The Money Issue – What Should You Do About Money in Costa Rica?

We all need money to get by in the world. Even Ticos with their Pura Vida philosophy acknowledge that a wad of bank notes in your pocket can take you places. Once you’re in Costa Rica, you will want to have all your financial affairs taken care of so you can get on with your holiday. Here’s a guide to dealing with money in Costa Rica.

Exchanging at the Airport

The first thing to know is that you should never exchange your money at the airport in San Jose. It’s the worst thing you can do because the exchange rates are horrific. The rates will leave you out of pocket. Try anywhere else, but not the airport. They can afford to charge such poor exchange rates because they know you’re trapped.

Why Exchange at All?

You don’t even have to exchange US dollars into Costa Rican colones if you don’t want to. The vast majority of stores, in areas where travellers visit, will accept US dollars. You can guarantee yourself a fair deal because the exchange rate between colons and US dollars has remained the same for the last few years.

It’s roughly 500 colones to one US dollar. The easiest way to make sure you know what you’re paying for something is to hack three zeros off of a standard colones bill and double it. For example, a 5,000 colon bill would equal $10 in US money.

Protect Your Credit Lines

Banks and credit cards make a commitment to protect their customers’ financial details. It’s only right because if they get lax it will let the international fraudsters in. Inform the bank and your credit card companies about your intentions of travelling to Costa Rica.

If you suddenly start withdrawing money from so far away from home they’ll think someone has managed to steal your card or your card details. In the event your card gets blocked it can be a hassle to unfreeze your account. The best solution is to not get into this situation in the first place.

Calling Home

Avoid using your mobile phone in Costa Rica. The costs of calling from abroad make it a bad idea. Instead, you can pick up a mobile phone in Costa Rica, with calling card included, for under $50 USD. At the airport, there’s a booth called ICE. This nationalised company will allow you to buy a temporary phone and calling card.

Your money in Costa Rica will go far for calling. The reception is good in most places and you'll get good value for money with a Costa Rican phone. We would also recommend a temporary phone for safety reasons. Losing a cheap phone is one thing. Losing an expensive phone is quite another.

Let us know your best tips for saving money in Costa Rica!