Dollars? Colones? Credit cards? We've got the answers

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It is difficult to decide which currency to bring to Costa Rica, how much money you need, and how to save money while traveling.

Find out everything you need to know about Costa Rica currency.

costa rica money

What is the currency in costa rica?

The national official currency of Costa Rica is the Costa Rican colones. Colones come in 1,000 2,000 5,000 10,000 20,000 and 50,000 bills as well as coins of much smaller amounts. 

US dollars are also widely accepted throughout the country. However, you might not always get the best exchange rate. If you opt to use dollars, just make sure they are in good condition. It is best not to try and use anything larger than $20 bills. Most places won’t accept them. 

Travel Tip

If you prefer to use your credit card for payments in Costa Rica, that is OK too! Most places accept credit cards, but sometimes you will need to have cash for small restaurants. 

It is always best to ask at restaurants here if they accept credit cards before sitting down for a meal. 


Should You Bring Colones?

You may have a difficult time exchanging colones in your home country. However, there is a place in the airport to exchange money. They don’t always give the best exchange rate, but it is a good option for getting some money to start off with.

There are tons of ATM’s throughout the country. You will have no problem using your bank card and taking money out. Just keep in mind that your bank may charge you a foreign transaction fee. We suggest checking with your bank to find out their international fees before visiting Costa Rica.

We suggest you read our guide to exchanging money in Costa Rica for tips on the best ATM options which won’t charge you and how to get the best exchange rate.

How to Save Money on Transportation

The cheapest transportation is public bus. However, it is not always the most convenient to take public busses in Costa Rica. They don’t always have the best connections.

We personally prefer to rent a car for the flexibility. Renting a car is not exactly cheap, but it is usually more affordable than taking a private shuttle.

You can find out all about the best transportation options in our transportation guide.


How to Save Money on Accommodations

It is usually not too much of a problem to find affordable accommodation options in Costa Rica. There are plenty of hostels throughout the country if you are trying to stick to a really tight budget. We have also had great luck with finding affordable Airbnb’s.

Find out more hotel booking tips here.

santa teresa airbnb
volunteer in costa rica

Have You Thought About Volunteering?

A good way to see Costa Rica on a budget is by volunteering. There are plenty of volunteer programs throughout the country. Several of these volunteer opportunities involve some type of labor in return for free accommodations.

You can get more tips and find opportunities in our guide to volunteering

How to Save Money on Food

We love to stay at places with a kitchen for guests to use so we can cook our own meals. This always saves us a ton of money. You can read more in our guide to eating on a budget. 

If you do opt to eat at a restaurant we suggest trying out a soda. A soda is the term for a small local restaurant that typically serves rice, beans, meat, and a vegetable for a few dollars. It is super tasty, filling, and cheap!

Also, check out our guide to grocery shopping in Costa Rica for tips on which stores are the most affordable and which foods you should avoid.

How to SAve Money on Activities

It is possible to participate in fun activities even if you are sticking to a tight budget.

Our motto for saving money is to “do as the locals do.” Often I will see Ticos having a blast participating in affordable or free activities that I had never thought about.

We definitely suggest looking at our Destination Guides for the areas you are visiting. These will give you an idea of all our favorite activities in each area of the country.

We also suggest checking out our list of our favorite things to do in Costa Rica and our list of our favorite free things to do in Costa Rica

Oh, and all Costa Rican beaches are free and need to have public access by law. So, when in doubt you can always head to the beach fora super fun free activity. 


Is it Safe to Carry Money?

We suggest never carrying a lot of money on you. We have never been robbed here, but you just never know. It is always best to take only the money you will need for the day with you and leave the rest at the safe at your hotel. Another option is to just take smaller amounts of money out of the bank every time you need more cash.

Also, please pay attention to your surrounding while at an ATM. A friend of ours was recently followed home after going to an ATM and was robbed in her driveway. It is best to always go to the bank during the day when there are plenty of people and just keep an eye out to who is around. 

We hope this helped with planning all things to do with money in Costa Rica. If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section below. We are happy to help you out!

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