Oct 27 2013

Questions and Answers: Converting Money Into Colones

If you are thinking about moving to Costa Rica (or anywhere unfamiliar, for that matter), you have lots of questions and are searching for the answers. We get a lot of questions here at Retire for Less in Costa Rica, and often, we get the same questions more than once. So we’re starting a new feature in our newsletter called “Questions & Answers.” Here’s this month’s question:

Eric asks, “My question is about what to do about money when I come for my visit. Will I need to convert money to the colon to spend or will I be able to use the US dollar? If I need to convert then how will I go about doing that? Will local banks convert or ?? Also will I be able to use my debit card at an ATM to get more funds as needed.”

While some places in tourist locations will accept dollars, you will need colones for many of your day-to-day expenses, especially in smaller towns. Just bring your debit or credit card and a small amount of cash with you. You can go into any bank and (1) withdraw money from their “cajero automático” (ATM), then (2) take the dollars into the bank along with your passport and ask them to change it into colones. It’s usually as easy as giving the person at the window your passport and the cash, and saying “colones, por favor.” FYI, in our experience, the maximum amount you can withdraw from an ATM is $700 in one transaction because of the size of the stacked bills coming through the dispensing unit.

Before your visit, you should check with your home bank regarding the following:

  1. Do they have an affiliate banks in Costa Rica where you would not incur an ATM fee?
  2. If not, what is the fee your bank charges per ATM transaction?
  3. Do you need to notify anyone at your bank that you will be traveling to Costa Rica for a specified amount of time?

While you can also use your debit or credit card to pay for many transactions, you will often save money by paying in cash. Read more about it here.

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