General Questions about Costa Rica

Old Jan 29th, 2011, 06:13 PM
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General Questions about Costa Rica

I have some questions about Costa Rica...I have read about retailers prefering cash to credit to avoid high fees (or charging you the difference) but what about traveler's checks. I am assuming also, we can cash them in at front desk of our hotel (like in mexico or caribbean). Do we need to exchange money or do they except american currency...? What about atm's - ie high fees, hard to find, etc. We are just trying to avoid having a lot of cash as we travel but don't want to pay extra for using cards and what not.

Secondly, we would love recommendations for restaurants in the Tamarindo area. We are looking for all price points and specialties.
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Old Jan 29th, 2011, 06:57 PM
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To summarize the answers you'll find if you look like I did:
Don't bring traveler's checks, not widely accepted and fees.
ATMs widely available and dispense both Colones and fair-exchange $. Card on "Plus" ATM network is best. Check your bank's fees but generally reasonable and the way to go. US $ widely accepted esp. in near-airport areas like Tamarindo, but good to have some Colones too. Arrive with starter quantity of crisp, good-condition greenbacks in denominations of $20 or less.
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Old Jan 29th, 2011, 07:02 PM
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Agree; I wouldn't use traveler's checks because a lot of places won't accept them. We generally use a mix of cash and credit cards, but the issuer of your credit card will often charge a foreign transaction fee on top of the cost of the purchase, usually 1-3% depending on your bank. It will just show up on your credit card bill as a fee. There are cards that don't charge the fee - I've heard that Capital One doesn't charge it but haven't checked into it personally. U.S. dollars have been accepted everywhere we've gone. We usually pay in U.S. and get change back in colones.
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 06:42 AM
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Yes, like others have said forgo the traveler's checks. They're difficult enough to use in Europe anymore, much more so in Central America.

My only restaurant rec for Tamarindo is La Laguna del Cocodrilo Bistro. Be sure to try to the tasting menu they offer each night, excellent.

My other suggestion is to eat at a soda (if not two) while in CR. They're best equated to a family run diner of sorts, and I found them to have the best and authentic Tico cuisine.

Good luck!
(My travel writing blog!)
librarychica85 is offline  
Old Jan 30th, 2011, 06:53 AM
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TCs have gone the way of the Dodo avoid hard to cash big fees Venture Visa taken widely no FE fees

can dispute all charges works best for me ATM local money

from big Banks while there safest... bood hotel/food also new ocean front rooms best.

Have fun,
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Old Jan 30th, 2011, 07:31 PM
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NOBODY wants your travelers checks !!
USD are widely accepted.

You may find like I did that it is better to withdraw from ATMs in USD. Usually you'll be able to make a larger withdrawal, and the fees may be lower. My hotel did a bit of foreign exchange for me, everyone knows the going rate, just give them some warning so they have the cash on hand.
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Old Feb 1st, 2011, 07:25 AM
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Many (if not most) places take USD, but will give change usually in Colones. Local restaurants (Sodas) which is the best deal for food, will take Colones only and no credit card. We are Canadian and we go to CR taking USD, and then go to a bank machine and also get out Colones. We use up the Colones before leaving (since we can't exchange it back), but we can take USD home to exchange. I would definitely not bother with travellers cheques, really what is the point?
Andrea_loves_travel is offline  
Old Feb 1st, 2011, 11:35 PM
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Well I guess the point really would be to avoid taking thousands of dollars in cash in hand...we plan on booking diving and most dive shops will charge you the 5% credit fee and then add the 3-5% FE that the card adds. You don't want to add 10% to a thousand dollars worth of diving your booking...if that makes sense - cash always works better and if you can cash these out at you hotel then why bother with credit or atms, otherwise I would never bother with TC's.
I see now that we are going to just have to eat exchange rates and fees somehwere, be that when we purchase checks or when we use a card...was just trying to save some money somewhere...Oh well.
Thanks for the opinions.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2011, 06:12 AM
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We have accounts at two local banks in our town that do not charge any fees for using any ATMs, whether they belong to the bank itself or to another bank. So we relied almost completely on ATM withdrawals in Costa Rica. No fees. Definitely saved money compared with using credit cards or major-bank ATM cards.
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Old Feb 2nd, 2011, 06:30 AM
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The bottom line is that you can't avoid paying a fee somewhere when spending money in a foreign country. You try to minimize these extra costs, but nothing is free, and you have to look on it as the price of convenience when dealing with another currency.

Your hometown bank might not charge you any fee for a cash withdrawal, but the ATM in Costa Rica will. I just withdrew 50,000 colones at an ATM here yesterday (about $100) and a notice popped up on the screen, as always, telling me what the fee would be. It was about 2%.

Your hometown credit card might not charge you any fees to use it in a foreign country, but the business in Costa Rica will to offset the high processing fees it must pay.

Almost no business accepts TCs as payment. You can go to a bank and exchange them for colones. You'll endure the long lines for which Costa Rican banks are famous and you'll pay a commission for exchanging the checks. The business certainly doesn't want to have to do that with your TCs.

The "Everybody takes dollars" approach to traveling in Costa Rica ends up costing you something too. The business will calculate a price using an exchange rate that's less favorable than the bank rate.
Jeff_Costa_Rica is offline  
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