There is an ATM machine and branch of Banco Popular near Café de Paris in Playa Guiones. The ATM accepts Visa/Cirrus branded cards but not Mastercard, and dispenses currency in either Colones or US dollars. There are other ATM machines in Nicoya and Samara that accept Mastercard branded cards, including those operated by Banco Nacional. The bank will exchange your dollars, and while virtually all merchants accept dollars, they may not offer the best exchange rate. Be sure to have your passport or ID with you, even when just exchanging currency. A book may be handy as well if many people are waiting, but the air conditioned lobby is nice!
Check the exchange rate before travelling, it is about 570 Colones per dollar as of this posting. You can see the current rate at Banco National’s website at http://www.bncr.fi.cr/BN/index.asp?c=home
Some restaurants and lodgings do not accept credit cards; you should check beforehand. Traveler’s checks are less accepted, so don’t rely on them unless your hotel has confirmed they will exchange them.
If you are carrying a large amount of cash, use a secure money belt, something that cannot be taken from you if you are distracted. You will find yourself getting very relaxed in Nosara, so don’t forget basic security precautions.
Something to consider when you are using a credit or debit card outside the U.S. are the so-called currency conversion fees. Most U.S. bank-issued credit cards add a 3% fee to transactions outside the U.S. On the plus side, you are given the most favorable exchange rate. A very useful website that shows the charges imposed by different credit cards is at:
You will also pay more for your ATM withdrawals. An added 2% exchange rate fee is typical, along with other fees your bank may charge you for ‘off-us’ transactions. These fees may be annoying but are typically part of the price of foreign travel.
Restaurants and hotels in Costa Rica pay higher fees to banks here than is typical in the U.S., and they are allowed to add these fees to the customers’ bills as an added item. You might save money by paying in cash, and should ask if there is an extra charge for using your credit card.
Also, it is a common practice here for restaurants to automatically add a 10% tip, marked on the check as ‘propina’ or tip. A little extra tip, possibly your loose change, is a standard practice for customers. There is also a hefty tax that should be added to restaurant and hotel bills. If you don’t see it, you may follow the local custom and not ask too many questions Don’t forget the $26 per person departure tax that you must purchase at the airport before going to your ticket gate. They only accept cash and Visa branded cards. The card transaction may be processed as a cash advance, which may entail extra fees and interest charges.
Travel safely, and with a little extra planning you can save some money as well!