Go Back  FlyerTalk Forums > Destinations > Americas > Central America
Reload this Page >

Colones or dollars for Costa Rica?

Colones or dollars for Costa Rica?

Old May 15, 16, 3:35 am
  #1  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: somewhere north of London, UK
Programs: HH Gold, BA Silver, Accor Silver
Posts: 15,243
Colones or dollars for Costa Rica?

Have a trip to CR in the summer. Just wondering should I get some Colones?

The hotels are priced in US$. The first hotel is also sorting out transport, so that's going to be charged in US$.

So really it's going to be things like park admission fees, plus snacks & drinks when we're out that will be all we need cash for.

Would it be sensible to have local currency for this or given we're in tourist locations will USD be widely quoted on prices?

Thanks

ST
Swiss Tony is offline  
Old May 15, 16, 6:26 am
  #2  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Programs: AAdvantage Platinum
Posts: 1,565
It's difficult to find colones outside Costa Rica. If you do, you'll take a real hit and the exchange rate won't be anywhere near what it is here. Wait until you get to Costa Rica. ATMs are an easy way to get them.

The tourist industry prices its offerings in dollars. That stems from all the years when the dollar/colón rate was notoriously unstable. Things have settled down in recent years. You can pay in dollars or whatever the equivalent rate is in colones. If you charge a hotel stay to your credit card, it will show up on your slip in colones, but the amount will be converted to dollars when you get your statement.

Stores and restaurants price things in colones. Many will take dollars for your purchases (although no one is ever obligated to accept them). If they do take your dollars, they may very well calculate an exchange rate that's in their favor and not yours. Small places are not set up to take dollars. If you're going to bring dollars, make sure they are in good condition. They don't have to be brand new, but they should not have tears or markings. Also, don't bring anything larger than $20 bills. Many counterfeit $50 and $100 bills circulate, and people will generally refuse them. U.S. coins are worthless here, of course.

I always tip in local currency. Don't saddle the poor worker with having to go to a bank to exchange your dollars.
SJOGuy is offline  
Old May 15, 16, 9:47 am
  #3  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: somewhere north of London, UK
Programs: HH Gold, BA Silver, Accor Silver
Posts: 15,243
That's really useful - thanks!

I had a hunt around - I see the interbank rate for GBP to Colones is about 763. The best I can get at a bureau de change in London is 713(!!!) so that's a 6.5% loading.

With my bank, I'm going to take a 4.75% hit via an ATM - so long as the ATM itself doesn't add anything else on! Are there standard issue bank ATMs at the airport?

That line about tipping - at better grade hotel restaurants, can you add the gratuity to the bill, or is cash preferred there too?

Thanks

Tony
Swiss Tony is offline  
Old May 15, 16, 10:25 am
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Programs: AAdvantage Platinum
Posts: 1,565
You’ll find ATMs in the baggage claim area of the airport. There are also money exchange counters there (the company is called Global Exchange) but their rates are terrible. Try to avoid using them.

Any ATM will charge you for using a foreign card. It always seems to be 500 colones, a bit less than a dollar.

You need not tip waitstaff in restaurants. The tip is already included in the bill. No one will object if you want to leave something extra for service, but it's not necessary. In a hotel restaurant, you could add a gratuity to the bill if you’re so inclined.

The bottom line is that you'll pay something, somewhere. There's no avoiding it.
SJOGuy is offline  
Old May 15, 16, 12:56 pm
  #5  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: somewhere north of London, UK
Programs: HH Gold, BA Silver, Accor Silver
Posts: 15,243
Great stuff. All really helpful, so many thanks again.

Tony
Swiss Tony is offline  
Old Aug 3, 16, 3:15 pm
  #6  
 
Join Date: Apr 2015
Location: SJO
Programs: Avianca LifeMiles. Hilton Gold, Meliá Gold, Radisson Gold. National Exec Elite, Hertz PC.
Posts: 156
Bring USD, but you can withdraw dollars from almost any ATM here. DON'T exchange at the airport, NEVER! That's my only tip.

If you need colones upon arrival, there are two ATMs: one upstairs at the departures level, far west side of the terminal, inside. The other one, also upstairs, main entrance, just beside the escalator.
ariel_sjo is offline  
Old Aug 3, 16, 8:23 pm
  #7  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Programs: AAdvantage Platinum
Posts: 1,565
You'll find ATMs in the baggage claim area. You don't need to go upstairs on arrival.

Upon departure, you'll find a branch of the BAC San Jose bank in the check-in area. As you face the check-in counters, they're at the far right end of the terminal. They will give you a fair rate for changing your unused or unwanted colones back to dollars. As I mentioned above, don't used the Global Exchange counters in the gate area. Their rates are terrible. And don't try to exchange colones when you get back home. Assuming you can do it at all, the rates will be even worse.
SJOGuy is offline  
Old Aug 7, 16, 11:36 am
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3,501
Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
You’ll find ATMs in the baggage claim area of the airport. There are also money exchange counters there (the company is called Global Exchange) but their rates are terrible. Try to avoid using them.

