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A question we get often from tourists and new residents is: how and where do I exchange money in Costa Rica? Costa Rica’s national currency is the colón (CRC), named after Christopher Columbus, who sighted Costa Rica in 1502 on his third voyage to the continent.
While credit cards and US dollars are readily accepted in stores and tourist businesses, you’ll want to have some Costa Rican colones on hand — especially for the smaller purchases, and if you’ll be visiting remote regions and beach areas.
Our suggestion is to use local bank ATMs, where you will get the rate set by your own bank. Make sure to check with your bank on foreign transaction and currency fees, though. As of this writing, the best bank ATMs to use here to withdraw colones are Banco Nacional, since they don’t charge a fee and you can take out a lot of colones in one withdrawal.
To exchange money at any of the banks or outlets, you will need valid identification as Costa Rica defines it. For foreigners, valid ID is either:
- a passport with valid Costa Rica entry stamp; or
- a valid residency card, such as a DIMEX (not expired)
There are typically no exceptions to this rule due to financial industry regulations.
Exchange US Dollars in Costa Rica
Exchanging US dollars is by far the easiest task. All banks in Costa Rica accept US dollars and almost all of them open accounts in dollars. You’ll also notice that many prices in the country are quoted in dollars, such as hotel stays.
To exchange US dollars in Costa Rica, some banks are open on weekends as well, usually the ones in the malls and commercial centers. There is also Servimás inside of Walmart and Mas x Menos locations that can exchange dollars to colones without much hassle.
Exchange Euros in Costa Rica
Many banks in Costa Rica are able to exchange your euros to colones. These are typically the opens that open euro currency accounts for their clients.
Here are a few banks that can exchange euros in Costa Rica:
- Banco Nacional
- Banco de Costa Rica
- BAC Credomatic
Exchange Canadian Dollars in Costa Rica
If you brought Canadian dollars to Costa Rica and are wondering what to do with them, you’re in luck. Scotiabank can exchange Canadian dollar cash to Costa Rican colones, and the exchange rate is actually pretty good.
Exchange Other Currencies in Costa Rica
Here’s where things can get complicated. Other currencies can be exchanged at the airport and possibly some other limited locations, but the exchange rate and fees will be brutal.
If you have other currencies and you happen to be in San José, you can exchange them for colones at the Banco de Costa Rica’s central office in downtown San José, on Calle 4 and Avenida 2. Locals refer to that building as “Banco Negro.”
At Banco Negro you can exchange euros (EUR), US dollars (USD), British pound sterling (GBP), Swiss francs (CHF), Canadian dollars (CAD), Guatemalan quetzales (CTQ), Honduran lempiras (HNL), Colombian pesos (COP), Mexican pesos (MXN) and Nicaraguan córdobas (NIO). Hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. The exchange office (Oficina Cambio de Moneda) has its own street entrance on the east side of the building.