What Currency Does Costa Rica Use? Traveler’s Guide to Money

Last updated on December 21st, 2023 at 06:33 am

Are you planning a Costa Rica vacation and are unsure if they accept the U.S. dollars? If Costa Rica is on your bucket list that you hope to check off someday, then you’ll need to know what is Costa Rica’s currency. Reading this post, you will learn what is the best currency to use in Costa Rica to make it easier when it comes time to spend money during your Costa Rica vacation.

This Central American country is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful places to travel in Latin America. Costa Rica is a hot spot for tourism all year round and is one of the safest places for travelers in Central America.

One part of your planning your trip to visit Costa Rica should include learning about Costa Rica money, which is known as the Costa Rican colon. This article to teach you everything you need to know about spending your money in Costa Rica including about the currency in Costa Rica, if you should exchange U.S. dollars or Canadian dollars, if credit cards are accepted, if Costa Rica accepts U.S. dollars and Canadian dollars, plus much more. Continue reading to learn further information about the currency of Costa Rica and how it relates to the United States dollar.

Costa Rica Attractions

There are many reasons to visit and so many things to do in Costa Rica, knowing how to pay for everything is super important. First, there are plenty of national parks that feature natural hot springs, rainforests, volcanos, cloud forests, diverse wildlife, and lush vegetation. Plus, Costa Rica has some of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world. The culture, which includes the Pura Vida or “pure life” tradition, is one of happiness and positivity, making it easy for tourists to fall in love with Costa Ricans and their tendencies. Street vendors and restaurants can give you a taste of authentic Costa Rican cuisine. Don’t forget what Costa Rica is mostly known for, numerous stunning beaches along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts with ample opportunities for relaxation and water sports. And you may ask is Costa Rica safe? Don’t worry about your safety, Costa Rica is the safest country in Central America for visitors.

What's Costa Rica's Currency?

When traveling to a foreign country, one of the biggest questions you may face is dealing with the national currency of that region. Will you need to exchange currencies when you enter Costa Rica or can you use the money from your home country? What other currencies are accepted in Costa Rica?

The official currency of this country is the Costa Rican colon. The plural form of the currency is colones. This Costa Rica currency is named after Christopher Columbus, who is known as Cristobal Colon in Spanish. It is subdivided into centimos. Costa Rican colones are used throughout the country and the exchange rate to USD is $1 equals about 558 Costa Rican colones.

Costa Rica Colon Denominations

The main paper money denominations for colon banknotes are colorful bills in the amounts of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, and 50000 Costa Rican colones. These banknotes feature images of wildlife. Respectively, the banknotes depict a white-tailed deer, a bull shark, a white-headed capuchin monkey, a brown-throated sloth, a volcano hummingbird, and a morpho butterfly.

What's Costa Rica's Currency Worth in Us Dollars?

Dollar exchange rates between Costa Rica’s currency, the Costa Rican Colón (CRC), and the US dollar (USD) fluctuates. As of the latest update, 1,000 colones is approximately equivalent to 1.87 US dollars. Conversely, USD exchange rate of 100 US dollars is approximately equivalent to 53,430 colones. To get the most accurate and up-to-date conversion rates, you can use online currency converters or consult the websites of the Central Bank or National Bank of Costa Rica.

USD Exchange Rates Converter to Costa Rican Colon: US Dollar to Colon Converter

Central Bank of Costa Rica currency converter: https://www.floatrates.com/crc/usd/

Will I Need Costa Rica Money While Traveling?

The answer is not an explicit yes or no since the need to spend money in Costa Rica will be situational. For travelers from the United States, US dollars are accepted in many locations throughout Costa Rica, especially those related directly to tourism. Upscale all-inclusive resorts, hotels, restaurants, luxury vacation rentals like Vista Hermosa Estate, taxi drivers, airports, national parks, adventure tours, and more will normally accept this currency due to the high number of United States tourists that visit the country. However, street vendors, small grocery stores, farmers’ markets, small restaurants, souvenir shops, and other more localized businesses may not be able to accept US dollars. You may have to check each location to see if there is a sign that says “USD accepted” to know for sure.

