Costa Rica’s currency is extremely confusing for the first time visitor.

1,000 colones. 10,000 colones. Monkeys on the bills. Monopoly colored notes. Who even cares how much a round of shots are for your squad, you’re on vacation!



You worked hard for the money.

And Costa Rica isn’t the cheapest place in the world.

And as much as the Pura Vida vibe permeates this tropical paradise, there’s still some bad operators who will try to scam you.


The easiest way to tell how much something is in U.S. dollars is by doubling the amount it is in colones and dropping a few zeros.

For example, a meal for a family of four that costs 40,000 colones is equivalent to $80.


It isn’t equal to that.

You see, the dollar has strengthened recently. $1 now equals approximately 551 colones.

So, the 40,000 colones meal mentioned above is actually only $72.54.

Some of the restaurants and businesses in Costa Rica will bring you the bill and ask for $80 when it should only be $72.54.

Yes, $8.46 isn’t that much money. But, it’s money that you worked hard for and you deserve not to get ripped off.


So, the best way NOT to get ripped off in Costa Rica is to follow these 5 simple steps:

  1. Always pay in Colones
  2. Don’t exchange dollars for Colones at the airport
  3. Set up a free checking account with Charles Schwab that gives you FREE ATM withdrawals in Costa Rica.
  4. Withdraw money from your checking account in Colones, NOT dollars.
  5. If you pay with Credit Card, be aware that the exchange rate varies depending on the business. (Check the receipt for the rate prior to running your card)

It’s that simple.

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