Banking in Costa Rica

Information on the banking system in Costa Rica...

There are both government-run and private banks in operation in Costa Rica.

Public banks can be found in most towns throughout the country. Deposits in state-run banks are guaranteed by the Costa Rican government and are therefore considered safer, although they tend to have long queues and may not have English-speaking staff.

Private banks are often managed on a regional or international level and usually have a wider choice of services. Service is generally quicker and more efficient but branches are often limited to tourist areas and the Central Valley.

The currency in Costa Rica is the colón, and because both the ? or the $ symbol is used, it can be confusing. Bank notes are in denominations of 500, 1,000, 5,000 and 10,000. Coins are in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 25, 50, 100 and 500. The five-coin denomination, though, is being taken out of use.

It is advisable to change foreign currency at a bank or an official exchange office (casa de cambio). US dollars are often accepted in shops, hotels, and taxis, especially in the capital, San José, and in tourist areas.

Note: Numbers are often written with a decimal point. For example, five thousand is written as 5.000,00.

Major Costa Rican Retail Banks

Major Private Banks