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How Much Cash Do You Bring? ATM's & Pit Stops!

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We are trying to cut down on our credit card "foreign currency" charges by utilizing cash while in Costa Rica. Was curious what amount of cash you start out with while traveling. I know there must be some price point each person feels comfortable traveling with. Do you use money belts like Rick Steve?

Also, how prevalent are ATMS that dispense US dollars versus only colones. My Bank/ATM card will charge a flat fee (around $5 bucks per withdrawal) and NO additional charges if there is no currency conversion. I have read of these dollar giving ATM's but was wondering if anyone had first hand knowledge how common they are, or even where specifically to find them. We will be traveling from San Jose to Arenal, Arenal to the Bijagua area (La Carolina Lodge), then on to Playa Samara, and eventually back to San Jose. Some of our hotels also offer discounts (i.e. no sales tax) if paying in cash, so yet another reason to keep the credit cards out of the equation.

And finally, we will be driving ourselves to and from and points in between the above listed areas. Was wondering if anyone had any excellent pit stops to recommend or other places of interest worth a detour along our routes. We are traveling with our children ages 6 and 3.5, so I'm sure the stops will be frequent given their "tiny tanks."

Thanks in advance...

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