What are the best currency exchange tips in Costa Rica ?
The national currency is the colón (plural colónes), in homage to Christopher Columbus. The currency code is CRC and divided in 100 centavos.
The currency is indexed on the US dollar. There are 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 CRC notes.
US dollars are accepted practically everywhere, but it is not advised to pay in dollars. Indeed the change will be in Colones and the rate is set by the shopkeeper! No need to say that it is more profitable to pay directly in colones.
Almost all hotels offer their prices in dollars. Many restaurants do the same. And even if the card indicates the prices in colónes, everyone will accept your dollars.
For a European, no need to go through the dollar, we manage very well with colónes.
Banks and ATM in Costa Rica
You can exchange the euro at the best rate at the Banco de Costa Rica or at the Banco Nacional, sometimes in only one of them.
On the other hand, you can expect to wait a lot. Banks are generally open from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 4 pm, and sometimes on Saturday mornings. Passport is required.
Each bank has one or more ATM outside, attached to the establishment. They are generally accessible only from 5am to 10pm (due to possible aggressions). In the evening, be wary.
Less frequently, there are also ATH terminals (A Toda Hora) where one can withdraw money at any hour (hence their name). Attention, the exchange rates used are less favorable than in a traditional ATM.
In the remote parts of the country and the villages, you need to bring cash.
ATMs offer both colones and US dollars. Attention, some ATMs in the smallest cities can be empty quickly, especially on weekends.
Sometimes the bank clerk may not allow you to withdraw money. Just exchange half of your money and then come back with the other half it works !
Credit cards in Costa Rica
It is common, in hotels, small or large, and some chic restaurants and shops, to pay by card. It is a widespread payment method in the country. On the other hand, for small pensions, sodas and in villages in general, it will be necessary to pay in cash.
Attention, card payments are subject to bank charges which can be expensive in the long run (between 2 and 3% with each transaction).