Most, though not all, tourism businesses accept major credit cards. Visa seems to be the most widely accepted. There is often a surcharge for credit card transactions.
American Express credit cards are often not accepted, but only American Express traveler's checks are accepted at banks.
In the provinces: There are banks in virtually every tourist destination now, with ATMs. Often the provincial banks' process is faster for changing travelers checks.
San José banks: Banks are open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and some branches stay open until 5 p.m. State-owned banks (Banco de Costa Rica, Banco Nacional de Costa Rica, Banco Popular, Banco de Crédito Agrícola) are more crowded. The many private banks such as Banex, Scotiabank and BAC are quicker, and the money-changing process is simpler.
On the street: Don't risk changing money on the street. A common changer's scam is to pretend to panic and run because "the police are coming"--before you have time to count the colones he has given you. They're experts in folding bills so that the stack appears larger.
Special note for Canadians: All branches of Banco de Costa Rica (Avenidas 2/Central, Calles 4/6; 2287-9000) and Banco Nacional de Costa Rica (Calles 2/4, Avenidas 1/3; 2223-2166) accept cash or traveler's checks in Canadian dollars.
This is the easy stuff!
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