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Costa Rica Money and Tipping Customs in Costa Rica

Exchanging Currency, ATM Machines, Using US Cash & Advice on Tipping

The Costa Rican Money – the Colon is colorful and includes pictures of some of Costa’s Rica’s wildlife – sharks, monkeys, sloths and butterflies.  They come in 1000, 2000, 5,000, 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 colones denominations.  In fact, the exchange rate with Costa Rica money is always fluctuating and is currently around 550 colones to the dollar.  However, for the most current exchange rates, check the site of the Central Bank of Costa Rica

Exchanging Us Dollars To Costa Rica Money

When you arrive, you may exchange your money for Costa money or colones at local banks. Some upscale hotels will exchange money for their guests. You will get the best exchange rates inside banks. Avoid changing Costa Rica money inside the airport or on the street to ensure that you get the best exchange rate.  

Costa Rica MoneyUsing US Cash

US dollars are widely accepted in Costa Rica. Bring low denominations – using $1, $5, $10 and $20 denominations should not be a problem. The bills will need to be in good condition as they will not be accepted if they are ripped or torn.  The larger the bill, the more perfect it needs to be.  Bills larger than $20 are difficult and might have to be changed at a bank.  You will most likely receive your change in the local currency: colones.  

Colorful Currency in Costa Rica

The money system in Costa Rica is not that confusing, so you shouldn’t be too worried about trying to figure it out. A quick reference point is that everything is a multiple of five.

500 colones is equivalent to approximately one dollar. 5000 colones is approximate $10. The exchange rate may go up or down, but it won’t make that much difference in everyday purchases.  The different bills are brightly colored and have lots of interesting pictures about Costa Rican culture and history. Besides, you will feel much wealthier when you realize your $100 is worth an astounding 50,000 colones!

ATM Machines

You may get local colones using your ATM card. It’s important that you know the exchange rate before you do this. You should check with your bank regarding their policy for foreign ATMs, fees, limitations, etc.  Local ATM’s fees will vary, just like home. Be mindful when using ATMs and make sure that you are in a safe area.  

Credit Cards

Credit cards are widely accepted by most businesses in Costa Rica. Contact your credit card providers to let them know you are traveling and ask them if any foreign transaction fees apply.  Some times you will get a better price paying in cash rather than use a card, especially when you are negotiating.  

Tipping in Costa Rica

Unfortunately, there is no definitive guide for Tipping in Costa Rica, and it’s a hard topic as people have different views on when and how much to tip. Tips are appreciated, and your guides and drivers will be used to receiving them.

Drivers & Guides:
Depends on how much time and effort each guide or driver spent with you, $10, $20 or $40 is certainly appreciated based on the level of service you feel you received.

Tipping taxi drivers are almost unheard of, but if you feel the urge, it will be well received!

Leaving a tip is not required for servers. Restaurants in Costa Rica add a 10% service charge to your bill. Also if you receive exceptional service, we recommend leaving an additional 10%.

For porters, 500 colones (about $1) per bag is a fair gratuity.

Above all, we hope that you find this information useful and that you are getting excited about your upcoming trip to Costa Rica. 


Costa Rica Money and Tipping Customs in Costa Rica
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