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 August 2016 – After nearly a decade around ¢500 the Colón has started to weaken significantly and is down to about ¢550. The easy conversion described below is off by a bit but if you use it to estimate costs you’ll be pleasantly surprised to have money left over because everything is about 5-10% cheaper than the quick exchange shows (¢50,000 bill is really about $90 instead of $100).
The Easy Conversion
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. As long as you’re not worried about getting it exactly correct down to a fraction of a penny you can simply double the number shown on the Costa Rican currency and that’s its value in dollars.
So as shown in the image a 5 mil colones bill is equivalent to a 10 dollar bill, 10 mil colones a 20 dollar bill and 50 mil colones is 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.
So a for a price tag of ¢2,000 you would change the comma to get 2.000 then double it to get $4.00. ¢45,200 for a hotel room would become 45.200 and double it to get $90.40.