What Money Do They Use in Costa Rica?
The official currency in Costa Rica is the Costa Rica Colon, which is pronounced like the body part - but don't be confused, it's the Spanish version of 'Columbus' as in Christopher Columbus!
US Dollars are also widely accepted throughout Costa Rica, but most people use Colons for most purposes day to day, and they're easy to get hold of in the UK so our advice is to plan on using Colons for most of your Costa Rica holiday.
Apart from anything else, it's worth using Costa Rica Colons rather than dollars just because the Costa Rican banknotes are absolutely gorgeous - each featuring a different Costa Rican animal!
How many Colons will you need?
Using Cash in Costa Rica
If you don't purchase Costa Rica colons before travel, you'll find cashpoints widespread once you're there, although as with travel anywhere, we'd advise you to contact your bank beforehand and let them know about your plans. Alternatively, a pre-paid currency card can be a great (and safe) alternative. There is one big alternative to this, which is Tortuguero - at the time of writing there are no ATMs here, so you need to take any cash with you.
It's also worth noting that in smaller towns, many cashpoints shut down at 8pm - this isn't as widespread as it used to be, but worth bearing in mind.s
Paying on card in Costa Rica
Both Mastercard and Visa are widely accepted in many Costa Rican shops and restaurants (although we'd always recommend having some cash as a backup) and even Amex is accepted in some places. The disadvantage of using your card directly like this is that you're at the mercy of your card issuer's foreign transaction fee and exchange rate, although again a pre-paid currency card will help you avoid this.
Can I Use Travellers Cheques in Costa Rica?
The short answer is: no. There is a longer answer involving the fact that you can still change travellers cheques in some banks in Costa Rica, but we'd really avoid using this method and instead going for a pre-paid card: you'll find it much more convenient and it will save you an awful lot in commission charges.
Haggling and Tipping in Costa Rica
No need to worry about tipping any of our drivers and guides in Costa Rica - at least, not unless you think they've gone above and beyond the call of duty. And in general you'll find that tipping in Costa Rica is pretty much like the UK. Restaurant bills will usually have a 10% Servicio or Imp Servicio charge on the bill, but sometimes that charge is incorporated in the individual items. If you're not sure: just ask. If you're just having drinks or a snack, you might want to leave some change or a ¢500 note.
An exception to the tipping rule is hotel porters, who generally do ask for a small gratuity (perhaps around US$2 or ¢1000) for carrying your bags. Obviously it's up to you, but they tend to receive very low salaries, so they do rely on the tips.
Setting a budget for your holidays to Costa Rica
Costa Rica's currency and economy are very stable, so you don't need to have any particular worries about inflation during your holidays to Costa Rica. Costs are perhaps slightly higher than you might have expected for Central America, however. You're still looking at much lower prices than here in the UK, but much more than you might find in, for example, Thailand.
|1-course Lunch/Dinner (mid-range)
|3-course Lunch/Dinner (higher-end)
|Bottle of water
|Bottle of beer
||£1.50 (street/kiosk) / £2 (bar)
|Glass of wine
|Coffee / Tea