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Currency Exchange in Costa Rica: Tips for Your Next Trip

Currency of Costa Rica is colon and was introduced in 1896, the moment when the old peso was replaced at par.

The name of the colon comes from the great explorer Christopher Columbus who’s name in Spanish is Cristobal Colon.

What is the currency in Costa Rica

Colon, the Costa Rica currency is one of the oldest money in Latin America and today coins and banknotes are in use under the following values:

  • colones coins: 1,5 and 10 colones and also 25, 50 and 100 colones and 500 colones
  • colones bills: 1,000, 2,000, 5,000 colones as well as 10,0000, 20,000 and 50,000 colones

A unique thing about the coins is that when you place them on top of each other you will obtain the geometrical figure known as a cone.

In the obverse of the coins you put one on top of each other, you obtain the coat of arms of Costa Rica.

Currency of Costa Rica currency

Currency in CostaRica

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Currency of Costa Rica – evolution

Over the years there had been important variations of the exchange rate, so the Central Bank of Costa Rica decided to artificially lock the exchange rate of the colon.

So, between September 2006 and June 2014, Banco Centrale de CostaRica decided to block the rate between a minimum and a maximum rate.

The system that limits the exchange rate between a minim level- floor level and a maximum level – ceiling level is known as bandas cambiarias.

Money in Costa Rica Currency

Money in CR Currency

So for more than 10 years, the exchange rates have been locked at around 500 CRC to 1 dollar, the minimum level being locked at 500 CRC, while the maximum level was fixed at 865 CRC for 1 dollar.

But everything changed starting with June 2014, when the limits had been removed and the exchange rate is free to fluctuate based on market evolution.

Now, the Central Bank intervenes only when considers it is necessary and lets the currency float based on market evolution.

What currency in Costa Rica looks like

There had been at least three changes in the currency of Costa Rica design over the years, each change marking an important moment in history.

In 1838 the first change was recorded in 1838 and market the moment when Costa Rica separated from the Federal Republic of Central America.

Starting with this year on the Costa Rican money the old symbols were replaced with tobacco and coffee, the main products exported by the country during that period.

The year 1948 was marked by another change in currency design celebrating the moment when Costa Rica gained its independence.

This time a flag and a shield were the main symbols from the bills, replacing the old ones: tobacco and coffee.

Costa Rican Currency

Costa Rican Currency

And the last redesign of the currency was recorded recently, in 2012, when the national authorities decided to change once again the look of the currency in Costa Rica.

Now they introduced on Costa Rica money pictures with the most beautiful animals from their country: sloths, hummingbirds, white-faced monkeys, and morpho butterflies.

The new banknotes are considered among the most beautiful and colorful money in the whole world.

What is the currency of Costa Rica- exchange rate

Today the Costa Rica exchange rate CRC to Dollar fluctuates and it is around

1 CRC= 0,0016 USD

I drop you below some exchange rates to be easier for you to calculate your expenses while abroad:

1,000 Colones= 1.6 USD
2,000 Colones= 3.2 USD
5,000 Colones= 8 USD
10,000 Colones= 16 USD
20,000 Colones= 32 USD
50,000 Colones= 80 USD

How to get local money in Costa Rica

To get colones for your trip to Costa Rica you can choose the following options:

Buy Costa Rica currency from a bank

Now that you what currency is Costa Rica it’s time to move forward and see how to buy Costa Rican money for your trip to this magnificent country.

We always recommend you to get local currency from the national bank or private banks after you reach your destination.

Always check for the official exchange rate published by the National Bank of Costa Rica (Banco de Costa Rica) in order to be able to evaluate if the exchange rate offered by the seller is good for you.

Generally, the National Bank has the best exchange rate among all the banks in Costa Rica, but you can take a tour of the banks as surprises might appear.

What you need to know about exchanging money at a local bank is that you will need to waste a lot of time in the queue and not everybody speaks English.

So you might end up spending an hour or even more getting the Costa Rican colones from any bank office in the country.

And there is something else: banks ask the commission for each operation they do so you will pay a transaction fee for exchanging your money into colones.

We don’t recommend you to exchange the currency of Costa Rica from exchange offices as the exchange rate is extremely volatile and you might end up paying a lot more because of the hidden commissions.

Another place where you should not buy colones is at San Jose International Airport, as here you will find one of the worst rates from the whole country.


Withdraw Costa Rica colones from any ATM machine

This way of getting money into a foreign country is among my favorite ones, especially because I have a 0 fee card.

So, the first thing you need to do before traveling to Costa Rica is to get a card that has no commissions and fees for foreign transactions.

ATMs are widely spread around the country, and you will find such machines in almost every village and town in the country.

Costa Rica ATM

Costa Rica ATM

Withdrawing money from an ATM is fast, easy, and extremely cost-effective, as the exchange rate used is the one practiced by the card owner and it is generally very close to the official exchange rate.

Some ATMs might have a withdrawal commission of 1 USD -max 3 USD, but at least you don’t have to wait in the queue or speak Spanish to get local currency.

But you don’t need to have colones in order to pay your expenses while in Costa Rica as debit cards and credit cards are widely accepted and you can also pay with US dollars.

Like I said earlier, get a 0 commission card and use it to pay at restaurants, bars, and stores as cards are widely accepted in Costa Rica.

You can also choose to pay with US dollars for your items bought but bear in mind that you will get the change in local currency and each shop, restaurant and bar has its own exchange rate that will vary from the official rate.


The currency of Costa Rica is not difficult to get and this should not be a problem for you if you plan your trip to this country.

Make sure you have a 0 commission card and notify your bank before you leave your home country about your trip so that the bank won’t classify your transactions as suspicious.

Have a 4 digits PIN for your card so that you can use it while abroad and get some 1 United States dollar bills to have in case you need them.


Logistical tips and tricks for your trip

Book your accommodation
We always use as they have the best price-quality ratio and they offer a wide range of hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and villas to choose from.

You will find here all types of accommodations, from the cheapest ones to the most luxurious.

Don't forget travel insurance
We never leave home without HeyMondo Insurance or Safety Wings Insurance as they offer the best services and a good value for money.

When we go for longer trips around the world we get Globelink Insurance as it offers a good cover for an affordable price.

Travel insurance will always protect you against unexpected costs caused by medical events like illness, injury, theft, or travel cancellation.

We never go on any trip without travel insurance and there were many cases when we had to use it.

Renting a car
We like to explore a country on our own and a car gives us the mobility and freedom to do that.

We always rent our car from Discovercars as they have free cancellation 48 hours prior to starting date and a wide range of car rental companies and options to choose from all over the world.

Tours and attractions
When we are looking for some adventure or we simply want to break up the monotony and discover new places, we always use GetYourGuide.

We love it because we always find the most amazing experiences, with free cancellation and a large variety of activities and tours to choose from.

Airplane tickets and holiday packages
Expedia is our ally when searching for the best price for airplane tickets as it works as an aggregator for a huge number of airlines and we always find the best price for our flights.

Travel tip: use Expedia when you are searching for holiday packages as they have many last-minute offers and great discounts for hotels, flights, and even the whole holiday packages.