AEC highly recommends that you do not bring cash over $200 with you to Costa Rica. Though Costa Rica is considered one of the safest countries in the Western Hemisphere, we do not want our students to be put into a position of having their entire trip ruined do to theft or loss of substantial amounts of cash.
ATM cards are the best way to handle cash while in Costa Rica. ATM’s provide you with Costa Rican “colones” at the most current conversion rate. That way you only need to bring cash in smaller amounts and can refresh your supply as needed through ATM transactions. Note that many businesses, drivers and taxis accept U.S. dollars. Most ATM’s offer a US dollar withdrawal as an option as well! Remember to place a travel notification with your bank and Credit Card Co. so you can access your cash in Costa Rica. Check with your personal bank about charges that might accrue from withdrawing money at a foreign ATM.
As of July, 2016 there is an ATM that conveniently gives colones (CR) or U.S. dollars in the baggage claim at the SJO airport.
All major credit cards are accepted in Costa Rica, but it’s important to inquire at each establishment whether they accept tarjetas de credito (credit cards.) o Many places only accept cash (efectivo) in Dollars or Colones.
Be sure to check with your credit card company before leaving the US about foreign transaction fees. o Set a travel notification with your credit account so they don’t suspect fraud with your purchases made in Costa Rica.
Fewer Costa Rican businesses and restaurants accept Traveler’s checks for purchases. They are also limiting the type of Traveler’s checks they deem acceptable.
AEC doesn’t recommend using traveler’s checks, thus avoiding the hassle of finding a place to cash them.