How to Use Costa Rican Currency

Costa Rica’s national currency is the colón (plural: colones), but dollars are widely accepted in tourist areas and some other locations. But this comes with a series of other questions: Should you pay in dollars or colones? Where can you get the best exchange rates? Where should you not change money? Will your ATM card work in Costa Rica? How about your credit cards? Read on for the practical, factual answers that'll help make your vacation more hassle-free.

Banks & ATMs

Even if you plan on spending the entirety of your Costa Rica vacation exploring the depths of the rainforest in one of the 26 national parks and reserves, you’ll need to get some cash from time to time.  Fortunately, the commercial banking sector in Costa Rica is a lot better—and more convenient—than it used to be, so follow these tips when you’re out and about to ensure you’re not left without your money.

Using US dollars

Many visitors to Costa Rica find it convenient because US dollars are accepted virtually everywhere, so you won’t have to waste a lot of time converting your cash into Costa Rican colones before you can start shopping. It’s worth noting, however, that some businesses may not take bills larger than $20. Also, when paying for goods and services in dollars, you’ll likely get your change in colones.
If you’re carrying a lot of $50 and $100 bills or exchanging more significant amounts (beyond what you might use in a store), we suggest going directly to the bank for the best rates.
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