Costa Rica Living – Money exchange is a concern at every border. There are always either people screaming “Cambio! Cambio! You need local money!” or currency exchange stands with bright signs saying the same.
My first piece of advice for those of you wondering if you need to get colones in Costa Rica and if so, where to do it is to know the official exchange rate. We have smart phones with instant access to that information. In today’s age no one should get ripped off because they didn’t know.
My second piece of advice is never exchange money in any airport. US Dollars are accepted almost everywhere, as long as they are $20 or less. Make a trip to the bank before your trip and get out about $40 in singles to hand out to people who help you in the airport, taxi drivers, etc. Bring a couple of $20 bills to pay for meals. At restaurants you will usually get fair change in colones. If the official rate, for example, is 552 colones to the dollar, you might get 546 at a restaurant or a shop.
On that same day, where the rate is 552, you will get only 463 at the airport’s currency exchange stand. The sign says “0% commission” but that’s 100% a lie. That’s a commission of more than 15%!
It would be nice if the ICT or any government agency would regulate these outrageous advertisements, but they don’t- so be in the know.
Really, it’s not necessary to have any colones. If you’re really nervous that you will need them just exchange a $20 bill at a restaurant. In no case should you take out $100 bills at an airport, especially not near a currency exchange stand.
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