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Travel costs are significantly higher here than in most Central American countries, but cheaper than in the USA or Europe. And if you're arriving from inexpensive Central American nations, such as Nicaragua, get ready to bust that wallet wide open.
Prices in Costa Rica are frequently listed in US dollars, especially at top hotels and restaurants, where you can expect to pay international prices. Most types of tours are charged in US dollars. In fact, US dollars are widely accepted, but the standard unit of currency is still the colon.
We warn you about Traveler's Checks! They are not wide accepted in Costa Rica, not even the banks. If not possible, always in dollars no other currency will be accepted
Counterfeiting is common in Central American Countries. For this reason, we recommend that you bring smaller bills with you for day to day needs. Many small businesses will not accept US Bills over $20 in value. In addition, torn, worn, or defaced bills are commonly refused in Costa Rica.
Consult your bank before traveling to Costa Rica to avoid potential "stop payments" on credit and ATM cards that may result when your bank sees unexpected transactions originating from a foreign country.
Raise your minimum daily withdrawal limit. In Costa Rica, cash is king - make sure that you have access to the money you need through the ATMs and banks here.
Most often there is a 13% processing fee or sales tax applied when using your Major Credit Cards in Costa Rica. You may also be subject to additional fees from your bank or card carrier back in the states. In many instances in Costa Rica you can avoid the additional sales tax by paying in cash.
ATMs - There are numerous Banks and ATMs in Costa Rica where you can easily pull both US Dollars and Costa Rican Colones out as needed. ATMs close at 10:00pm, so please plan accordingly. The average transaction fee from American Banks for the use of a Costa Rican ATM is between 1-5%. Please check with your bank for more information.
If posible do not use the money changers at the Airport. Huge fees apply, and since US Dollars are widely accepted here, it is not necessary. Furthermore, you can pull Costa Rican Colones out of the ATMs whenever you need them.
Regarding Tipping: It is customary to tip drivers and service industry workers 15-20% of the services rendered. Tipping is, of course, voluntary and should be based on the service you receive. In the case of restaurants, a standard 10% service fee is commonly added to the bill. If this is the case, it will be pointed out on the menu or clearly marked on a sign in the restaurant window or at the register. If you are uncertain, ask your server or host/hostess for more details. Adding an additional 10% is common when receiving good service.
Costa Rican currency is called the Colon. Often when you pay in USD for an item or service, you will be given Colones in change. The "Rule of 2" is a great way to understand the money here.