While Costa Rica is a very popular vacation destination for Canadians, many other foreign currencies such as Canadian dollars are not accepted in Costa Rica. Very select businesses may accept other currencies like Canadian dollars, but this might only happen if the business has connections to Canada among the owners.

To summarize, the best forms of currency to have when traveling in Costa Rica are US dollars and Costa Rican colones.

Will I Need to Exchange Money or Bring Cash?

With so many alternative forms of payment available, you may not need very much cash on hand to navigate the country, though it is always a good idea to keep some in your wallet. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted and can be used for many tourism locations in Costa Rica, but not all vendors will accept credit cards. Additionally, you may have to pay foreign transaction fees for all your purchases, which can be a headache. While there are plenty of places that will advertise “credit cards accepted”, make sure you understand what transaction fees your credit card company will enforce. Credit cards are also an ideal payment method since they are made of thin and resistant plastic, so they are not vulnerable to getting wet.

Another method of payment that you can use is travelers checks, though they are not widely accepted in Costa Rica. The only place you may be able to cash them is at a central bank or an all-inclusive resort. Other private banks may not be able to process them.

If you have a fair amount of US dollars in cash, you may not need to exchange money in Costa Rica currency at all. Though the currency is widely accepted, many businesses do not have a lot of US dollars on hand, so they will give you change via Costa Rican colones. The more cash you spend, the more colones you’ll collect. This will be helpful as having smaller bills on hand in Costa Rica currency will ensure you can pay for anything you need or to tip those in the service industry. Try to avoid going to the bank that is issuing paper money at an expensive exchange rate as much as possible to save more money for your vacation spending if you have US dollars.

Using Credit Cards in Costa Rica

While cash may be king in Costa Rica, credit cards are widely accepted at many establishments. Using a credit card in Costa Rica is a convenient way to pay for goods and services, as well as to withdraw money from ATMs. However, it’s important to keep in mind that using a credit card may incur transaction fees for foreign banks and unfavorable exchange rates.

When traveling to Costa Rica, it’s advisable to bring some cash with you, as some smaller businesses may not accept credit cards and only accept cash payments. It’s also a good idea to check the current exchange rate before exchanging money, as rates can fluctuate daily. You can check the current exchange rate on various websites or by visiting a local bank.

If you plan to use a credit card in Costa Rica, it’s important to know what types of cards are accepted. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, while American Express and Discover may not be accepted at some establishments. It’s also important to inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid any issues with your card being blocked.

Costa Rica’s banking system is generally considered to be safe and reliable, with both local and international banks operating in the country. Banco Nacional is the largest and most well-known bank in Costa Rica, while there are also several other local banks and international banks such as Citibank and HSBC. In 2010, Costa Rica underwent a currency reform under the Banking Act, which aimed to modernize the country’s banking system and increase the use of electronic payments.

Using a credit card in Costa Rica can be a convenient and safe way to pay for your expenses. However, it’s important to do your research and be aware of any fees and exchange rates to ensure you’re getting the most out of your money in Costa Rica.

What Credit Cards are Accepted in Costa Rica?

When traveling to Costa Rica, it’s important to know which credit cards are accepted to avoid any surprises when it comes to paying for your expenses. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted throughout the country, while American Express and Discover may not be as widely accepted.

In addition to knowing which credit cards are accepted, it’s also important to inform your bank of your travel plans to avoid any issues with your card being blocked. Costa Rica’s banking system is generally considered to be safe and reliable, with both local and international banks operating in the country. Banco Nacional is the largest and most well-known bank in Costa Rica, while there are also several other local banks and international banks such as Citibank and HSBC.

While credit cards can be a convenient way to pay for your expenses in Costa Rica, it’s always a good idea to bring some cash with you as well, especially when visiting smaller establishments or remote areas. How much cash to bring will depend on what type of small places you plan on visiting during your visit and the amount of cash you plan on spending at each place, so it’s a good idea to plan accordingly before your trip.

Is Amex Accepted in Costa Rica?