Any ATM will charge you for using a foreign card. It always seems to be 500 colones, a bit less than a dollar.

You need not tip waitstaff in restaurants. The tip is already included in the bill. No one will object if you want to leave something extra for service, but it's not necessary. In a hotel restaurant, you could add a gratuity to the bill if you’re so inclined.

The bottom line is that you'll pay something, somewhere. There's no avoiding it.
I assume the ATM fee is a set amount and it'll tell you before you do withdraw? If the airport ATMs are only 500 colones, I may as well just get some cash there.
flashware is offline  
Old Aug 7, 16, 4:56 pm
  #9  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Programs: AAdvantage Platinum
Posts: 1,565
The ATM screen will tell you what the fee is and ask you if you agree to it. I can't say that every single machine in the country charges 500 colones, but that seems to be the amount I've always encountered. Of course, this is on top of anything your own bank might charge you for using an ATM in a foreign country.
SJOGuy is offline  
Old Aug 8, 16, 1:09 am
  #10  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3,501
Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
The ATM screen will tell you what the fee is and ask you if you agree to it. I can't say that every single machine in the country charges 500 colones, but that seems to be the amount I've always encountered. Of course, this is on top of anything your own bank might charge you for using an ATM in a foreign country.
Excellent - looks like I'll just get out the CRC needed once I arrive. I have fee free withdrawals internationally so the ~70p charge for the ATM withdrawal is fine.
flashware is offline  
Old Aug 21, 16, 9:40 am
  #11  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 3,501
Well I didn't end up using the ATM at the airport as I ended up using Uber to get to the hotel, so didn't need cash. Ended up using an ATM near the hotel and the charge was only 250 CRC
flashware is offline  
Old Aug 21, 16, 9:48 pm
  #12  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: somewhere north of London, UK
Programs: HH Gold, BA Silver, Accor Silver
Posts: 15,243
Just some feedback from my trip. I found that usd and Crc were widely interchangeable, albeit at sometimes a hard rate of 500:1.

However the big issue was large denomination notes. I had picked up some Crc in London before the referendum but this included a 50000 note. Places were reluctant to accept this which caused me some problems towards the end of the trip culminating in me having to take more cash out of an ATM just to get some small notes. Also some places won't take us bills over $20 but given the prices in Costa Rica, I think there's a need for the service industry to wake up here.
Swiss Tony is offline  
Old Aug 24, 16, 8:15 pm
  #13  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Programs: AAdvantage Platinum
Posts: 1,565
I have never held nor seen a 50,000 note. I've only seen images online. They're purple in the six-color, one-dominant-color-for-each-bill scheme. That's all I can tell you. Yes. The bill is worth only $91 at today's exchange rate. But I think we have to remember that that represents a huge amount of money in Costa Rica.

As for $50 and $100 bills, a lot of counterfeits are floating around. People are reluctant to take them and many businesses simply won't accept them. Banks can determine their authenticity right then and there. That's your only certain place for getting rid of them. And who wants to brave the lines in a Costa Rican bank? The advice I always give as a travel-guidebook writer is this: Don't bring anything larger than $20s.

Last edited by SJOGuy; Aug 24, 16 at 8:21 pm
SJOGuy is offline  
Old Aug 24, 16, 9:59 pm
  #14  
FlyerTalk Evangelist
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: somewhere north of London, UK
Programs: HH Gold, BA Silver, Accor Silver
Posts: 15,243
Originally Posted by SJOGuy View Post
But I think we have to remember that that represents a huge amount of money in Costa Rica.
Whilst I'm sure it does in most places, Manuel Antonio prices are punchy so if I'm spending 15k CRC on a round of drinks, I don't think it's unreasonable to pay with a 50k note.

The struggle in getting rid of the second 50k note meant I used all my small denomination US bills and did index look at using a bank but the queues were as if people had settled in for the day. Our tour driver was however happy to accept $100's.
Swiss Tony is offline  
Old Aug 25, 16, 6:58 am
  #15  
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: San Jose, Costa Rica
Programs: AAdvantage Platinum
Posts: 1,565
Manuel Antonio prices are punchy so if I'm spending 15k CRC on a round of drinks, I don't think it's unreasonable to pay with a 50k note.
One would think, but people here don't view it that way. That's still their equivalent of our buying a pack of gum and paying with a $100 bill. The other thing that surprised me was that you could get colones in London at all. You had to have paid a hefty premium for that transaction. And for them to stick you with a couple of 50,000 bills was downright mean, although I doubt they are aware of the dynamics.

I always bring something to read when I go to the bank.
SJOGuy is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread