule, so are U.S. Dollars.
Other currencies, like CAD, yens, etc. are not taken or changed.
In the case of euros nowadays they do the exchange for Costa Rican colones in banks. But it is rare to find a business, hotel, restaurant or store that will take them gladly.
Now, a question remains:
As you arrive at Costa Rica, how much should you change?
The best is to change as little as possible. Even $25 will be enough. But if you feel more comfortable. Make it a $50. We don’t recommend to change more than that. It isn’t necessary.
Credit and Debit Cards are taken everywhere as well as U.S. Dollars.
Among U.S. Dollars and colones, where and when should you change and use them.
In any touristic place you go, both coastlines, and the famous Arenal Volcano, Monteverde Cloud Forest or Tortuguero, you won’t have any problem paying with U.S. Dollars.
With one sole exception: Avoid one hundred and fifty dollars bills. They do not take them. Anywhere.
So, if you want to have cash with you, the best advice is to have in twenty dollars bills.
And it is important for you to acknowledge that whenever you pay in dollars, your change will be brought in colones mostly everywhere (Except for the big hotels).
What’s the exchange rate?
It depends on the day, literally speaking. It fluctuates.
It is better to get into one of the exchange rates sites and find out for yourself.
This is a link to the government official exchange site (Banco Central de Costa Rica) which is the one that regulates the rates.
It is quite essential for you to know that in all banks the exchange rate might be different and in hotels and remote areas, they can give you pretty bad rates.
The money in Costa Rica is the colon. Colon means Columbus. And of course, it was put to honor the famous sailor.
You will find coins of one hundred colones and five hundred colones.
And bills of five thousand, ten thousand, twenty thousand and fifty thousand.
They have been awarded as they all show the incredible diversity of Costa Rica.
The best, if you are changing is to have five and ten thousand colones bills (the Twenties and Fifties are pretty hard to break).
Where will you need to have colones?
If by any chance, you are into traveling off the beaten path, to areas that might not be as touristy, then you may want to have more colones with you. Not over $200, unless:
- Your hotel specifies that it do not take dollars, or you are staying at home and paying the family yourself.
- You are willing to donate to a rescue center or conservation project that you may visit.
- You buy from street-corner salespeople or cart-towing beach wanderers (Selling pipas (Coconut water), copos (ice cones), water, fruits or juices) that may only be possible to pay in colones.
Tips are welcome always but know that if they come in euros, CAD or similar, the person will have to travel away from their hometowns only to change it.
Most tourism-related items are valued in USD, paying with this currency saves visitors of bothering themselves with exchange rates.
Why not change all the money in Costa Rica into colones? Will it be simpler?
No, actually not.
Some travelers wish to trade all their trip money into colones. We do not see an urgent need for doing so (nor would we recommend that travelers do so), but if this is your preference, we suggest exchanging the funds in a bank (If possible in your city, better).
Although currency trade stands are present at both of Costa Rica’s international airports, and a variety of state and private banks are available in most beach towns and big cities, you will probably lose more on the exchange.
If you go to a bank in a city or town, it might be a bit difficult and take a lot of your precious vacation time. It really depends on the date and time (Mornings better than afternoons) but going to some of the bank offices can be a nightmare. On a payday, the lines may take hours and half of the time the bank representatives do not speak English.
Paying with Credit and Debit Cards.
Credit cards have their pros and cons.
They are a source of pleasant travel rewards, in the forms of points or miles, as well as a cause of unwanted travel debt.
Cards assist travelers to dodge the dilemma of moving a lot of cash around but can also generate new problems associated to addition in presumed risk due to credit card scams and spend more as a result of card commissions and processing fees.
On the other hand, it is often that in the terms and conditions of several service providers, like hotels or tour operators, it states that there is a processing fee when paying on site with a card.
So, it is much more comfortable and affordable to bring cash. And rely on cards for the extras.
First of all, make sure your bank knows you are traveling, or else you will have a lot of trouble with them.
Know as well that in general, debit cards are not taken as a backup payment in car rentals, hotels or spas. And if they do, expect a temporary withdrawal of your account (that can go up to several hundreds of dollars) that will be refunded weeks after your check out or car return.
So, our advice is to go for whatever makes you feel more comfortable regarding cash and count on the cards for any extras.
We certainly don’t recommend this.
As anywhere else in the World the international fees are scandalous, and chances to become the victim of fraud are high.
The best is to use as much as possible the safe in your hotel room.
A tip for the end of your trip:
Spend your colones if you have them.
As you will get the change in colones, they tend to sum up. And it happens very often, that you only do not want to go in the struggle of translating the currency and end up using dollars for all shopping.
And you will end with several thousands of the money of Costa Rica…. Only usable, of course, in Costa Rica.
We suggest that, if at the end of your trip you still have colones, use them in tips, for the room maid, the tour guides, the drivers or the waiters/waitresses of your hotel or last activities and trips.
And well to wrap it up, one last word: Use your common sense as you would anywhere else in the World. Money and people are the same everywhere and under the same rules.
Use your common sense with the money in Costa Rica.
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