Costa Rica Money and Tipping Customs in Costa Rica

Exchanging Currency, ATM Machines, Using US Cash & Advice on Tipping

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Colones to Dollars

The Costa Rican Money – the Colon is colorful and includes pictures of some of Costa’s Rica’s wildlife – sharks, monkeys, sloths and butterflies.  They come in 1000, 2000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 colones denominations.  In fact, the exchange rate with Costa Rica money is always fluctuating and is currently around 550 colones to the dollar.  However, for the most current exchange rates, check the site of the Central Bank of Costa Rica

Exchanging US Dollars To Costa Rican Money

When you arrive, you may exchange your money for Costa money or colones at local banks. Some upscale hotels will exchange money for their guests. You will get the best exchange rates inside banks. Avoid changing Costa Rica money inside the airport or on the street to ensure that you get the best exchange rate.  

Using US Cash

US dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica. Bring low denominations – using $1, $5, $10 and $20 denominations should not be a problem. The bills will need to be in good condition as they will not be accepted if they are ripped or torn.  The larger the bill, the more perfect it needs to be.  Bills larger than $20 are difficult and might have to be changed at a bank.  You will most likely receive your change in the local currency: colones.  

The Colon

The Costa Rica currency, the Colon, was named after Christopher Columbus, or Cristobal Colon.  New colorful waterproof bank notes were released between 2012 and 2014. Featuring species of animals found in Costa Rica and are lovely works of art.  The bills come in denominations of ¢1,000, ¢2,000, ¢5,000, ¢10,000, and ¢20,000, ¢50,000 with coins of 5, 10, 25, 50, 100 and 500 Colones. 

The money system in Costa Rica is not that confusing, so you shouldn’t be too worried about trying to figure it out. A quick reference point is that everything is a multiple of five.

500 colones is equivalent to approximately one dollar. 5000 colones is approximate $10. The exchange rate may go up or down, but it won’t make that much difference in everyday purchases.  The different bills are brightly colored and have lots of interesting pictures about Costa Rican culture and history. Besides, you will feel much wealthier when you realize your $100 is worth an astounding 50,000 colones!

1000 ColonesThe main color of the 1,000 colones banknote is red. On the reverse, you can see a dry forest with a Guanacaste tree, a white-tailed deer and a Costa Rican nightblooming cactus. The observe shows Braulio Carrillo Colina, who was the Head of State of Costa Rica between 1835-1837 and 1838-1842, as well as the 1840-1842 Costa Rican coat of arms.
2000 ColonesThe main color of the 2,000 colones banknote is blue. On the reverse, you can see a coral reef, a bull shark, a red cushion sea star and a slimy sea plume. The observe shows Mauro Fernández Acuña, who was a lawyer and politician, as well as the Colegio Superior de Señoritas.
5000 ColonesThe main color of the 5,000 colones banknote is yellow. On the reverse, you can see a mangrove swamp, a white-headed capuchin monkey, a mangrove crab and a red mangrove. The observe shows Alfredo González Flores, who served as President of Costa Rica from 1914 to 1917, as well as the Banco International de Costa Rica building in San José.
10000 ColonesThe main color of the 10,000 colones banknote is green. On the reverse, you can see a rainforest, a brown-throated sloth, a cup fungi and a eriopsis orchid. The observe shows José Figueres Ferrer, who served as President of Costa Rica on three occasions, as well as the Abolition of the Army.
20000 ColonesThe main color of the 20,000 colones banknote is orange. On the reverse, you can see Paramo, a volcano hummingbird, a sunflower and coffee plants. On the observe, you can see Carmen Lyra, the first prominent female Costa Rican writer, as well as an outline of Costa Rica and a rabbit stroking a wolf from Lyra’s “Cuentos De Mi Tía Panchita” (Tales of My Aunt Panchita).
50000 ColonesThe main color of the 50,000 colones banknote is violet. On the reverse, you can see a cloud forest, a parasol mushroom, a bromelia flower and a morpho butterfly. The observe shows Ricardo Jiménez Oreamuno, who served as president of Costa Rica on three separate occasions, as well as the Supreme Court in San José.

 

ATM Machines

You may get local colones using your ATM card. It’s important that you know the exchange rate before you do this. You should check with your bank regarding their policy for foreign ATMs, fees, limitations, etc.  Local ATM’s fees will vary, just like home. Be mindful when using ATMs and make sure that you are in a safe area.  

Credit Cards

The currency of Credit cards are widely accepted by most businesses in Costa Rica. Contact your credit card providers to let them know you are traveling and ask them if any foreign transaction fees apply.  Sometimes you will get a better price paying in cash rather than use a card, especially when you are negotiating.  

Cost of Living in Costa Rica

Costa Rica, recently voted the happiest country on earth, based on its life expectancy, lifestyle, values, and its environmental sustainability. Every year more people come to visit this little country for its natural beauty and eco-friendly attitude. Those who travel on a shoestring can survive on $50 a day. While top-notch hotels can charge up to $500 or more. Prices of luxury hotels and tours are in dollars, and dollars are widely accepted, but it is useful to have some Colones on hand.

Shopping

Shopping for food and clothes is always fun, and there is a broad range of choices. However, it is not as cheap as one would expect. Clothes, in particular, are expensive in Costa Rica. Supermarkets now offer a wider selection of local and outstanding food and a good selection of wine. It is significantly more costly than in the US, especially for imported items. Shopping in the center of San Jose, like at the Central Market on Avenida Central, is cheaper than in the flashy Malls of the Suburbs, and this is also where you will find typical artisans and souvenirs.  The most economical places to shop for fresh foods, meats, fish fruits, and vegetables are at outdoor ferias. Usually held in the mornings on weekends, as this is where local farmers and other purveyors come into town to sell their wares.

The Costa Rican Money – the Colon is colorful and includes pictures of some of Costa’s Rica’s wildlife – sharks, monkeys, sloths and butterflies.  They come in 1000, 2000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 colones denominations.  In fact, the exchange rate with Costa Rica money is always fluctuating and is currently around 550 colones to the dollar.  However, for the most current exchange rates, check the site of the Central Bank of Costa Rica

Tipping in Costa Rica

Unfortunately, there is no definitive guide for Tipping in Costa Rica, and it’s a hard topic as people have different views on when and how much to tip. Tips are appreciated, and your guides and drivers will be used to receiving them.

Drivers & Guides:
Depends on how much time and effort each guide or driver spent with you, $10, $20 or $40 is certainly appreciated based on the level of service you feel you received.

Taxis:
Tipping taxi drivers are almost unheard of, but if you feel the urge, it will be well received!

Restaurants:
Leaving a tip is not required for servers. Restaurants in Costa Rica add a 10% service charge to your bill. Also if you receive exceptional service, we recommend leaving an additional 10%.

Hotels:
For porters, 500 colones (about $1) per bag is a fair gratuity.

Above all, we hope that you find this information useful and that you are getting excited about your upcoming trip to Costa Rica

Check out some more facts about Costa Rica. 

Costa Rica Currency goes up and down like any form of money. It fluctuates daily, presently the Colones to Dollars exchanges at around ¢552 per US$1. It is important to check the updated exchange rate at a local bank or on the internet. To make it simple, one can think that 5500 Colones is worth about $10, or 55,0000 worth $100. The cost of living is a lot higher in Costa Rica than in its neighboring countries; it is, in fact, the most expensive destination in Central America. It is also the one with the best infrastructure and most natural beauty.

 

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