American Express (Amex) is accepted at some establishments in Costa Rica, but it is not as widely accepted as Visa or Mastercard. You may have better luck using your Amex card at larger hotels, upscale restaurants, an international car rental company and major tourist attractions. It’s always a good idea to carry some cash or a backup credit card from another issuer in case Amex is not accepted at a particular establishment. Additionally, it’s a good idea to notify your bank or credit card company before traveling to Costa Rica to avoid any issues with your card being declined due to suspicious activity.

Is it Safe to Use Credit Cards in Costa Rica?

When it comes to using credit cards in Costa Rica, safety is a major concern. While debit and credit cards are widely accepted in popular tourist areas such as hotels, restaurants, and shops, it’s important to take necessary precautions to avoid any fraudulent activities.

One of the best ways to protect yourself when using your card is to notify your bank of your travel plans in advance. This allows them to monitor your account for any suspicious activity and prevent unauthorized access. It’s also essential to check for any foreign transaction fees that may apply, so you’re not caught off guard by unexpected charges.

In addition, it’s recommended to keep a close eye on your card and ensure it’s not being used for suspicious activity. If you notice any unauthorized charges or transactions, report them to your bank immediately.

The Central Bank of Costa Rica oversees the country’s financial system, including the use of credit and debit cards. National banks such as the Bank of Costa Rica provide secure transactions and offer the best exchange rate for the Costa Rican colon.

To avoid scams, it’s best to change money at an international bank or reputable travel agency. The crawling peg system is used to determine the exchange rate, which is fixed to the US dollar. While dollars are widely accepted, it’s best to carry some Costa Rican colones on hand for transportation, meals, and souvenirs.

It’s important to note that visually impaired people may face challenges when using public transportation, so they may need assistance. Additionally, tips are appreciated for good service at restaurants and hotels. The denominations of bills and coins come in different sizes, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with them in advance.

So while using credit cards in Costa Rica is generally safe, it’s important to take necessary precautions to avoid any fraudulent activities. Notify your bank of your travel plans, keep an eye on your card, and report any suspicious activity immediately to your credit card company and If you suspect that your credit card has been stolen or fraudulently used, you should contact your credit card company immediately and report the incident to the Costa Rican authorities. By taking these steps, you can enjoy your Costa Rica travel experience without worrying about the safety of your credit or debit card.

Where Can I Find a Currency Exchange?

If you decide you want to convert Canadian dollars or US dollars to have some Costa Rica currency, or you have no choice, then there are multiple places to switch out your currency. The most common location is a bank. The Bank of Costa Rica, or Banco de Costa Rica, has many locations throughout the country at which you can exchange money, especially in cities like San Jose the capital of Costa Rica or Limon. There is also the Central Bank of Costa Rica, (Banco Central de Costa Rica), and the Costa Rican National Bank, (Banco Nacional de Costa Rica). Private banks may not be able to exchange your money.

Other places to exchange money include the airport in San Jose, (just after the baggage claim area), or at an ATM, though you will likely face heavy exchange rate fees. You’ll find ATMs at most larger cities as you travel from San Jose Airport and Liberia Airport.

How Much Money Should I Exchange?

Before you search for a USD currency converter to find out what the current dollar exchange rate is, it is recommended that you do not exchange too much of your money if you have US dollars because you will lose money on the exchange rates. Since most Costa Rica businesses accept dollars as currency, it makes more sense to avoid those hefty exchange rates and count on collecting change in the form of Costa Rican colon.

Is Costa Rica a Us Territory?

No, Costa Rica is not a US territory. However, the United States has strong ties with Costa Rica, including economic cooperation and cultural exchanges. Visitors are very welcome here as Costa Rica’s main income is tourism and contributes significantly to the country’s GDP, Costa Rica welcomes visitors from the US and many other countries. Known for its stunning landscapes and biodiversity, Costa Rica remains a top travel destination for adventurers worldwide.

Plan Your Costa Rica Trip Today

Now that you know what money in Costa Rica is called and understand how Costa Rica’s money works, it is time to plan your next trip to this beautiful country. Don’t let the different system of money in Costa Rica dampen your enthusiasm for your vacation. Understand that you can have an incredible Costa Rican experience relying on a credit card/debit card and US dollars if you want to save money by avoiding the high currency exchange rate.

Now you’re ready to go, so pack your bags for a trip to Costa Rica!



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