Costa Rican Money – Currency
The colón, named for Christopher Columbus, is Costa Rica’s official currency.
One of the most stable currencies in Latin America, the colón used to be
devaluated regularly, but a change in the Central Bank stopped that practice.
Fortunately, the fluctuations are relatively small when compared to the mega devaluations
and runaway inflation rampant in other Latin American countries.
Since your main source of income will probably be in dollars, you should not
worry too much about fluctuations unless you have large amounts of money
in colones, which is not advisable for long-term investments. Fluctuations
can be good because they increase your purchasing power until prices catch
up, however towards the end of 2009 the dollar dropped against the colón.
Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 25, 50,100 and 500 colones. Bills
come in 1000 (called rojos in slang), 2,000, 5000 (called tucanes in slang)
and 10,000 (called pumas in slang) colón denominations. The Central Bank
of Costa Rica (BCCR) will issue new bills in 2010. They will be different
sizes according to their denominations and both 20,000 and 50,000 colón
bills — about $35 and $88 respectively—will be introduced.
Also the older, silver-colored 5, 10 and 20 colón coins were removed
The rate of exchange, which is set by the Central Bank, was around 550
colones to the dollar as of April 2010. You may view exchange rates at http://
frmVerCatCuadro.aspx?Idioma=1&CodCuadro=400. You can also see
the current exchange rate or convert currency at http://www.xe.com/.
You can exchange money at most banks between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.,
Monday through Friday. Some banks are now open even later, and some are
open Saturday mornings as well. Remember to bring only U.S. currency, since
other monies are difficult and expensive to exchange. When you exchange
money at a bank, do so early in the morning because lines can be long later in
the day and you may have to wait for what seems like an eternity.You should
always carry your passport, a certified copy of your passport or pensionado
or resident I.D. when exchanging money or for other banking transactions.
Banks, businesses and most money changers do not accept damaged or
torn foreign currency. There is really no need to worry about changing money
since a large number of businesses in Costa Rica will accept U.S. dollars.
However, some may be reluctant to accept $50 or $100 bills.
Money can also be changed on the street, where you get the same rate
of exchange as in the banks. I advise against this because many slick change
artists distribute counterfeit bills or attempt to shortchange you.