Understanding Costa Rica Banking & Money
Tico Money

Costa Rica Money

The following is general information about Banking and Money in Costa Rica that we feel may be useful to your group during your time here with us in Costa Rica.

Basic Guidelines


Do not bring Traveler’s Checks! No one accepts them in Costa Rica, not even the banks.


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.


Do not use the money changers at the airports. 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.


Most often there is a 15% 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.

Costa Rica Sunset

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.


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.


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.

Understanding Costa Rica Money

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. For instance:

  • 500 Colones – COIN MONEY = $1 USD
  • 1,000 Colones – PAPER MONEY (Locally called 1 Mil) = $2 USD
  • 2,000 Colones (2 Mil) PAPER MONEY = $4 USD
  • 5,000 Colones (5 Mil) PAPER MONEY = $10 USD
  • 10,000 Colones (10 Mil) PAPER MONEY = $20 USD
  • 150,000 Colones = $300 USD

A simple formula is to use the first digit you see on the bill or coin, multiply by 2, and then drop the last three 0’s to understand what you have in Dollars. For example: If you want to convert 2 mil Colones to dollars you will get 3,118.54 USD.

If you have any questions, please contact your agent or the Adventure Tours Office, and we will be happy to assist you with any of your questions about Costa Rica money.