The Costa Rican Colon (₡ / CRC) is the official currency of Costa Rica, named after the explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón in Spanish).
The coins have values of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 Colónes.
The banknotes are worth 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 and 20,000 Colónes (Banknotes for 50,000 are so rare that few shops accept them).
The conversion rate from U.S. Dollar to Colón varies between financial institutions. We strongly advise you to compare whatever rate you are offered with the reference conversion rate issued by the Central Bank of Costa Rica.
You may use XE online currency converter to find updated rates.
Since 2006, the Colon has no longer been officially linked to the U.S. Dollar. The exchange rates displayed by the Central Bank are only a reference, and each authorized financial institution can determine its value independently. The free market must be relied upon to keep exchange rates reasonable.
You can also pay with U.S. Dollars but only banknotes will be accepted. You will be given change in Colónes, and it is up to you to ensure the correct conversion rate.
Pay only in Colónes, if you can, and thereby avoid any difficulties or misunderstandings.
If you enter or exit the country with an amount equal to or greater than 10,000 U.S. Dollars (or the equivalent amount in another currency) you must be declare the sum to Costa Rican Customs
Debit / Cresit Cards
Debit / credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express etc.) are accepted in the vast majority of shops, hotels and restaurants. Carry about 25,000 Colónes with you at all time (per person) to spend a day or two comfortably.
Payment by debit / credit card also has a cost of around 2.5%.
Many shops will offer you a reduced price if you pay cash.
Debit / credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express etc.) can be used at ATMs in Costa Rica. Withdrawals are possible in Colónes or U.S. Dollar at the daily rate set by the bank. The fees are fairly reasonable (between 2 and 5 U.S. Dollars ) so it is best to always make a large withdrawal often capped at 200,000 Colónes. On weekends or in laces crowded with tourists, some ATMs refuse a withdrawal of 200,000 Colónes or more; then you are obliged to withdraw a lower amount.
Withdrawing Money at Airports
At Airports you can withdraw cash from ATMs provided by the following banks :
– BAC San José
– Scotiabank (only at Juan Santamaria International Airport)
Exchange Money at Airports:
At airports it is possible to exchange currencies at the Global Exchange counters.
The following currencies are accepted :
Argentina Peso – ARS
Australian Dollar – AUD
Belizean Dollar – BZD
Brazilian Real – BRL
Canadian Dollar – CAD
Chilean Peso – CLP
Chinese Yuan – CNY
Colombian Peso – COP
Costa Rican Colon – CRC
Danish Krone – DKK
Dominican Peso – DOP
Czech Koruna – CZK
Guatemalan Quetzal – GTQ
Honduras Lempira – HNL
Hong Kong Dollar – HKD
Israeli New Shekel – ILS
Jamaican Dollar – JMD
Mexican Peso – MXN
New Zealand Dollar – NZD
Nicaraguan Cordoba – NIO
Norwegian Krone – NOK
Peruvian Nuevo Sol – PEN
Pound Sterling – GBP
Russian Ruble – RUB
South Korean Won – KRW
Swedish Krona – SEK
Swiss Franc – CHF
Taiwan Dollar – TWD
Thai Baht – THB
Trinidad and Tobago Dollar – TTD
Uruguayan Peso – UYU
U.S. Dollar – USD
Japanese Yen – JPY
We think it’s important to mention that many reviews recommend other similar service providers offering more favorable exchange rates, but Global Exchange is the first provider you can encounter offering this service.
Exchanging Money in a Bank
Costa Rica’s state-owned banks exchange U.S. Dollars at the daily rate without charging any commission. Banco de Costa Rica (BCR) and Banco Nacional (BN) branches across the country, and they regularly display the exchange rate in the establishment’s window. It is your responsibility to ensure that the exchange rate charged by the bank matches the reference rate issued by the Central Bank of Costa Rica.
When you walk through the door of the bank, you will often be advised by a security officer. The service you should ask for is called: Tramité de cambio de efectivo. The security officer will hand you a numbered queue ticket or direct you to a physical queue. In the queues you might be either standing or sitting, pay close attention to the behavior of your neighbors in line and you will move from one chair to another all the way to the front row. It can sometimes take a lot of time so show-up early and be patient.
At the counter you will be asked for your passport and the banknotes to be exchanged. You will also need to fill in a small form and sign.
Secure your money and passport before leaving the bank and make sure no one is following you after you leave.
It is wise to use a secret pocket under your clothes or in your backpack to store your money. Avoid using a handbag or your pants pocket for this purpose.