Special Notice: We strongly advise you NOT to bring US one-hundred-dollar bills on your trip to Costa Rica. Central America has been inundated with false bills and you will find everyone, including the banks, unwilling to accept them. In fact, the banks may confiscate them. Stick with smaller denomination bills, traveler's checks or credit cards.
A further note about US bills in general--Be sure the bills you bring are in good condition. Small tears or missing pieces will render them useless in this country.
Current exchange rates at the various Costa Rican financial institutions can be followed on the Central Bank's Web site at http://www.bccr.fi.cr. This link to "Anunciados en Ventanilla por entidades participantes" takes you to a page where the day's exchange rates at the various financial institutions are published.
The buy rate is the amount of colones Costa Rican banks will give you for each of your dollars. The sell rate is how many colones it will take to get one US dollar in a Costa Rican financial institution.
The evolution of the Costa Rican Colon exchange rate against the U.S. Dollar can be divided into four phases. (Source: "The Rate of Exchange in Costa Rica" by Luis Carlos Peralta and Johnny Alvarado)
- The exchange rate showed minimal variations. It was protected by the modified gold standard, adopted during the implementation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and was based on the price of gold fixed by the United States, with one exchange rate between all countries. At the beginning of the 70s the U.S. stopped converting dollars to gold because of internal problems. The dollar began to fall in the international markets. Countries fixed an upper and lower limit in order to try to control prices. The Colon's value passed eight to the dollar in 1973 but managed to remain below nine until 1979.
- Costa Rica saw an economic crisis during this period. It adopted a liberalization policy for the exchange rate in the face of a failure of division of power in the Central Bank, and free floating currency. The exchange rate quadrupled during this four-year period.
- The Central Bank established a policy of "mini-devaluations," which helped economic decision making and price calculations. There was a disadvantage in that the setting of the rate was very subjective.
- The exchange rate was liberalized in 1992, causing a period of instability. The Bank soon returned to the mechanism of "mini-devaluations," which remains in effect today. There [has been] talk about returning to a scheme of a free floating currency, with limits. However, no surprises in the behavior of the exchange rate policies [have occurred].
US Dollar Exchange Buy Rate - Ten-year Trend
- On Oct 17, 2006, Costa Rica's Central Bank began a new "crawling band" system of regulation where the bank stipulates a range within which the various money institutions are free to set their buying and selling price against the US dollar. The bank indicates this is to be the first in a series of steps it is initiating in an effort to reach a point where the Colon is fully liberalized and free to fluctuate against the US dollar as the market dictates.
- The Central Bank will publish a daily reference rate that will be the average of the previous day's public buying and selling rates at the various financial institutions. This will be used for establishing exchange rates used in such things as Customs duties, court settlements and airport exit taxes.