A few banks in the capital will change a handful of non-US-currencies, but rates are generally very poor. Outside of San José, US dollars are the only way to go. Non-US travelers should buy US dollars before they arrive in Costa Rica. There is occasional talk of linking the Colón to the US dollar, and you can change cash US dollars almost everywhere.
Banks tend to be slow in changing money, especially the four state-run institutions (Banco Nacional, Banco Central, Banco de Costa Rica , and Banco Popular), where it can sometimes almost take an hour. Private banks (Banco San José, Banex, Banco Interfin, and many others) tend to be faster.
Banking hours are 9am to 3 pm weekdays, though in San José the banks open by 8:30am and many remain open till 4:00pm. Carry your passport when changing money.
Hotels and Travel Agencies sometimes give the same rates as the banks, and much faster an more convenient. Most allow only guests and customers to use their services, although some places will serve outsiders - it's worth trying. Another drawback is that they have limited cash resources and sometimes don't have enough colones. Some hotels charge a commission.
Changing money on the streets is not recommended, except possibly at land borders where you have no other choice. Street changers don't give better rates, and scammers abound. A favorite scam is for the changer to say that the police is coming, and give you back your dollars - except that the dollars are counterfeit. Always count your colones carefully before handing over your dollars.
Pictures by Jörn Malek. The team of 1-CostaRicaLink and Costa-Rica-Information-Mobile wishes you the best of times in our little paradise called Costa Rica.
Text by Lonely Planet.
This Web-Site is managed by Angela Malek, Ciudad Colón, province of San José, CR-10701 Costa Rica, Central America.