Saturday, December 27, 2008

Money, money, money!

I added a little exchange rate widget to the right-hand side of this blog. I figured it's something people are probably interested in knowing. I used US dollars because it's the currency of choice here after the colon (maybe even moreso than the colon, come to think of it). I am pretty sure that most, if not all, banks offer accounts in dollars, and a couple of them have started offering accounts in Euros as well. Something to keep in mind is that the exchange rate system changed a year or two ago, whereby there is not one rate as there used to be, but a "band" that the rate floats between, depending on the bank. Don't ask me more than that, because accounting is not my strong point. I generally do business here in colones, though I keep my money in a dollars account. Whatever my bank's exchange rate is is what I go with. So even though my account is in dollars, I can use my debit card for that account anywhere and the bank automatically does the exchange to colones.

If you are coming here for a trip, you might be tempted to buy colones before you get here. My advice is DON'T! The exchange rates are so poor abroad, and US dollars so widely accepted here, that there is absolutely no need to do this. You can pay for almost anything in dollars here. If you really feel the need to exchange your money, there's a bank or two at the airport, and you can do it there. It is easier to pay for things in colones, but there's no reason to make the exchange before you arrive in Costa Rica.

Buses are an exception. You have to pay with colones on public buses, as far as I am aware. And they will bitch and moan if you pass them a large bill (anything over 1,000 colones), so it's best to have a few thousand on you if you plan on taking buses. Cab drivers, especially airport cabs, will usually take dollars, though I'd play it safe there and ask before getting in. Again, cabbies will pitch a fit if they have to break a "large" bill (why the equivalent of $10 is considered large, I can't say, but that's just the way it is!), so have small bills on hand for paying cabs. If you're taking private transpo (like Interbus), you can most likely pay with dollars.

The other thing to know is that if you give someone a $10 bill to pay for something in dollars, you will get colones back. And you cannot pay for anything with coins; again, don't ask me why, it's just the way it is. Make sure you know the exchange rate if you plan on using dollars, or you may get ripped off. I have to admit I've been ripped off this way, and I even knew what the rate was. It wasn't much, but just the fact of the matter is enough to piss you off. When the rate is around 500 colones to the dollar, it's easy to calculate in your head. Or pay in colones and you don't have to worry. If you are paying with a credit card, just make sure the exchange is correct before they run your card. Having a transaction reversed or removed is a serious pain in the ass here and can take up more of your time than you may wish to give (ask me how I know).

I guess that's about it! Unless I've forgotten something, which is entirely possible probable. I hope I haven't confused you too much! If there is anything else you want to know about using dollars vs. colones or the exchange rate, feel free to leave a comment and I'll answer it if I can.

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