The national currency is called the colón. Bank notes are available in denominations of 1,000 colones, 2,000 colones, 5,000 colones, 10,000 colones, and 20,000 colones. Coins are used for amounts less than 1,000 colones.
ATM machines are plentiful in Costa Rica and using your ATM card will generally give you the best exchange rate available. Be flexible, though, as sometimes machines are out of order. Check with your bank beforehand to find out how much you will be charged each time you make a withdrawal.
In addition to bringing an ATM card to obtain cash, it is smart to bring a credit card as well. Hospitals often require a credit card number to treat students. ISA resident directors cannot and will not charge student medical visits to an ISA credit card. For this reason, you need a credit card for medical emergencies.
Traveler's checks are often difficult to use. Please note that many students have found that Visa traveler's checks are not accepted.
Western Union (800-777-7777) has numerous offices around San Jose and in several major towns and cities around the country. It offers a secure and rapid, although pricey, money-wire service, as well as telegram service.
What is the Colón worth compared to the dollar?
With the Colón and the Dollar in constant flux, please see www.oanda.com for up-to-date exchange rates. While traveling, it may be helpful to carry a portable currency converter.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in San José is, in general, comparable to cost of living in the United States. While some things can be much less expensive than in the United States, other things may be much more expensive. In general travel/transportation is much less expensive, food is generally comparable, electronics, etc. are generally more expensive.
When budgeting keep in mind that it is always better to overestimate than underestimate. To give you an idea of common approximate expenses a typical student will incur, please see the brief list below.
Public Transportation $10 - $15/week
Additional Estimated Expenses
The ISA program cost includes items such as tuition and fees, housing, insurance, and more. To view what is included in your program price, please visit the What's Included section of the ISA San José program page.
The Additional Estimated Expenses sheet in the Accepted Students section of the ISA website has the following estimated expenses listed:
The ISIC card is an internationally recognized student ID card that gives students thousands of discounts worldwide from travel to cinema, meals and more. ISA students who purchase a flight through STA are eligible to receive an ISIC card.
For students who do not book their ticket through STA, it is recommended that they look into purchasing an ISIC card for their studies in Costa Rica. To find out how to get an ISIC card, visit www.isic.org. Once there, you can find information on discounts in Costa Rica, and what is needed to obtain an ISIC card.