1. You Can Use US Currency
You can pay in Colon, the local currency, or US dollars, and occasionally by credit card 😉 If paying with USD, they will calculate based on the most current accepted exchange rate. What’s funny is they might give you change back in Colon (which I think is kind of fun). I remember living in London and people asking if we accepted Euro at the store I worked at, when England uses the GB Pound. I thought it was hilarious that they would even ask! I guess this is proof it happens some places… but good luck finding a US store that will take Costa Rican Colon 😉
It’s smart to bring cash and assume you’ll use it – because everyone will accept it. Credit cards were excepted a lot of places, but not everywhere like we’re used to in the US.
Side note – 5 & 10 Colon coins are made out of aluminum. I could literally bend them with my fingers, which is crazy! But when you think about it, 5 colones is almost worth 1 penny…. but not quite. I actually think they’re on to something since our pennies cost us more to make than they are worth! But seeing bent coins made me laugh.
2. Everything (Local) is Very Affordable
When we visited in November, the exchange rate was a little less than 500Colon =$0.90 US. To make it easier, we just rounded up to $1 = 500c so we could do fast math. We went to dinner at Bamboo Sushi Club, and Matt ordered the Tuna Steak Special. I realized after he ordered, we never asked about the price! We joked about how it was going to be $50 or something crazy, but assumed it would be around $25, which isn’t the end of the world. When the dish made it to the table, the tuna steak was HUGE. Easily 12oz. When the bill came, we had to laugh – the tuna meal was just under 7000Colon, or around $12 US. Insanity! Can you imagine getting a fresh, perfect tun a steak for that price at any restaurant in the US?
On the flip side, some items at the grocery store were very expensive – anything imported has a high premium price. Luckily, all of the local, seasonal food is what makes Costa Rica such a delicious place, so stick to those!
3. It’s Developed – But Also Undeveloped
The water is safe to drink. The food is safe to eat. It’s a safe place to walk around at night. Everywhere has running water and free wifi and all the comforts you’re used to! But then you look, and many of the roads are unpaved and there are no sidewalks or actual traffic rules. I liked this about Costa Rica, because it felt like a real place – but I also could drink water from the tap without worrying 🙂
|we were walking on the “sidewalk”
|this is the center of town, and has a large section of paved road – but it drops of if you notice the huge mud puddles
4. It’s Wild!
We saw so many different types of birds, monkeys, sea snakes (don’t worry, they were dead), tons of huge iguanas, crabs, and other kinds of animals! The jungle comes right up to the ocean, so it’s really a unique little eco system. The only animal I hoped to see but didn’t was a sloth… but maybe next time. What’s cool is that we didn’t do any type of tour or excursion, these were just animals we saw around town. So fun!
|not the best photo, but this little bird was so pretty!
5. It’s Casual
And I mean casual. It’s the epitome of laid back surfer culture. Very no shoes, no shirt, no problem, attitude. Leave the heels at home, ladies, you won’t be able to use them here (and you wouldn’t want to since the roads are muddy and rocky and unpaved!) Even at the nicest restaurants, people were wearing cut off jean shorts and t shirts or tank tops. More about packing for Costa Rica here.
|Matt “dressed up” for dinner 😉
As you can see from the number of posts, we really loved Costa Rica. I think it was the perfect combination of tropical, comfortable, easy to get to, and easy to be there. It would be easy with kids, everything is very family friendly!