By far the easiest exchange calculation for travelers from the U.S. is to simply spend dollars. Many things along the tourist trail are priced in U.S. dollars because of instability in the local currency – the Costa Rican Colón. If you do find yourself spending colones you can use the super simple exchange equivalencies below to know about how much you’re spending.
Update for 2017 – After nearly a decade around ¢500 the Colón is now steady at about ¢550. You can still use the easy estimate to get an idea of how much things cost and will be pleasantly surprised to get extra change back – a ¢50,000 price tag is now only $90 instead of $100. However, if you only get ¢500 to the dollar in an exchange transaction you’re getting ripped off.
The old calculation was much easier but don’t complain too much because the devaluation of the Colón means now you get more Costa Rican currency per U.S. dollar, British pound, Euro or Canadian dollar. Of course prices have gone up too…
With the current exchange rate around ¢550 per dollar you should expect to get the equivalents shown it the image above.
The Old Easy Estimate
Prices are often posted in dollars and colones making it unnecessary to do a conversion, but for the times when do need to convert it’s very easy. Prior to February 2014 when the currency took a nosedive this estimate was pretty exact. Now it’s helpful to get a general idea of how much things cost when looking at a price tag or menu but when doing the exchange you should request the actual current rate.
So as shown in the image a 5 mil colones bill is almost a 10 dollar bill, 10 mil colones a 20 dollar bill and 50 mil colones is nearly a hundred bucks.
Just do the same for prices, although there you won’t see such round numbers and instead of saying “mil” the price tags probably show the full number. It’s still easy though, just change the comma to a decimal point and double it.