Costa Rica Currency,
Nice Design Awesome Value

Money, money, money... for some people as important as breathing or blood. But if you're traveling around Costa Rica possibly the prior sentence should be very important to consider, so let’s quickly check what you need to know to use the Costa Rica currency correctly.

The Basics

  • Since 1896 The official currency is the Colon in honor of Christopher Columbus.
  • The currency symbol is ₡ .
  • Before, it was known as 'Peso', so if someone asks, Hey dude do you have 1000 pesos? Do not be surprised some people still use that old name.
  • Dollars are accepted mostly in touristic places, not everywhere. Keep that in mind!
  • Do not be surprised; once you change your money you will have plenty of 'colones', very well for you.

Costa Rica Coins

The coins are fairly used in Costa Rica, so get ready to bear additional weight changes. The coins range from 5 to 500 Colones. The coins of 100 and 500 are the most widely used. I use coins every day so let me give you a little help with their value. For example look what you can purchase with each of them.

Costa Rica Currency Product you might purchase
₡ 5 Candy
₡ 10 Bubble gum
₡ 25 Candies
₡ 50 Small snack
₡ 100 Ice cream or cigarette
₡ 500 Bus fare

Costa Rica currency coin


By the end of 2009 the 20’s coin were removed because their similarity in size with the 500 coins because it was a huge problem for the blind population. There is also a project to make new higher value coins soon (₡ 1000-₡ 2000).

Costa Rica Currency, Do you have a Toucan ?

Here is where the money really is, if you like design then you will enjoy the Costa Rica money because is cute and colorful. In worth value order the colors are red, brown, light blue and blue; so the more blue ones the better, so for example.

Costa Rica Currency Product you might purchase
₡ 1.000 Three beers (cheap. Isn’t?)
₡ 2.000 Full breakfast
₡ 5.000 Full lunch + dessert
₡ 10.000 Dinner for two

Costa Rica currency money, bills


There is a project about changing the bills by new Braille ones to include the blind population for 2011. Besides that, the ‘Banco Central’ (Costa Rica currency issuer) plans to make 20,000 and 50,000 bills.

Three Strikes, you are out (ATM)

If you plan to use debit or credit card make sure with your bank that you are authorized to use it in Costa Rica, sometimes this as easy as making a call. If the answer is positive, you may consider the next information.

  • The most accepted cards are VISA, MasterCard, Cirrus and occasionally AMEX.
  • Dollars are also given by ATM, in most of them, especially private banks.
  • Most ATMs have information in English.
  • Usually the maximum withdrawal amount is 500 dollars.
  • If you fail at entering your PIN three times the card will be retained, and believe me recovering it will take you at least two days, so watch out this.
  • Use the credit card for large purchases, otherwise pay in cash.
  • ATM charges a small fee that you will see on your bank statement later on.
  • There are hundreds of ATM in Costa Rica, however make sure to withdraw money in downtown instead of doing it at the beach or mountains where there are not many.

Most of Costa Rican people's payday is the 15th and 30th and there will be long cues on the ATM, try avoid those dates if you are in a hurry otherwise enjoy practicing your Spanish language on the row.

Costa Rica currency atm, cajero automatico

Photo courtesy of Roloff


ATM turned off. If you are partying at night and need some cash, sorry you will not be able to withdraw it. For security reasons most atm's are locked from 10:00 pm to 5:00 am, so plan accordingly and enjoy the nightlife. So the 24h is not 100% true.

Costa Rica Currency Exchange,
1:500 Ratio Rule

If you need to exchange money you have a lot of different options. The most correct is one is going directly to an authorized Bank, however you can change dollars, even euros at most touristic places. Also note that you can pay with dollars, but in ninety nine percent of the places the 100 dollar bill are not accepted neither dollar, nickel or quarter coins.

When you are changing your dollars at an authorized bank there is no problem at all but if you do it anywhere else make sure to not pay less than 500 Colones for every dollar or she is taking some of your money, that why I called it 1.500 ratio, less than that. Watch out !

There is also a Black Market…which I do not recommend, but it is your call! There will be sometimes that you are walking downtown San Jose and strange people will offer you to exchange your dollars sometimes even at a lower rate, again it is your call ! I would stick to a recognized Bank or friends from the hotel I am staying.

If you take the first route then, here is a list of some of the major Banks that you can find in Costa Rica: Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, Banco Popular y de Desarrollo Comunal, Banco Crédito Agrícola de Cartago, Banco de Costa Rica (BCR), Banco de San Jose, Banco Uno, Scotiabank Costa Rica and Citibank Costa Rica, etc.

Costa Rica currency exchange conversion

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